Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from July 2016

My first job in cinema: Rebekah's FEDS experience

Posted Thursday 28 July 2016 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme, Training & Conferences

FEDS Rebekah

This year we're once again running our FEDS scheme (funded by Creative Skillset), aimed at giving young trainees an opportunity to learn on the job in film distribution, exhibition and international sales. Here, one of our trainees, Rebekah Taylor, working at Errol Flynn Filmhouse in Northampton, gives her impressions of the experience and why she wanted to join the scheme.

My love of independent cinema was developed late due to being raised in a small town in Hertfordshire where the nearest cinema was a multiplex 30 minutes car drive away. Family members who were also raised in my town commented that there used to be a lovely art deco cinema but unfortunately it closed down eleven years before my birth. Therefore my love of independent cinema didn’t come until I started my A-level film studies course with a combination of discovering and studying independent cinema and becoming the age that my friends and I could drive further afield. 

I remember in my first year of my degree an alumni from my university gave a presentation on film exhibition, at the time I was very intrigued as, being in my first year of my studies, I had little knowledge or experience of film in further education. She talked about working in independent cinemas and film festivals.  I remember bombarding her with questions as I loved attending the local independent cinema that she worked at, regularly attending late night screenings. I loved the films that were programmed there and couldn’t believe that there was a job where I could watch films and, to a certain extent, have a choice of what is shown to a local audience. Following the talk I was interested about getting into film exhibition particularly programming and that is when I discovered the ICO scheme on social media, I saw that the trainee scheme was being advertised especially for exhibition and distribution. Importantly I didn’t require any past experience in the industry, which the majority of the trainee schemes I applied for did require this. I love that the scheme has given me the opportunity to gain experience in exhibition.

Errol Flynn Filmhouse

My trainee placement is based at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse, part of a mixed arts venue in Northampton called the Royal and Derngate. The venue has two theatres: the Royal Theatre built in 1884, the Derngate theatre built in 1983 and the Filmhouse which opened in 2013.  There is a small programming team at the Royal and Derngate comprising of a Programming Manager and Programming Assistant that work on both the theatre and film. There is also an external film programmer.  Working in a small team has meant that it has been easier to settle in. I’ve also found that working with Theatre Programmers has given me the insight into the theatre industry as well, which is my second love. Working with a small venue has also meant that I have been able to get to know other departments such as Finance, Operations and Marketing. My placement is very different from my fellow trainees as I am working in a venue that is predominantly a theatre, therefore the focus is not just on the medium of film. This has allowed me to look at cinema programming from a different perspective than I expected as our in-house statistics show that majority of the regular customers that attend the Errol Flynn are also regular visitors to our theatres.

The Harder They Come
The Harder They Come, part of Errol Flynn's Black Star celebration

I therefore work closely with the Theatre Programmer as productions shown at the theatres do have an influence on the films that are chosen for the Filmhouse. In the coming months we have two collaborative projects. The first is a season of dance films curated and introduced by chorographer Richard Alston. Richard Alston is bringing this new show An Italian in Madrid to the Royal and Derngate and the Errol Flynn Filmhouse has been able to take advantage of this by programming three films curated by Richard himself that inspired him to be a choreographer. Our second project is a reggae night that I have coordinated to coincide with the launch of our BFI Black Star season at the filmhouse, celebrating black musicians on film. Being part of a mixed arts venue I took advantage of the space and decided to host a reggae night in the underground space of the theatre that will feature local musicians that will play music from the first film shown in our season, The Harder They Come (1972).

Erroll Flynn 2

The biggest thing I didn’t realise about independent exhibition

The biggest thing I didn’t realise about independent exhibition as a customer was the struggle that they have with multiplexes. I was not fully aware of the hard work that goes into film exhibition particularly independent community cinemas. I assumed that they would get the entire current releases offered to them for as little or as many showings as they wanted and that they were guaranteed all films. I remember as an audience member criticising my local independent cinema for not programming my favourite independent film. I remember asking box office the questions like, “It’s a good movie. Why aren’t you showing it?” and moaning about the showing times and lack thereof. I was completely unaware of the film schedule, that early evening is more profitable and depending on the amount of screens they may have, that they have to compromise on what they show. However, even though we occasionally have to programme a commercial film we still have the opportunity to programme films that we care about and feel requires the exposure, this gives the community of Northampton the opportunity to see films that wouldn’t necessarily be on their radar to view.  

