Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from October 2015

What's new in event cinema? Tech Ambassador report

Posted Wednesday 28 October 2015 by Duncan Carson in Training & Conferences

ECA Conference

Event cinema is making a big impact in independent cinemas. Whether it's pulling big crowds for Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, Roger Waters' The Wall live show, English National Opera or Vikings from the British Museum, independents perform really strongly with this material. But delivering this content is not necessarily easy, and comes with potentially high risks. The thrill of the live show is also a potential headache if there are technical concerns. We sent Paul Willmott, Business and Technical Manager for Saffron Screen to visit the Event Cinema Association Conference, the annual meeting of leaders in the field to discuss this emerging source of great content for cinemas. Paul is one of our Tech Ambassadors, and event cinema is one of the key topics we've delivered technical advice to venues for. 

Saffron Screen has been showing Event Cinema content for over four years. Initially we struggled with domestic receivers for receiving the satellite broadcasts; many problems were encountered although we never lost a show and helped out many other cinemas with recordings for encores when theirs had failed. We now use a LANsat receiver (with an Icecrpyt as a backup) with the quality, reliability and support being much better.

Occasionally we also take content via DCPs, such as Coriolanus and Roger Waters’ The Wall. The amount of content seems to be increasing and we find it difficult to get enough screen time to show everything we want to. The ECA conference was a good opportunity to gauge how the market is developing both from a content and a technical point of view.

Following an introduction by Melissa Cogavin, MD of the ECA, the first session of this conference was a discussion around the various methods of content delivery. There seemed to be a general consensus that streaming over the internet would be a primary method in the future (and is already the case in a number of areas across Europe). Simon Tandy of LANsat also mentioned that streaming over satellite is now possible, giving a much more reliable delivery than current satellite broadcasts.

There was one question from the audience on whether the unencrypted nature of existing broadcasts and hence the possibility (and actuality) of piracy was a problem for content providers. A representative from National Theatre Live implied that with over 650 cinemas showing their content, the risk and cost of installing new equipment to decrypt broadcasts is too high.

Following this session was a choice of topics, and I chose the Crystal Ball Time: Projections & Reflections hosted by David Hancock of IHS Screen Digest and Lucy Jones of Rentrak.

ECA Conference 2
With this rapidly emerging new content, best practice advice from panels is essential

Some interesting audience figures were given, showing 2014/15 was 3% down on the previous year. It was thought that this was only a blip in the very fast growing market for event cinema.  It was also noted that the content available is widening, but with theatre, opera and ballet still doing well. General cinema is providing an increasing number of options such as 4D, Laser projection (and hence bright 3D), e-sports, HDR, IMAX. Maybe event cinema needs to embrace these technologies?

Peter Buckingham suggested that there is now less ownership of content (e.g.DVDs) and more streaming. The customer experience should be about “emotional enhancement” and be more immersive (sound and picture). Younger audiences want to participate more.

The next session was the Annual ECA Awards hosted by Nick Wallis. In the best independent category, Picturehouse Uckfield triumphed.

After lunch, there were a number of short presentations from Philips Lightvibes - which adds a series of light panels to the sides of cinema auditoriums that reflect the onscreen action to aid immersion - Operaworld and Powster, followed by breakout sessions. I attended a general 'speakers' corner' that included an interesting overview of the market in China where, despite a huge number of screens (28,000+), due to a quota system cinemas have a limited choice of what they can show.

ECA Conference 3
Melissa Cogavin (left), Managing Director of the Event Cinema Association, speaks to delegates

The final session of the day was on how to stay ahead of the game in a VOD world. Following on from Peter Buckingham’s comments earlier in the day, it was emphasised that going to the cinema should be a communal experience. You walk in anonymously, but walk out part of a community.

Content providers are now starting to think about getting content out after the event cinema showing. For example, the Met Opera are now starting their own VOD channel showing content that was in cinemas six months previously.  However, it was indicated that sorting out rights for theatrical, VOD and DVD releases is very complex. Much of existing content has no long term rights, so may never be shown again. The closing speech thanked everyone for a good conference, but noted that lack of independent exhibitors attending (only three, including yours truly)!

