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Posts from August 2016

Five things to avoid if you want your LGBTQ film screening to reach the queer community (and how to do it right!)

Posted Thursday 25 August 2016 by Duncan Carson in General

Wotever Film Festival
A packed-out house at a Wotever DIY Film Festival screening

For today’s guest post, Johan Palme from the Wotever DIY Film Festival shares some insight into how to better reach queer communities as an event organiser.

The Wotever DIY Film Festival (WDIYFF) is a film festival for zero budget and low budget queer film, connecting with a uniquely diverse and multifaceted LGBTQ audience centred around South London. The festival has been running since 2012 and has built a very tight bond with the queer filmmaking community in the process. This year's event, at the DIY Space for London on 3-4 September, promises to be the biggest so far with upwards of 70 short films and four feature films screening over two days alongside workshops and parties.

Wotever World, the community group behind the festival, has several decades of experience arranging major cabaret events where the whole queer community form both the performers and the audience, in particular working with otherwise often marginalised groups like lesbian and bisexual women, transgender people, queer people with disabilities and queer people of colour.

So. You’ve put on an event for us queer people. You’ve printed a rainbow flyer with a sparkly unicorn. You’ve written in all the right Facebook groups. And yet very few of us turn up, and you just can’t fathom why.

The thing is, for people in the queer community itself, the factors that cause events like this to fail are not actually that mysterious. One of the reasons we put on film festivals like Wotever DIY Film Festival is precisely because we’ve seen and experienced how a lot of events are fundamentally flawed, and believe we can do things differently.

Despite that, of course, there’s nothing we’d rather see than every film festival successfully adopt a queer perspective and show amazing queer films. To that end, this article contains five types of things that can go wrong with LGBTQ screenings - but also, crucially, tips for how to avoid them.

1. Don’t make us a symbol or a token

Supporting the queer community has, in a relatively short period of time, become a fashionable thing. Using queer symbols - or queerness as a symbol - has become an advertising shorthand for progress and modernity, for youth and being with-it.

And yet, quite often, the commitment is only skin deep, consisting of little more than slapping a rainbow logo or a picture of kissing female models, and failing to actively tackle homophobia and discrimination in your own organisation, let alone in the wider world. In the queer community, we have a word for this kind of superficially queer-friendly marketing: pinkwashing. And trust me, we can smell it a mile away.

Wotever Film Festival
Filmmakers introducing a screening at the 2015 edition of the Festival

Nothing looks less convincing than a single queer film included in a programme that otherwise makes no effort to address a queer perspective, or a single queer person included in a panel discussion who is somehow meant to represent everyone in a large and diverse community.

If you’re including queer material because it looks good in the programme or because it’s ticking off a box on a diversity chart, you’re barking up the wrong tree. And no matter how strong your queer material is, if the rest of your programme is completely unreflecting and includes homophobia, transphobia and unpleasant stereotypes, the queer community is still likely to avoid you. (And yes, queer people do want to see the rest of your programme, too. Just because someone is queer doesn’t mean they only ever want to see queer films - nor do queer films necessarilty only appeal to a queer audience. Giving those films just a token space tends to rather cement this divide.)

Why not have people from the queer community right from the beginning as part of the programming team? They can bring understanding and knowledge and mitigate a lot of these headaches. Which segues neatly into…

2. Don’t be ignorant

Another thing the queer community will immediately notice is when an event organiser hasn’t done their homework. As with any specific audience, actually trying to understand the audience’s needs and concerns is something you really have to do with the queer community as well.

Cecil & Carl
Cecil & Carl, a documentary short from Wotever's 2016 'Queering Families' strand

Using old-fashioned or derogatory language will actively scare queer people away. As will very stereotypical, simplistic depictions and tired old clichés. Just a few instances of not being able to anticipate the impact of a chosen word (or, say, an unfortunate poster image) can damage your reputation irrevocably.

And yet, the problems keep reappearing. We still see the same vapid, ill-prepared panel discussions with badly-chosen moderators who ask prejudiced questions. Programme copy is still rife with stereotypes. Trans people still get routinely misgendered.

Do a lot of reading up on any potential topic you intend to be covering. Follow erudite blogs like Black Girl Dangerous or The TransAdvocate. Or better yet: have a continual ear to the ground, that is…

3. Don’t be an outsider

Being queer means facing a multitude of daily hazards and fears. Queer people are disproportionately targeted by street violence, sexual violence, workplace harassment and discrimination. So forgive us for being a naturally suspicious bunch, who need time in order to trust someone and who need spaces where we feel we can be safe.