The biggest opportunity I have had is the opportunity to network with some great people in order to collaborate. When I was at University we studied the aesthetics and the theory but I am so happy that my training opportunity has given me the chance to see the industry first hand and given me the practical experiences that have been so precious.

'The city embraces cinema': a report from Il Cinema Ritrovato

Posted Thursday 21 July 2016 by Jo Comino in Festival Reports, General

Il Cinema Ritrovato
A rapt audience at a screening in Bologna, Italy during Il Cinema Ritrovato 2016

We're really excited about our Archive Screening Day next Thursday 28th July at Watershed. Giving exhibitors the chance to see new restorations, hear from expert speakers from the world's leading archives and learn from training sessions, it also offers a sneak preview of programmes from our upcoming tour of films from the BFI's major new project, Britain on Film. It also kicks off another celebration of archive film in the form of Watershed's inaugural Cinema Rediscovered. A new international film event, it's inspired by what is still the biggest international archive film festival, Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna which every year attracts huge audiences to see beautifully restored work in glorious surroundings. In this piece Jo Comino, Marketing Manager for Borderlines Film Festival, reports on her 2016 trip to this wonderfully enjoyable festival.

A film festival worker myself, there was a whiff of predictability in my choice of summer holiday: five and a half days at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. Initiated four years ago into this fabulous film festival by friends who run the British Silent Film Festival, it’s now a fixture in my calendar. Go once and you’re hooked.

Il Cinema Ritrovato is literally a festival of rediscovered films, an occasion for archives from around the world to showcase their work. Its span is actually much wider that this would suggest. And there is nothing remotely fusty or ‘dead’ about it. Over 8 days, from 25 June to 2 July, Il Cinema Ritrovato screened almost 500 titles, with dates ranging from the very beginnings of cinema in 1896 to the present day, the latter usually documentaries containing archive material like Letters from Baghdad (2016), on the explorer, archaeologist, Arab expert and WW1 British spy, Gertrude Bell.

With a weighty 100,000 attendances recorded in 2016, and 3,500 festival passes sold to delegates from over 50 countries, how come a festival whose content is made up of films from the past is so popular? OK, there are academics, archivists, filmmakers all over town  but there are plenty of young people and students in evidence too. Several times - for a screening of a restoration of the 1931 version of The Front Page, for example, with its witty, hard-bitten cynicism and staccato dialogue - it was aisle-room only.

The Front Page
The Front Page, directed by Lewis Milestone. 'In 1931 alone, Hollywood produced roughly thirty journalism-related movies'

Imagine that all the films that as we, as regular cinema-goers, have access to are only the tip of an iceberg. A visit to this festival is the equivalent of plunging below the surface of the water and delving into what lies beneath - a perfect analogy but for the 30°C plus temperatures in Bologna in late June. As Festival Director Gian Luca Farinelli writes in the beautifully-illustrated 393-page catalogue that arrives in your delegate bag: “If you come to Il Cinema Ritrovato, it is because you want to experience depth and intensity.”   

There are six programme slots each day: two in the morning from 9am, perhaps an hour or so loophole to grab some lunch (remember, you’re in Bologna, the food capital of Italy) before the three afternoon shows, and another window for eating, drinking and comparing notes before the late evening screening just before 10pm. What complicates matters is that there’s the option of at least five films to watch at any one time and it’s not always easy to choose.

The festival is broken up into strands to help you make your own inroads into the programme. Loosely, there’s a ‘Time Machine’ (films from the beginning of cinema in 1896, films from a hundred years ago), a ‘Space Machine’ focusing on different national cinemas, this year from Argentina, Russia in the late Soviet era, Japan, Cuba and Iran) and ‘The Cinephile’s Heaven’ (featuring restorations, spotlights on particular actors, directors, screenwriters and periods in cinema history).

