Independent Cinema Office Blog

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Posts from December 2015

The experience of a 2015 FEDS trainee!

Posted Friday 18 December 2015 by Mike Tang in FEDS scheme

FEDS 2015 at EIFF

The brilliant FEDS training scheme for 2016 is now open for applications.  The details are all here on the ICO's site on what the scheme's about and how to apply, but what's it like to actually be a FEDS trainee?

Read on for the experience and invaluable lessons of a FEDS trainee from the Class of 2015!

For the past nine months I was a FEDS trainee based at the Centre for the Moving Image in Edinburgh where I worked on planning and coordination of the EIFF and Filmhouse programmes.  It was an invaluable and exciting experience that involved meeting and learning from inspiring people and watching great films, but also staring at screens for long periods of time and the frequent (and sometimes frustrating) train rides to London.  The support of people around me (both in Edinburgh and London), and the fact I felt truly passionate about the work I did made me forget all the negative aspects.

Even though the traineeship ended just a few of weeks ago I already look back at it with nostalgia. The list all the things that I learned in the course of nine months would be way too long for this blog, but here’s the list of six things that I found the most interesting and surprising:

1.  ‘Nobody knows anything’

Famous quote by William Goldman referring to the inability to predict whether a film is going to be a box office success was one of the first things we learned in the FEDS sessions.  Initially, I thought it was a way of justifying one’s incompetence or lack of experience.  After a while though I realised that the issue was more complex.  The success of the film does not only depend on it’s artistic merit or the talent involved, it is also subject to changing trends in cinema going, current affairs, weather etc., and, as a result, the audience’s reaction to a film may surprise even the most experienced industry professionals. 

This uncertainty seems to accompany people involved in different stages of the film’s journey to the big screen and is also familiar to cinema programmers.  I am not sure whether it’s the gut feeling or experience that is the key to making the right programming decisions, however, there are a few things to consider while making those choices. That brings us to:

2.  Programming

What at first sounded to me like a job that consisted of watching films and showing the ones you liked to others is also not as easy as it sounds.  As you’re screening the film to your cinema’s audience, it is crucial to know who they are and what their taste is.  Once you’re aware of that you’re more likely to keep your local audience happy and you can also work on developing new ones.  The best programmers are those whose get enough trust from their audiences to challenge their tastes and as a result broaden their film horizons.    

3.  Everyone knows each other

It doesn’t take too much time in the UK film business to realise how small it is.  Even though there are different areas of the industry, these have to work together to put the film on the big screen.  As an exhibitor, you cannot make a decision to screen a film in your cinema or a film festival without first consulting the distributor, sales agent, producer or the filmmaker themselves.  For this reason, work involves frequent contacts with other companies and institutions.  And that is not limited to 10-6 working hours.  Due to the importance of building relations between institutions, networking is an important part of work, especially at film festivals and other industry related events.

The good thing about these close ties within the industry is that once you’re in, you quickly learn who the people are and what their roles involve.  The bad is that this information is not easily accessible to outsiders which makes it harder for people to get into the industry in the first place.

FEDS lunch at EIFF4.  Karma

It’s not only important to know the people in the business but also to have good relationships with them.  As the film industry is tightly knit and all its parts rely one each other, it should be in the interest of everyone to have a good relationship with their partners and make working together easier.  The interest of your company should, of course, remain the priority, but sometimes going an extra mile pays off in the long run, and once you help someone, they’re more likely to return the favour.

5.  Things can go wrong

It wasn’t until I worked in a film festival and cinema office that I realised the number of things that can go wrong. Once you get the films you want and the programme is locked, it could seem like most of work is done, however, the next stages are crucial for the event to take place.  There are prints that have to travel to the festival and then between the venues, all according to the tight schedule; guests need to be allocated hotel rooms and taken care of; screenings have to be scheduled and organized; and if one small element of this big jigsaw is missing it may jeopardise the whole event.  That’s why good planning and communication are crucial.