Your first job in film: what I wished I'd known

Posted Wednesday 28 October 2015 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers, FEDS scheme

Hardish
Hardish Matharu, one of the fifteen FEDS now graduating from our scheme, many into full time film industry jobs

We're wrapping up the FEDS scheme, with some great results for the trainees. Many of them have achieved continuing roles in the film industry. We asked Hardish Matharu, one of our trainees working at distributor eOne, to reflect back on her experience and give some lessons for new entrants to the sometimes intimidating film business. Hardish has now taken up a role as Marketing Assistant.

I’ve always had an interest in each and every single aspect of the film industry and think this scheme allowed me to learn more about an area I didn’t really know much about at all. I didn’t realise how much thought, creativity and detail goes into film distribution. I do honestly think that learning about all the different areas in the industry is vital as it allows you to understand all the functions and be more knowledgeable. I think the problem most people have when they want a job in film they narrow it down so much that it can actually become difficult to find the right position. In fact, I was actually one of those people after I graduated. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you want but the tricky part is trying to figure out how to get there and that’s usually what scares people the most. One thing I’ve learnt is not to limit myself when it comes to those goals.

Hardish Beach

General tips I wish I could have given myself whilst looking for a job within film:

  • Be confident in yourself.
  • Never doubt your abilities and what you’re capable of based on rejections.
  • Don’t limit yourself in the positions you apply for.
  • Always do your research.
  • Skills are transferrable no matter what the role is.
  • You are capable of achieving your goals, even if you are working in a different area.
  • Any experience you gain will help you and improve your chances in finding a role more suited.
  • Create a portfolio and update it as regularly as you can.

When I first started the scheme I was nervous, confused and also grieving. I had lost my grandad two weeks before I began. I was anxious leading up to the day I started because this was my first real full-time job and I wasn’t sure whether or not I was capable. Most people experience that feeling when embarking on something exciting and new. I was really looking forward to this opportunity because it was within film, an industry I’d been trying to break into for almost two years since graduating. I remember coming across this scheme and applying thinking I won’t get it but I’m thankful I was wrong. I had promised myself during University that I would not get comfortable in a job I didn’t want to do, that I would keep on pushing myself to find something in the field I wanted. And finally something did come along. And though my goal is directing, I’m finding that working in distribution is equipping me with more knowledge about an area that is important in the industry.

Mississippi Grind
Mississippi Grind, one of many of eOne's titles released in the UK

Things I wish I could have told myself before I started the placement

  • Don’t always question whether or not you are capable of doing the job, you are.
  • There’s nothing wrong with asking questions if you’re confused and unsure about something. Even though you may feel like you are bothering your colleagues, it’s better to ask for help, that way they are able to explain things to you.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes: you’re new at this, and you’re not always going to get everything right. If a mistake is made, own up to it and find ways to rectify it.
  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach others. That’s the only way you’re really going to build relationships with your colleagues.
  • Be patient.
  • Pen

The benefits of having a can-do attitude

There were a lot of times when I’d find myself running out of tasks and would often approach my line managers and ask them for more work. This was something my line managers would often praise me for in our one-to-one sessions. To them, it showed I was keen to learn and I don’t regret that one bit.

  • Colleagues feel comfortable approaching you for help.
  • You are constantly learning and improving your skills.
  • You are getting the most out of the scheme.
  • People will put you forward for certain tasks.
  • You’re not limited in the range of tasks you are carrying out.
  • Both you and your colleagues will feel confident in the work you carry out.
  • Improves your communication skills.
  • Strengthens your relationship with colleagues.
  • Opens doors for more responsibilities.

I remember when I first started this scheme and wondered whether or not I would benefit from it and I can say I definitely have. I’ve been lucky enough to work in an environment I feel comfortable and confident in. I feel like I’ve learnt a great deal about distribution and learnt the functions and processes of it. And through this experience I’ve learnt more about myself and my skills. I feel like all the experience I gained through this scheme will aid me not only as I continue in a new position at the same company but in the future too. I feel it has opened up new opportunities and I look forward to what’s next.