Going down any one of these paths, and cutting across them, throws up pleasures, connections, discoveries. Quite randomly I chose two titles from the ‘Alternate History of Argentinian Cinema’, an opportunity to probe a national cinema beyond the classics and masterpieces that do reach us to ordinary movies that don’t, but which illuminate a particular time or sensibility.

Más allá del olivido (Beyond Oblivion) (1955) was a black and white precursor of Vertigo, about a rich man who tries to remould a French prostitute in the image of his dead wife, set in the late 19th century and predominantly at night, full of Gothic flourish, but impressively taut and still at its core.

By contrast, Soñar, soñar (Dream, to Dream) (1975) had both the visual trappings and conventions of a seventies road movie except that the buddies are two losers  – an opportunistic bearded and be-jeaned travelling showman and a naïve country boy whom the showman hooks in by telling him he’s the spitting image of Charles Bronson – and misadventure and pathos drive the narrative.

 Khesht o Ayeneh
Perhaps Iran's first modern masterpiece, Khesht o Ayeneh 'explores fear and responsibility in the aftermath of the Coup'

From Iran, in a collection programmed by London-based writer and curator Ehsan Khoshbakht from the independent Golestan Film Studio, active through the 1960 under the Shah’s rule, I was struck by the freshness of the New Wave Khesht o Ayeneh (Brick and Mirror) (1963-4); black and white, widescreen, using direct sound and improvised dialogue. A taxi driver finds a baby abandoned in his cab and his dilemma makes for a parable that interweaves personal unease with social and political tension.

Equally striking were some of the short documentaries: Yek atash (A Fire) (1961) covering attempts to contain a massive oil well blaze and how it affects those living around it, and Khaneh Siah Ast (The House is Black) (1965) an unflinching and compassionate gaze into the heart of a leper colony by filmmaker/poet Forough Farrokhzad who died tragically young, aged 33.

The festival foregrounds the work of the Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project restorations and I was thrilled to discover among these a pair of documentaries, Raid into Tibet and Buddhism in Tibet (1966), directed by activist Adrian Cowell, that I’d only heard about through our own Festival Patron, the cinematographer Chris Menges. In 1966 Cowell, Menges and journalist George Patterson penetrated into Chinese-occupied Tibet with a small Khamba guerrilla force, sliding precariously down a 20,000-foot pass from northern Nepal, and captured the subsequent attack on a Chinese military convoy. Smuggled out of Nepal, the footage was aired on ATV before US and Chinese pressure put it out of circulation. The restoration, in association with the Tibet Film Archive, has enabled this rare and remarkable testimony of national resistance to come to light.    

Raid into Tibet
Raid into Tibet, which contains 'the only known footage of Tibetan guerrilla fighters in actual combat against the Chinese military'

One of the most popular strands was the focus on feature films, specifically social and domestic dramas, from a brief period (1928 -1936) at Hollywood’s Universal Studios when Carl Laemmle Jr was head of production. Some films were more absorbing than others but, viewing them together, it was fascinating to pick up on recurring detail, on ensemble actors, cinematic conventions and innovations and social history.

I loved the first double bill that pitted together two pre-Hays code films that dealt with the status of unmarried but   attached women, both with John Boles as the male lead. Back Street (1932) is set in a 1890s Cincinnati, populated by European immigrants, where the local hostelry is called Home on the Rhine and even the children nurse beer mugs. It stars the wonderfully sparky Irene Dunne as a young woman, who falls in love with a married financier and lives out her life (less sparkily) as his long-term mistress, an unofficial second wife.

Only Yesterday (1933) pre-dated Letter from an Unknown Woman, opening with a bold depiction of the Stock Market crash, complete with suicide, and sidestepping to a group of socialites gathering for a weekly cocktail party. Their host arrives, bankrupt and broken, to find a letter waiting for him from a woman (Margaret Sullavan) he has encountered more than once in his life but never fully recognised, whose existence has run parallel - possibly more meaningfully -  to his own.