6.  Working for a film festivals like a drug

I’ve always been fascinated by film festivals – their role in maintaining the communal cinema experience, the atmosphere that surrounds them, and their ability to bring together people from different social and cultural backgrounds.  Just as visiting a film festival has always been a unique experience for me, so was working for one.  What I learned was how much passion for film people behind film festivals need to have (as that’s the force that makes people achieve the most ambitious goals and unites the whole festival team), and how rewarding it can be to see people enjoying a screening or an event that you’ve worked on.

The most unexpected discovery for me, however, was how much energy you can get out of being in this environment.  Even though the work can be very stressful and demanding, the adrenaline keeps everyone going, and it doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve been working 10 days in a row or can’t remember the faces of the friends you have outside the festival.  The festival high can be great and very helpful in getting through the 12 intense days, however, it does not make it any easier coming back to reality once the event is finished.

ICO's Best of 2015

Posted Wednesday 9 December 2015 by Duncan Carson in General, News Round-up

ICO Best of 2015
Carol, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Magic Mike XXL and Girlhood were office favourites this year

The ICO staff sees an ungodly number of films each year. And we also have the pleasure of seeing and meeting some of the best cinemas around the world. Here's our pick of the things that mattered to us in the cinematic year that was.

 Takashi Ito
Ito Takashi's Venus: a retrospective of his films was one of David's picks of the year, though perhaps not the director's!

David Sin, Head of Cinemas

My most enjoyable experience in the cinema in 2015 was seeing Japanese filmmaker Ito Takashi's programme at the Oberhausen Film Festival in May, where so many short films are exhibited and talked about, but without any of the industrial hype that dominates so many other film festivals. The final programme, featuring his most recent works was introduced by Ito to a packed audience:

“These are films made when I had a lot of difficult changes going on in my life. When I look back at them now, I’m not entirely happy with them. [Pause] ENJOY!”

The Misfits
The Misfits, with Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift: one of Lynn's film discoveries of 2015

Lynn Nwokorie, Assistant Programmer

Top 5 of 2015

  • Girlhood
  • Carol
  • Timbuktu
  • Phoenix
  • Best of Enemies

Honourable mentions (because 5 is such a small number): Appropriate Behaviour, Sicario, Victoria, Force Majeure and The Duke of Burgundy.

Top 5 “born again” cinematic discoveries

  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Lift to the Scaffold
  • The Misfits
  • Far from Heaven
  • Cry of the City

Motovun DYFF
ICO's Developing Your Film Festival course in Motovun, Croatia: one of Corinne's festival highlights

Corinne Orton, Training and Professional Development Manager 

My top 5 film festival moments of 2015

Film festivals highlight for me why cinema is such a social medium. There is always so much around the regular film screening that brings people together, from guest appearances and discussions to interactive workshops and live scores. Here's my top five festival moments this year. 

Girlhood at Glasgow Film Festival

At the start of the year I was manager of this film festival, and as is typical of festival work, you’re often too busy putting out fires to fully enjoy your lovingly-assembled event. This was particularly tough for me at GFF 2015, as the programme included a screening at a roller disco, a murder mystery night and a live film score by British Sea Power.

So I was glad to grab a few moments to witness lead actresses Karidja Touré and Assa Sylla speak about Girlhood, a moving exploration of resilient Parisian girls navigating adolescence. The film features that incredible use of Rihanna’s 'Diamonds' which was my favourite cinema moment of the year.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl at Edinburgh International Film Festival

In June, after two months as ICO's Training & Professional Development Manager I was back on home turf at Edinburgh International Film Festival with fourteen of our FEDS trainees in tow. It was a real pleasure to show them around a film festival that is close to my heart, and pass on that bug of running between screenings munching on whatever fast food is on hand, networking with fellow film lovers and taking notes at industry events.