If you want to reach the queer community and make them trust you, there’s no better way than to actually make yourself substantially part of it. Make and keep up contacts with a network of queer filmmakers. Be present, wholeheartedly and not just to market yourself, at community events. Do so continuously. You’ll probably find the queer community a welcoming bunch, even if you’re straight or cisgendered - as a small minority we rely on the support of the allies around us, and there are few events where you turning up and listening respectfully would not be encouraged.

Consult with the community during the planning phase as well. Be prepared to change your content if need be - a consultation process is not just for show. If someone helps you out in an expert capacity, reimburse them as you would your printer any other outside contractor; don’t automatically expect anyone to work for free.

Receive anyone who comes to you with an initiative with open arms. Being open to all comers has been a crucial part of our success at WDIYFF and our other events - saying yes to almost anything may lead to variable quality, but the freshest, best and most daring will flock to you. Let the queer community think up its own events and collaborations, and spread the word that you welcome us doing so.

And we mean the whole queer community, so…

Miss Major
Major!
, a doc about the life and work of trans rights activist Miss Major Giffin-Gracy, opened the 2016 Wotever DIY Film Festival

4. Don’t exclude people

The queer community is incredibly diverse; it isn't one monolithic thing. Direct yourself towards only parts of it at your peril. Reaching some subgroups will always be easy, but remember, the queer community has strong internal ties and excluding some people will likely mean their friends go elsewhere as well.

Featuring only white, cisgendered, university educated gay men in your events and marketing materials is easy enough to do - they’re generally people with a significant voice already and easy to find, articulate in politically correct language and moving in the same circles as festival directors tend to do.

But marginalised voices in the community are equally important. Make a conscious effort to support the expression of queer people of colour, trans people, bisexuals, lesbians and queers with disabilities. For the latter, accessibility is vital. Strive to include wheelchair access, BSL interpretation and audiovisual interpretation in as many contexts as you can. Provide comfortable seating. Understand the needs of neuroatypical people on the autism spectrum or with ADHD, and try to include features like a quiet room if you have space.

Queer people are also disproportionately affected by depression, anxiety and other psychological issues, and understanding how films can trigger symptoms is exceedingly good practice.

Finally, remember that the more marginal parts of the queer community are more likely to be unemployed and have little money. Offering a differentiated price structure is a good start.

And most important of all...

The Girl Bunnies: ROCKETSHIP
The Girl Bunnies: ROCKETSHIP, another short from the 'Queering Families' strand at the 2016 event

5. Don’t be homogeneously hegemonic

If the statistics of the UK arts world bear out in practice, it’s highly likely that whoever runs your festival or cinema is white, straight, cisgendered, university educated and middle-class. So does it surprise you, then, that your audience is also white, straight, cisgendered, university educated and middle-class?

All other factors really pale in comparison to this, and deep down, you know that. As long as the most privileged groups in society subscribe to all important positions of power in the arts world, the arts world will struggle with reaching marginalised groups. It’s not rocket science.

The thing is, though, it’s also the one which a lot of people find the most challenging to do something about. Because it means actually giving up hard-fought personal positions of power. It means, very likely, that you’ll have replace trusted friends and colleagues. It means having to let people that think very differently to you have as much say as you, maybe more. It might even mean resigning, or demoting yourself.

Call it a litmus test for how serious you are about inclusivity. Will you include people from marginalised groups at the heart of your organisation, offering real, well-paid jobs and real decision-making power? Even at the expense of yourself? If not, perhaps you’re not really trying.

To book your FREE tickets for this year's Wotever Film Festival, click here.

5 reasons why you should go to an independent cinema right now!

Posted Thursday 18 August 2016 by Julia Marchese in General

Out of Print
The Crest in Westwood, Los Angeles - showing Julia Marchese's documentary on rep cinema, Out of Print

Filmmaker Julia Marchese (@juliacmarchese) is about to tour European cinemas with Out of Print, her documentary on the importance of 35mm and revival cinema as explored via the patrons of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, where Marchese worked from 2006 to 2014 (read her take on the reasons for her departure here). Out of Print will screen in UK venues in the autumn; meanwhile Julia is also planning a series of mini-documentaries on selected UK independent cinemas, telling stories about individual venues and how they've established their base. To read more about Julia's UK tour and help make it happen, click here, and read on for her take on why local indie cinemas are such a crucial part of our artistic and social communities, and why maintaining access to repertory cinema should be a priority for us all.