Il Cinema Ritrovato
The entrance to one of the festival sites, Cinema Jolly and Bologna's beautiful arcades

And there were connections to be made across strands. Towards the end of the festival I jumped from the male camaraderie of Jacques Becker’s Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) in which ageing bank robber Max (Jean Gabin) brings his equally elderly mate Riton to his hideout and offers him bedding, pyjamas and a midnight snack as they discuss how to safeguard the loot from their final big heist to Laughter in Hell (1933), a Universal picture with shades of O Brother Where Art Thou? in which Pat O’Brien endures and escapes from a chain gang run by his brutal arch-enemy to another prison breakout film, Le Trou (1960), also by Becker, riveting in its detail and subtle exploration of comradeship and betrayal.  

A personal highlight was seeing again, after an interval of about thirty years, the restoration of Marco Bellocchio’s youthful tragi-comic masterpiece about madness, I pugni in tasca (Fists in the Pocket) (1965) introduced by the director himself. Another restoration, Her Man (1930) with its superb titles drawn in the sand and washed by the tide, was a revelation. The teetering footsteps of washed-out, inebriated, deported Annie lead us back to a sleazy tropical capital and the Thalia bar where Frankie tries to throw off her sinister, stiletto-wielding pimp Johnnie for a loose-limbed, fresh-faced blond sailor called Dan whose striped T-shirt does definitely not survive the final bar-room brawl.

I fitted 33 films into my five-and-a-half days, hotfooting it down the arcades from the Cinema Arlecchino and the multi-salon Cinema Lumière to the Cinema Jolly, where the service in the café is so speedy that it’s always possible to grab a coffee with minutes to spare before the next screening.

The city embraces cinema; festival posters are everywhere and the free public outdoor screenings in the Piazza Maggiore are packed every night during the festival and throughout the summer, spilling into adjoining bars, and on to church steps. As the sounds of the prize fight in the closing film, John Huston’s Fat City (1972) rose to a crescendo, they were matched by resounding cheers and howls as Italy went into penalty shoot outs in the Euro 2016 quarter-final against Germany.

The Band Wagon
Martin Scorsese's personal 35mm print of Vincente Minelli's The Band Wagon screened in the Technicolor section

It’s impossible to talk about Il Cinema Ritrovato without mentioning its emphasis on colour: from the Technicolor section that included the screening of Martin Scorsese’s personal 35mm print of The Band Wagon (1953) to collections of early hand-tinted views, the first Konicolor and Fujicolor films from Japan, to the innovative and amazing Autochrome transparencies in the comprehensive Lumière exhibition, receiving its first airing outside France in the underground exhibition space below the city’s main square.

In a city (‘Red Bologna’) in which colour rules, from the earthy reds and ochres of the buildings, to the Campari or Aperol spritzes that kick off the evening, to the vivid fruit and veg in the indoor mercato delle erbe, what could be more appropriate?

Interested in archive film? Find out more about our Archive Screening Day, Watershed's Cinema Rediscovered and Il Cinema Ritrovato, and check out previous ICO blogs on archive film:

The unseen history of women's filmmaking in Britain

How did Blackpool's Winter Garden become the home of a black and white film extravaganza?

How to put on a live score event

The unseen history of women's filmmaking in Britain

Posted Thursday 14 July 2016 by Duncan Carson

Women Amateur Filmmakers

The full history of women's filmmaking has yet to be discovered. One place that helps us grow our picture of work on film by women are screen archives. We caught up with Sarah Hill, Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia ahead of Archive Screening Days. She will be presenting one of the newly digitised collections of women's amateur filmmaking, which spans 90 years of women's filmmaking and 140 films available for the first time ever.

What were there genuine revelations to you when you were going through the archive?

The collection spans the 1920s until the late-1980s, so the sheer range of films was fascinating. There were 142 films in total. This included dramas, comedies, documentaries, travelogues and animated films. It was also interesting to observe how these women filmmakers worked in a variety of ways; from all-female groups, to husband-and-wife partnerships and individual filmmakers. The collection captures the changing face of Britain and abroad during the 20th century, as well as changes in film technology as filmmakers experimented with colour, sound and different ways of creating animation.