A highlight was another story of growing up and making sense of the world: TheDiary of a Teenage Girl. Charming and hilarious British actress Bel Powley introduced the film and despite being flanked by Alexander Skarsgård managed to keep everyone in the palm of her hand.

East End Film Festival

One of the things I love about film festivals is the unpredictable, occasionally anarchic spirit that sometimes takes over.
At the East End Film Festival this year I led an eventful Q&A session, which turned into a bit of an out-of-body experience for me when one actor began serenading the crowd with show tunes while another leapt up onto the table to treat the audience to his beat poetry.

Proof that at film festivals, anything can happen…

The Brand New Testament at Motovun Film Festival

In July the ICO went to Croatia for the fifth iteration of our Developing Your Film Festival course which takes place at the top of a mountain, against the backdrop of Motovun Film Festival. Screens and chairs are brought up on tractors and teams of staff and volunteers work in 30 degree heat to bring together the Festival, with screenings running late into the night.

The end of the course coincided with the opening night of the Festival which was a heady mixture of fireworks, delicious beer and a screening of adorable Belgian comedy TheBrand New Testament.

Tangerine at BFI London Film Festival

As a newbie to London I experienced my first London Film Festival in November. While I didn’t have the time and resources to see nearly as much as I would have liked, I was very pleased to make it to the premiere of Tangerine, which was made all the more enjoyable by the presence of excellent new talent Mya Taylor, and her sassy quips about acting, LA and how the film has changed her life.

Hard to be a God
Hard to be a God, a descent into a medieval atavistic hell, is clearly right up Simon's street

Simon Ward, Deputy Director

  • Hard to be a God
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  • The Duke of Burgundy
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • Black Coal, Thin Ice
  • Timbuktu
  • Slow West
  • White God
  • It Follows
  • A Most Violent Year

Mike Tang, Adminstrator

Favourite films: Inside Out, Sicario, Magic Mike XXL, Mommy (one caveat – I’ve yet to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)

Favourite scenes: Magic Mike XXLBDR in the petrol station.

Favourite festival experience: Queuing for a spare ticket for the Surprise Film at BFI London Film Festival – and getting one.

Favourite films other people said were rubbish: Pan, Fifty Shades of Grey

Best dodgy marketing move: Legend two stars from The Guardian? No problem.

The Hard Stop
The Hard Stop: thoughtful criticism was as valuable as ever for this documentary

Jemma Desai, Programmer

Top film writers

This year I have tried to shield my ears from the noise of divergent opinions, call-out culture and attendant Twitter shaming. I have taken refuge in longform film writing more than ever this year, searching for the nuance that the debates around representation rarely seemed to provide. I learnt a new phrase this year too, courtesy of our ever inspiring D-Word keynote speaker Gaylene Gould: ‘creative abrasion’. The abrasions in critical debate have been real this year, but they have been exciting to watch unfold. Combined with some really invigorating curatorial activity across the UK, the existence of these debates combined with some excellent writing makes me excited about 2016, and feeling part of a community of writers, programmers and cinephiles who are creating new space to further film discourse, and are eager to collaborate in order to do so.

Listed here are reviews that made me grateful for their perspectives (and some that made me weep); writing that helped articulate some complex feelings (mostly about Magic Mike XXL); and a little bit of pure poetry (only accessible by signing up to Miriam Bale’s News from Home newsletter).

  1. Simran Hans’s Buzzfeed article 'British Cinemas Need To Do Better For Black Audiences'
  2. Reverse Shot's alternative auteurism series Reverse Shot Unauthorised Symposium
  3. Sophie Monks Kaufman's Little White Lies article 'The Seven Provocations'
  4. Tim Robey's Telegraph review of Carol from Cannes 
  5. Miriam Bale's News from Home newsletter, especially her Carol colour piece
  6. Sophie Mayer's The F Word article 'A Reluctant Suffragette' 
  7. Guy Lodge's Variety article 'Why Magic Mike XXL Is Summer’s Most Subversive Studio Pleasure'
  8. Catherine Bray's Variety review of The Hard Stop
  9. Ashley Clarke's review of Dope
  10. Richard Brody's New Yorker piece on Chantal Akerman, who very sadly died this year