Four films to look out for at Autumn Screening Days

Posted Thursday 22 October 2015 by Duncan Carson in General

Our goal at Screening Days is to make sure you get a chance to see the best films so you can bring your audiences a diverse and unique programme. Here we highlight four films at our Autumn Screening Days event at Broadway that might not yet be on your radar, but are well worth seeking out.

Rams2

Rams by Grímur Hákonarson (Soda Pictures)

Set in a remote Icelandic valley, two brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) live on neighbouring sheep farms but haven’t spoken to each other for forty years. As disease looks set to threaten the health and ancient lineage of their beloved rams, the brothers are forced back into communication with each other... although not always verbally! A perfectly-formed piece of world cinema, and a beautiful study of the relationship between two brothers, emotional yet not sentimental with a wonderfully wry wit throughout. Writer and director Grímur Hákonarson puts his documentarian skills to good use, producing a naturalistic portrait of rural farm life and capitalising on the austere yet stunning landscapes. With the success of Of Horses and Men last year, I’m hoping this will usher in a new age of Icelandic cinema in the UK, with a deliciously dark sense of humour. Rural audiences will likely flock (sorry) to it as they did with Addicted to Sheep.
Becky Clarke

My Skinny Sister

My Skinny Sister by Sanna Lenken (Matchbox Films)

Partly drawing on her own experiences, writer-director Sanna Lenken’s debut focuses on the impact of a young woman’s eating disorder on her family, as observed through the eyes of her younger sister. Sparky and precocious 11-year-old Stella is still ‘body unaware’ while her older sister, a high-achieving and prize winning figure skater, secretly battles with an increasingly debilitating eating disorder. At its recent UK premiere at the London Film Festival, responses from teen girls were particularly passionate, and the film was earlier this year awarded the Crystal Bear in Berlin, in its Generation 14 Plus section. Rebekkah Johnson’s lead performance infuses its serious subject matter with warmth and humour giving the film an authentic and believable youth perspective. The film would play particularly well with secondary school age girls, providing an opportunity for young women to reflect on and share their own struggles with their body image. Suitable for ages 11 and up.
Jemma Desai

Departure

Departure by Andrew Steggall (Peccadilo Pictures)

The delicate debut of British filmmaker Andrew Steggall follows a precocious, dreamy teenager on the cusp of realising his sexuality while, simultaneously, his family life is coming apart at the seams. Alex Lawther (best known for playing the young Turing in The Imitation Game) gives a superb central performance as Elliott, who’s helping his mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) – an uncertain, melancholic presence – pack up their holiday home in the south of France, in the notable absence of Elliott’s father. Meeting Clément, a French boy staying with his aunt, they wander through the leafy woods and form a tentative friendship, with an (at first) unspoken undercurrent of attraction. Meanwhile Beatrice attempts to connect with Elliott while wrestling with a crisis in her own interior world. Focusing his camera on Lawther and Stevenson both separately and together, Steggall investigates the paradoxical distance and closeness of their emotional states and reveals two characters on the brink of major change. It’s a tender, wistful film which will appeal to LGBT audiences as well as cinema-goers on the lookout for new British talent. Cinemas that found success with the likes of Lilting should strongly consider it, as the French setting and presence of Juliet Stevenson could garner a broader arthouse crowd than other LGBT films. 
Sarah Rutterford  

Here After

The Here After by Magnus von Horn (Soda Pictures)

The Here After is Swedish filmmaker Magnus von Horn's feature debut. Shot on film by Lucasz Zal (Ida), the result is a flickering, cold and restrained film about a teenage boy, John, who is released from youth detention back into the care of his father. It is unclear at first what crime John has committed, but it is one that has left him ostracised by his classmates and community. In this respect the film put me in mind of Vinterberg's The Hunt, but the narrative here is far more slow-burn, drip-feeding details and allowing sympathies to build throughout. A morally complex and brilliantly performed debut, Soda Pictures, who have released similar challenging work previously, seems like a fitting home for this chilling Swedish drama.
Jonny Courtney