1. Support your community

All you have to do is buy a ticket from your local cinema and - voila! - you just became an important part in keeping that theatre alive and kicking. Every independent cinema has its own community. There is a reason that cinemas have groups of hardcore regulars - because these (rad) people have found the environment they like, and want to support that environment. Every cinema has a different feeling about it. Explore until you find the one you like.  And when you do find that cinema that you love, bring your friends. 

San Marco Theatre, Florida
Seeing films in theatres like the historic San Marco in Jacksonville, Florida is an unforgettable, unique experience

2. Make your opinion count

Sick of all the sequels and remakes? You have the power to change and shape the future of cinema! Every person who buys a ticket for an indie or repertory title paves the road for that cinema to play more of that kind of film in the future. You have a direct say. When people stop going to see remakes, they'll stop being made. When people start to support indie cinema, more indie cinema will be made. 

3. Make a friend

If you went to your local multiplex and started chatting to the concessions girl or the bloke sitting next to you about film, it might seem a little... awkward... right? The wonderful thing about independent cinemas is that the crowd is made up of hardcore film buffs like you, and would love to talk to you about film, any time, any day. Hey, if they're one of the people watching a midnight screening of The Holy Mountain with you, they must be cool! Give it a go. 

Riviera Theatre, Michigan
The Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers, Michigan, which first opened its doors in 1925

4. Try something different

Everyone has their film gaps - and you know what's cool about that? Someday, one of those movies you missed will play at an repertory cinema near you. That means that you will have the enviable opportunity to see that movie on a big screen, with an audience, for the first time -  which is so incredible and the way all movies should be seen for the first time, in my opinion. It's SO much better than seeing it alone, at home. Trust me. 

5. Open your mind to cinema

You will never be able to watch every movie ever made. That's how many there are, and more are being added to that number every day. My point is, there is so much cinema to explore out there, and so many cinemas. The UK has an astounding amount of incredible repertory & independent cinemas, and each one is programmed with the utmost care by people who believe in every film that has been chosen. 

The Capitol Theatre, New York
The Capitol, a beautiful theatre opened in 1926 and still operating in Port Chester, New York state

Explore film!

Worst case scenario, you see a film you don't like. Best case, you see a film that engages your mind and causes you to delve even further. But don't worry, no matter what cinema you attend, you'll be exploring along film lovers just like you, who are always happy to lend assistance. 

Find out more about Julia's UK tour and show your support here!

How cinema can help people with dementia live a life more ordinary: the Dukes Lancaster

Posted Thursday 11 August 2016 by Johnathan Ilott

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
Audience members enjoying dementia-friendly screenings at The Dukes, Lancaster

In recent years, more and more cinemas UK-wide have been holding regular screenings for sufferers of dementia, their carers and family members. As we are living longer, the number of people suffering from dementia in later life is constantly increasing; by 2025, the Alzheimer's Society estimates one million people will be living with the condition in the UK, despite inroads made by ongoing research. The emotional and physical toll of dementia is often devastating and very isolating, both for those with the condition and their loved ones, and so activities such as cinema-going that offer a change of scene, the chance to elicit and revisit memories, restful entertainment, and an opportunity to bond with others, are invaluable. Johnathan Ilott, Film Programme Manager at The Dukes in Lancaster, tells us about the pioneering initiative they undertook at their cinema and the impact it's had on local audiences.

“Singing along in the film interval brings back the woman we used to know.”

On Valentine’s Day 2013, The Dukes held a screening of Singin’ In The Rain for people living with dementia and their families. It was a pilot screening for what become a new project on-going called A Life More Ordinary.

The idea came out of a three-year study undertaken by Age UK Lancashire that investigated the needs of older people in the county. One of the major findings of the report was the increasing sense of isolation experienced by older people. This issue was further compounded for people living with dementia, due to a loss of confidence and fear of going out in public. This had an impact on family relationships, too, with partners feeling less able to go out and socialise, leaving both feeling isolated.

These findings led to a partnership between us at The Dukes and Age UK Lancashire in a bid to explore the potential role of cinema and the arts in enabling people with dementia and their partners or family members to enjoy ‘ordinary’ activities in everyday public spaces.