Exotica Erotica
Erotica, Exotica, Etc: container ships, sex workers and poetic narration make for one of Duncan's favourites of the year

Duncan Carson, Marketing, Communications and Events Manager

My experience at ICO has made me hyper-conscious of the routes by which great (and not so great) film work arrives in front of people. Some of the films on my list have the support of bigger studios, and some of them might not see UK release. It's a truism that a huge release doesn't guarantee quality, but I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to see and push for films that aren't commercial prospects, but that audiences respond to. I'm also more aware than ever of what a cinema is for. The majority of films on my list (especially Heaven Knows What and The Look of Silence) are not 'easy sits'. Without the attention-holding space of the cinema, I might not have taken the risk or embraced the experience so fully. I'm really grateful for the chance to see lives I wouldn't otherwise and think and feel things I wouldn't otherwise. And I'm really sorry I'm now one of those people who have films in their list that you can't see for months, if ever.

Top 10 new films in 2015

  • Carol
  • Ex Machina
  • Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
  • Heaven Knows What
  • The Duke of Burgundy
  • Slow West
  • Song of the Sea
  • Tangerine
  • The Look of Silence
  • Timbuktu (also the best trailer of the year!)

Honourable mentions: The Chosen Ones, Catch Me Daddy, Butter on the Latch, Magic Mike XXL, Force Majeure, The Host, Mommy

Best film discoveries of the year

This year also made me appreciate the work of all the people who advocate for older work.

  • Ivan’s Childhood
  • Melanie Manchot's Twelve at Peckham Platform (a beautifully shot, enquiring show, proving once again that there is always something new to be said about a well covered subject, in this case addiction. Fans of Gillian Wearing should seek out her work).
  • Vera Chitylova season at BFI Southbank
  • Bless Their Little Hearts (part of Tate Film's LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema season)
  • The Offence (wonderful new edition of this strange Sidney Lumet film from Masters of Cinema. British-set, starring Sean Connery in an uncharacteristically nasty role.)
  • The Life of Jesus (Bruno Dumont, where have you been all my life? Plays like a late teen version of one of my favourites of all time, L'Enfance Nue).
  • Moons Pool (a stunning avant-garde film programmed by my ICO colleague Adam Pugh for ICA's Josephine Decker symposium)
  • She’s Gotta Have It
  • Celia (one of my highlights of the year was ICA's Second Run season, celebrating the heroic work of the world cinema DVD label. It was also great to have my suspicions confirmed about the people behind the label being cinema lovers and humanitarians!)
  • Le Bonheur
  • Jonny Courtney, Programmer

    Top 5 films released in 2015

  • The Duke of Burgundy
  • Carol
  • Eden
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Perceval le Gallois
    Eric Rohmer's Perceval le Gallois: creaky, strange fun for Adam 

    Adam Pugh, Artists' Moving Image Project Manager

    My choices reflect both ongoing assonances in artists' moving image practice and exhibition – the archive, the essay, the diary, for instance – and the tendency towards narrative that is perhaps more perceptible now than ever before. I've acknowledged this by reverse osmosis, preferring here to include a film, or rather, three films, by Miguel Gomes, a director who pedants might argue does not hail from the artists' moving image community or present as part of the canon, but in embracing forms which would previously have been considered outlandish for 'regular' cinema – a durational approach, baroque subjects and treatment, freewheeling meta-narratives, a disregard for resolution – has shown rather more publicly what most people in the artists' moving image camp have known for some time, that experiment is genetically part of cinema, not something it performs for an avant-garde or relegates to a sidebar; and that this radical core should and could be accessed rather more frequently by all.