Exhibitor of the Month: Curzon Community Cinema, Clevedon

Posted Wednesday 7 October 2015 by Duncan Carson in General

Curzon Clevedon

The Curzon Cinema & Arts Clevedon near Bristol lays claim to a serious historical achievement, standing as one of the oldest continuously-running cinema in the UK. But its outlook is thoroughly modern, with clear ideas about how it can participate in its community's future. We spoke to Luke Doran, their Programming and Partnerships Manager, about what it takes to make sure the cinema survives for another 100 years.

After the cinema went bankrupt in 1996, the community got onboard for a huge fundraising campaign to open the cinema as a community space. Besides acting as a community hub by offering much lower rates on hiring space for workshops and meetings for non-profits, they are supported by a committed team of volunteers. 'We’re mainly run by volunteers: from marketing, to booking, to projection. We even have a DIY team: who come in every Friday to do vital maintenance. Everyone is helping out for love and you see that with interactions with customers. It’s a warm, welcoming local vibe.'

Why do so many people continue to rally round the cause of this cinema? Luke says the secret is its generational appeal. 'Longevity equals loyalty. Generations of familiies who have grown up and have been coming here for years. The two things to be proud of locally are the cinema and Grade II listed pier and we're happy to be a beacon for Clevedon!' 

Curzon Clevedon outdoors
Running for 103 years, the Curzon is the oldest purpose built cinema still in service in the UK

Partnerships and engagement mark the Curzon out from other cinemas. Their youth curation project with the local school gives fifteen to seventeen year olds the chance to curate a film and learn the whole process of how a film is put on. Bristol's Encounters Short Film Festival will lead one of the sessions to learn about how to programme shorts and add short features to programmes.

One of the advantages of having a venue that has been open since 1912 is that you have generations of people's memories to draw on. The cinema chose to mark its centenary with the Curzon Memories app. Consulting with local people, the app allows you to explore the cinema and contextually specific memories will play as you explore different areas. Some of the quirkier recollections include from the cinema's balcony (out of action since the 1970s): one of the infamous activities was to chuck sweets off the balcony into the pit. Many people fondly recall the futility of the 'smoking side' of the cinema. And of course, memories of many packed nights in the cinema in its 800 seat glory days, with a queue down the street.

Curzon Clevedon 'Mighty Organ'
The Christie Pipe Organ is a beautiful artefact of the cinema's past and still in use to this day

One beautiful artefact from the cinema's past, still in use today, is the Christie Theatre Pipe Organ. Every Sunday, the cinema gives visitors a chance to try this stunning fully functioning organ. Featuring a local organist, every Monday night's film is preceded with an organ session.

And the cinema is also creating special film memories to this day. For last year's BFI Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder season, the Curzon screened E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. 150 kids were led on a haunted tour of the cinema, each holding a candle in a jar. With all of the natural light blocked off and with atmospheric sound effects playing around the space, it was unique way to breathe life into this classic. 

Having a cinema with such a central place in the community means that certain kinds of films with cross-generational appeal perform especially well at the Curzon. 'Family films are incredibly popular. Shaun the Sheep and Paddington were very big titles earlier in the year and Minions and Inside Out also did very well more recently. 'Silver pound' films also do really well, and What We Did On Our Holiday was a surprise smash for us.'

Curzon Balcony
A rare chance to see the Curzon's balcony, which there is renewed hope of reopening in the future

Curzon Specials, which have been running since April 2014, have given the film programme a shake up into more adventurous realms. Starting with a screening of The Lunchbox that featured Bollywood dancers and Bangladeshi snacks, the focus of the strand is on arthouse, foreign language, doumentaries, British films and the best of Hollywood, fortnightly on a Sunday evening

In the future, the Curzon is looking to build on its success and restore some of its most notable features, by opening a second screen and realizing a long-held ambition to re-open the balcony. Here's to another hundred years of this special place!

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This is the official blog for the Independent Cinema Office, the national organisation for the development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK.

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