One of the ideas developed by the partnership was a tailored programme of cinema screenings which aimed to:

  • Increase feelings of involvement and reduce feelings of isolation for people attending.
  • Provide appropriate transport to support attendance at events.
  • Provide a dementia-friendly environment for patrons and their partners or family members.

Above all we wanted to offer an everyday activity in an everyday setting. Our first screening was of Singin’ in the Rain - we’d picked the Gene Kelly favourite as our consultation showed a strong preference for Golden Age musicals. As well as being our audience's clear preference, musicals were considered a good choice because the narrative is carried along by the songs - many of which audiences would be familiar with whether or not they had previously seen the film.

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
The Dukes' initial consultation showed that musicals were a firm audience favourite

The initial success of this screening saw the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation agree to fund an expanded six-month programme, which allowed us to reach out to a larger audience and introduce workshops. This in turn led to a longer, three-year project.

The screenings

At every dementia-friendly screening we try to strike a balance between keeping the environment as much like a regular screening as possible while also ensuring that everyone is comfortable. Before beginning the pilot we held a walkthrough of the building, with the help of Age UK Lancashire staff, to uncover any access issues. As a listed building, The Dukes unfortunately has numerous such issues, but the walkthrough highlighted several small but significant changes we could easily make. For example, we changed the signage on our toilet doors, which had previously relied on illustrations that weren't really clear enough, and the layout for our menus was simplified to make them more readable.

Our staff all received dementia training as well. This was not only Front of House staff but across the board, from projectionists to finance and marketing to stage management. Before each screening we have lunch offers and Age UK staff on hand to provide support. We encourage audiences to arrive early, giving them the opportunity to socialise and for new attendees, the chance to acclimatise to the venue. During the film, the lights are on slightly and the volume is slightly reduced. For all screenings, we have an interval to break up the runtime. These intervals include entertainment - for example a sing-a-long, or for a screening of a George Formby film we had a ukulele player.

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
All dementia-friendly screenings at The Dukes include an interval with added entertainment for audience members

Programming & marketing

There’s always a lot of discussion when programming the films, as we have to consider several factors. Firstly, the length of some films is simply prohibitive, and we couldn't include several lengthy titles like The Sound of Music. One of the key aspects of the project was the setting up of a Task Group to ensure that the programme was developed in line with the needs of the audience.

This group consisted of patrons (those living with dementia), family members, general audience members as well as staff representatives. The group helped to inform our programming choices as well as giving insights into how we could further improve the audience experience.

In our marketing we state that the screenings are dementia-friendly but have always specified that the films are open to the wider cinema-going public as well, and the films are all included in our general cinema listings. This feeds back into keeping the screenings as ordinary as possible - and we’ve had audience members who don't suffer from dementia coming just because they like the set-up and the chance to see some classics on the big screen.

On top of this, we do more targeted work with specific flyers distributed extensively across the district to older people’s groups, libraries, leisure centres, GP surgeries, care agencies, and key stakeholder groups, including Lancaster and Morecambe Alzheimer’s Society. We also received a lot of press attention, with local press and BBC Lancashire running stories. It’s rare for a one-screen cinema in the North to get national press attention, but the project has also featured in The Guardian and on BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour.

“So often people don’t know what to say to you, so to just sit there and let yourself go and have a laugh was lovely.”

Funding

We were lucky to receive significant funding to support A Life More Ordinary from various organisations. Three things in particular have made this possible. Firstly, The Dukes is a mixed-arts organisation - a producing theatre as well as a cinema - and this blend of expertise and interests means we are able to develop a programme across art forms. As well as film screenings, we hold arts workshops and have produced plays that explore the themes of ageing.

Secondly, we have a strong relationship with Lancaster University which has a Centre of Ageing Research. This meant we can combine our programme of work and their research - significantly improving the evaluation of the impact of the project.

Lastly, a few years ago The Dukes invested in creating a new Business Development Role. Rather than being an added luxury this has proved crucial, because it takes time and resources to develop relationships with trusts, foundations and other funding bodies. Having someone focused on this has significantly improved our ability to write bids.

One of the organisations funding the project is Film Hub North West Central who have supported The Dukes in expanding A Life More Ordinary to five more venues in our region (Chorley Little Theatre, Wem Town Hall, Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool, The Light Cinema in New Brighton and Ludlow Assembly Rooms).