    It feels as if the great navigators have opened the northwest passage connecting 'cinema' with the rocky bluff of artists' moving image, and those land masses (here for some reason exclusively Iberian) previously thought not to be contiguous – Albert Serra, Miguel Gomes, Gabriel Abrantes -  are now in view for all to see. What is most interesting is that there is no boundary, or at least one which is thoroughly porous, and this is to the benefit of all cinema.

    Following this trajectory, Adam Curtis managed once again to subvert categorisation and transcend the reductive binaries of television programming by bringing his singular voice to terrestrial TV and BBC iPlayer (neither often the hotbed for radical essay-films, much less two-hour-plus historical critiques of UK foreign policy) with Bitter Lake; and Joshua Oppenheimer's newest film, The Look of Silence, brought a risky and experimental document of the shockwaves of a little-examined history, and its still-brutal present, to mainstream cinemas (this last detail alone was amazing).

    Two of the films are associated with the ICO's Artists' Moving Image Network project: we screened the UK premiere of Dutch artists Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan's remarkable Episode of the Sea, introduced by local fisherman and harbourmaster Johnny Johnston, in Berwick in April; and will tour Miranda Pennell's fantastic new film The Host, itself not thematically unrelated to Curtis' film, in the New Year. 

    My throwback choice is for a film I'd only previously seen a clip of, but managed to catch at the BFI's Rohmer season back in spring. With abstract cardboard sets, oddly stilted, stagey acting, a tone which strikes a deliberately awkward balance between melodrama and historical epic, and a Greek chorus of medieval flautists, it might not sound that appealing, but Perceval Le Gallois was probably the film I enjoyed most all year. And I'm not that weird.

    Bitter Lake - Adam Curtis

    Five Year Diary - Anne Charlotte Robertson

    The Host - Miranda Pennell

    Arabian Nights trilogy - Miguel Gomes

    Episode of the Sea - Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan

    The Look of Silence - Joshua Oppenheimer

    Perceval le Gallois - Eric Rohmer

Best of posters
Red Army and Catch Me Daddy: arresting interpretations of films that avoided film stills made Sarah's picks of the quads

    Sarah Rutterford, Operations Officer

    Top 5 film posters of 2015

    Catch Me Daddy: It seems like more and more, artists are being given the concept of a film as a jumping off point for their own imagination and design ideas, rather than having to stick to a particular aesthetic. I love this beautifully painted artwork for Daniel Wolfe’s drama by designer Fraser Muggeridge and illustrator Mu Pan, featuring characters from the film around a massive white tiger in an image reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch. It looks nothing like the stills and is so stunning and unusual it instantly made me want to see the film. (The artwork on the website is also great).

    Our Little Sister: A bit of a cheat because Hirokazu Koreeda’s new film doesn’t come out until 2016, but this is an early Japanese poster. It’s beautiful: a delicate, ink-blotted watercolour creation, with a still showing the four sisters of the film treading gingerly along the shoreline.

    Red Army: I enjoyed this documentary on the intense rivalries and political machinations behind the Cold War-era Russian ice hockey team, with a poster that brilliantly riffs off contemporary Soviet typography and design.

    Thou Wast Mild & Lovely & Butter on the Latch: OK, so we handled the UK tour of Josephine Decker’s films, but the festival posters we brought over were really lovely. As per Catch Me Daddy, they were created by artists loosely inspired by the films. The poster for Butter... is a pencilled image of girls surrounded by swathes of their entwined, ever-growing hair, a poetic interpretation of the film’s often claustrophobic female friendship; contrasting with the freer image for Thou Wast Mild & Lovely: a pair of open-mouthed lips, surreally positioned in front of a profusion of leaves, grasses and flowers that reflects the film’s focus on nature and its frank sensuality.

    Listen Up Philip: Alex Ross Perry’s acerbic New York story was one of my favourite films of the year. A satirical portrait of a violently solipsistic writer (Jason Schwartzmann) and the parallel creative travails of his photographer girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), this poster’s painted line-up of the characters is perfect as it makes them all look as estranged and diffident as they are in the film.


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