Women Amateur Filmmakers
Sally Sallies Forth, directed by Frances Lascot, 1928: this silent comedy is the first amateur film produced entirely by women

Were there any moments you think captured the spirit of the times perfectly? And what remains timeless across the collection?

I think the animated films are timeless. They are very entertaining and the skills needed to create them are very impressive as they were mostly created using hand-drawn cells. The animated films in our collection were mostly produced by lone workers, such as Mollie Butler and Sheila Graber, during the 1970s and 1980s. I like the idea that these talented women would set aside their own space at home to draw and create films that were centred around the themes and ideas that were most interesting to them.

How did this material come to light?

The Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC) gave the films to the East Anglian Film Archive to catalogue and digitise, with support from The National Archives and The John and Joy Chittock Trust, in 2015. I have been working with the collection since February 2016 with the aim of creating a nationwide cinema exhibition programme to enable audiences to see as many of these fascinating films as possible.

What would you like to see happen to these films?

I would like for as many people to see – and enjoy – as many of the films as possible! Having attended various screenings, it is clear that people really enjoy watching archive films and yet they do not often get the opportunity. I hope that the success of this project will encourage more film archives to catalogue and digitise more unseen work by women filmmakers, and to make these films available to audiences.

Women Amateur Filmmakers
The Stray, directed by Majorie Martin (1965): A woman is rejected by her farmer husband because of an extramarital affair

What have you been able to find out about the careers of these filmmakers? Did many of them become ‘professionals’?

Given the time span of the collection, it has been quite challenging to find out more about some of the filmmakers. However, I have interviewed some of the animators whose early work from the 1970s and 1980s features in the collection, such as Mollie Butler and Sheila Graber. Sheila Graber went on to work professionally on the TV series Paddington (1975) and helped to develop the first animation courses in schools and universities in the UK. She continues to teach and make films today. Joanna Fryer, whose animated film Make-Up (1978) appears in the collection, went on to work on the film The Snowman (1982), as well as various other projects.

Women are notoriously underrepresented in today’s feature filmmaking climate. Do you think the films have any lessons for today’s women filmmakers and the powers that be?

The films reveal that women have made significant contributions to amateur filmmaking throughout its history. This has previously been largely overlooked in what has been seen as a typically male-dominated activity. This is also true of the feature film industry, as you have identified, and this needs to change. The diversity of the collection shows that women make a variety of films, and not just films with so-called ‘women’s themes’, which is a common misconception.

Women Amateur Filmmakers
Make-Up, directed by Joanna Fryer, 1978: fantasies and self-representation

How do you see the relationship between ‘amateur’ filmmakers and ‘professionals’?

When organisations like the IAC were established in the 1930s the term wasn’t used to suggest low quality work, as is more common today. The term ‘amateur’ in this context indicates the filmmakers’ status as hobby enthusiasts. The collection demonstrates that there is a fine line between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ as some of the filmmakers went on to work on professional projects. Many of the films are just as technically impressive as professional films of the time, except the filmmakers were not paid to make films.

If you could only save one film from the collection, which would it be?

That’s a very difficult question! I think I would save Make-Up (Joanna Fryer, 1978). It’s a brilliant animated film based on the simple premise of a woman putting on make-up that is really smart and funny. It has a great jazz soundtrack too. You can see the film during Archive Screening Day.

To find out more about the women amateur filmmakers collection and how to book the film, click here.