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
The screenings offer a chance for dementia sufferers to socialise, with Age UK staff on hand to support

Impact and audience feedback

The audience response to the screenings has been overwhelming positive, with many participants focusing on the relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity once again to enjoy an everyday activity without the feeling of being judged.

They’ve also had a profound effect on our staff, and many will tell you that the project is one of the most rewarding aspects of their job. The screenings have really highlighted the joys that a trip to the cinema can have, and the significance of when something we take for granted is lost.

It has been really good for us. It’s mainly from my point of view …it’s just that I feel comfortable with people who have got the same sort of needs as J [her husband] because sometimes in public it can be quite hard because J can’t follow a conversation and people don’t understand and so… here, I’ve got people to talk to that understand – you can bounce ideas off one another and you don’t feel as isolated, you can relax.

If you're interested to find out more about The Dukes' project A Life More Ordinary, contact Project Manager Gil Graystone at ggraystone@dukes-lancaster.org or find Johnathan on Twitter at @thedukescinema.

News round up... August 2016

Posted Thursday 4 August 2016 by Mike Tang in News Round-up

DYFF 2016 group photo

ICO news

  • This Friday sees the return of Sid and Nancy to cinemas, a brilliantly restored re-release in partnership with Studiocanal for the film's 30th anniversary.  If you want a taste of what the definitive punk is like, check out the trailer!
  • Another year, another Developing Your Film Festival course finished.  A massive thanks to all the delegates and speakers who came to our training course in beautiful Motovun. We put together this round up of some of the top teachings from the course over here. We wish all of our new friends every success as they take our training back to their film festivals across the world!
  • We're hiring!  We're looking for an enthusiastic and capable Administration Assistant, but you have to be quick - the deadline's 5pm tomorrow!  This is the ideal job for anyone looking for a start in the exhibition or film industries.
  • Another deadline for tomorrow!  If you're a manager working in exhibition and you want a training course that helps you fulfil your potential, sign up for Elevate. Our course offers key skills training to strengthen and propel your abilities, helping you to maximise your current role and prepare for leadership.
  • We had a great time at Archive Screening Days at Watershed in Bristol. We brought together some of the world's top film archives to show the power and audience-appeal of showing archive film. Couldn't make it along? Don't worry: we've put together this round up of what went on here.
  • Remember when we assaulted cinemas earlier this year with The Artists Cinema? If you didn't get the chance to be surprised by our commissions in the wild, our partner on the project LUX Moving Image are now sharing the films online for free, starting with Naeem Mohaiemen's Abu Ammar is Coming. New films will be released each month.  

Opportunities and calls for submissions

  • BFI NET.WORK, in conjunction with the London Film Festival, provides a unique opportunity for up to 15 UK writers and directors to participate in masterclasses, screenings, events and one to one meetings with industry professionals. This year the initiative will align with the BFI’s Black Star Blockbuster, and in celebration of that will have a BAME focus. Head to the BFI's site for more details on this brilliant initiative.
  • Get your submission in for the Academy Award® and BAFTA-qualifying Leeds International Film Festival 2016 - the deadline's 12 August 2016.  LIFF welcomes submissions of features and shorts, narrative or documentary and ‘live action’ or animation.
  • On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the London Filmmakers’ Cooperative and the fortieth anniversary of London Video Arts (now LUX), Moving Image Review & Art Journal are inviting articles that reflect upon the histories, contexts and legacies of artists’ film and video practices in Britain since 1966.  The deadline's 15 August 2016 and more details are on Lux's website.
  • Voted one of the top 100 film festivals in the world by filmmakers on FilmFreeway, Discover Film Festival is currently open for submissions. Get your submission in by 15 August 2016.
  • And if that wasn't enough top UK film festival deadlines for you, Glasgow Film Festival early bird deadline is at the end of the month!
  • Wotever Film Festival - the UK's premiere DIY LGBTQI+ focused fest - are running a Kickstarter campaign to keep their festival as accessible to all and free. Some of their rewards are really wild, but sadly you're too late to get the strip tease lesson.
  • Aya Distribution are celebrating the work of the father of African cinema Ousmane Sembène by releasing the new documentary about his work Sembene! as well as world cinema classics Xala, Moolaade and Black Girl. The doc's co-director will be available for Q&As during the release in November. If you're interested in finding out more (and you really should as these are brilliant films that deserve to be seen more widely), get in touch with Justine Atkinson: j.atkinson@ayadistribution.org.

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