News round up... July 2016

Posted Thursday 7 July 2016 by Mike Tang in News Round-up

Sid and Nancy

ICO news

  • Following the success of our most recent Screening Days event, we charge forwards with the next one!  Archive Screening Day 2016 takes place at Watershed, Bristol on Thursday 28 July. We've got films and sessions for all skill levels, including some of the top minds in archive film from the UK, Amsterdam and Italy. The films we're showing feature some never before seen in public! Register to book your place as passes are going fast!
  • Speaking of Screening Days, we had some great speakers to talk us through how to engage young audiences at our last event. If you couldn't make it, we've put together all of the takeaway facts here. There's a scheme that has engaged hundreds of new young patrons, guidance on setting up your own young programmers scheme and much more!
  • Ever fancied working for the ICO? Here's your chance as we're looking for a new Finance & Administration Assistant. Deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 15 July!
  • In the 40th year of punk, we celebrate by bringing back a classic: Sid and Nancy returns to cinemas from 5 August.  Starring an incendiary Gary Oldman, this is a scorching biography on one of the most influential bands of all time.
  • Our training team are in full flow as they gear up for this year's Developing Your Film Festival course. We're delighted to be presenting this course again, and to provide a key role in supporting the development and success of film festivals across the world. We'll be sharing lots of top tips during and after the festival, so watch our Twitter feed and this blog for more!
  • We spoke to MUBI, the online film service that's now making its way into the world of theatrical distribution. Bold moves from a VOD provider with one of the most highly-respected curators in the business.
  • Things have been more than a little tumultuous over the last few weeks and you'd be forgiven for being downhearted. Cheer yourself up with our blog post about Medicinema and the amazing work they do bringing films to NHS patients.
  • Opportunities and calls for submissions

  • Filmbankmedia want to encourage community cinemas to fulfil their creative dreams and are offering two prizes totalling £5,000 to do it. Apply by 31 August to their Innovation Fund.
  • Every five years, the BFI (the UK's largest public film funder) decide on their policy, goals and direction for the future. We'd love it if independent cinemas' voice were heard loud and clear. You can either attend one of the remaining Roadshows in person, or submit to their online consultation here.
  • Following the amazing success and reception in previous years, This Way Up returns for 2016 at Glasgow Film Theatre. Early bird passes are on sale so you can get a great deal to listen to the leading voices in film exhibition.
  • Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival are open for submissions for their Young Filmmakers' Awards. Submit your short film for a cash prize and a screening of the film during the festival. Deadline for submissions is 19 August. 
  • Lighthouse, in partnership with Film Forum and Creative England, have brought together a fantastic screening of five new shorts from the UK's most promising female comedy talent. Funny Girls is a great chance to see a group of emerging filmmakers, and a look at the process of creating comedy. 
  • The London International Animation Festival 2016 has extended its deadline for entries to 31 July. The festival screens a wide spectrum of creative animation, so be a part of a LIAF's showcase of the best in intelligent animation from across the world.
  • Leeds International Film Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary, and they're accepting submissions for this year's festival. The final deadline for submissions is 1 August!
  • Film London's Microwave scheme has produced some cracking films (Lilting, Shifty) on tiny budgets. Your feature could take part but there's only one week to apply.
  • The Betty Box and Peter Rogers Comedy Writing Programme offers emerging comedy writers £10,000 worth of script development funds. Apply by 26 August to develop your comedy film (or TV programme) with LOCO Film Festival.
  • Read more

  • Undoubtedly the biggest story to hit the industry in recent times, Brexit has been on many of our minds over the last fortnight. Stephen Follow's takes a clear-eyed look at the risks and benefits on his blog here. Screen Daily's article, in conjunction with international law firm Olswang, looks at the potential fallout and the its effects on our industry.
  • Creative Scotland released a report on the state of public film screening across Scotland. There's much good news to be had with a healthy sector in one of the fastest growing parts of the UK economy. Note: this was published before Brexit. 
  • If you live in the Midlands (or just want to hear about the top work being done there with film), we recommend subscribing to this Filmwire email from the esteemed folks at Flatpack Film Festival.
  • The National Film and Television School will launch a range of initiatives to increase the number of women in directing. The NFTS will use three initiatives: a mentorship, a directing workshop and a paid internship for all participants of the directing workshop. Find out more on how the NFTS seeks to make lasting change.
  • Last month we pointed out Dogwoof's unique 'pay what you can' screenings of Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach. Not to be outdone, Metrodome have pledged to donate 20% of the theatrical receipts for The Hard Stop to the charity Inquest. 

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