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Posts in FEDS scheme

Cinemas, community and culture in Northern Ireland: Allen's role at #filmFEDS

Posted Thursday 5 October 2017 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers, FEDS scheme, Training & Conferences

FEDS Allen Maria Anthony
Allen (centre) debates with his fellow FEDS Maria (left) and Anthony (right) 

We're currently looking for the next generation of talent on our FEDS scheme, which offers eight months of paid training with a major film festival or cinema. But what's it like being a FED? Here, one of our current trainees Allen Loyola tells us about his role at Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast.

When I applied for the FEDS traineeship I’ve never had any experience in film distribution. I had some experience in film production by helping friends on their short films, etc but never in the exhibition or distribution side. My background is in science, I remember applying to the scheme just a few weeks after I finished three very long years of studying Physics in the same university that would be my host venue: Queen's Film Theatre in Queen’s University Belfast.

I knew I loved films and I loved going to QFT so when I read about the FEDS scheme I had to apply. It was a marketing position, so I thought, worst comes to worst, I’ll get to see films before anyone else!

It’s now been seven months since I started as a trainee for Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT), a cinema that’s part of Queen’s University Belfast. It’s origins can be tracked back all the way to the 1930s when a number of university societies decided they wanted to show films that weren’t in commercial cinemas. Eventually, this led to the QFT being officially founded in 1968.

QFT today
QFT today

As I mentioned above, the placement is based in the cinema’s marketing department so what exactly have I been doing for the last seven months? Well, a lot of social media “stuff” and a lot of time on Photoshop designing posters, banners etc. It may sound like a normal placement in an office, but in reality working in an independent cinema is always different. Working with a small team, you can expect to be involved in a lot of things: the programming, the website, community outreach and lots more. In my seven months here at QFT, it’s become very clear that a lot of work has gone into making QFT a haven for all film lovers in the city.

Recently QFT celebrated Cinema Day, a country wide initiative, presented by Film Hub Northern Ireland, that celebrates the diversity of film exhibition in Northern Ireland. As QFT is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next year, we decided to invite the very loyal QFT audience and past employees to get to know what they’d like to see in the future and discuss what QFT means to them. One of the things that stood out to me was something that the former head of QFT Michael Open said during the discussion. He said that during the time of “The Troubles”, QFT was one of the few places that people could gather to socialise, feel welcome and not feel in danger. In fact very recently a few people have commented that QFT was one of the “few shining lights during a dark period”. These things have made me slightly re-think what I view an independent cinema should be.

QFT Cinema Day
Cinema Day 2016 was a national celebration of films and move going in Northern Ireland

Of course, the most important thing that an independent cinema should focus on is the programme. Being separated from mainland UK and also by a border in the south, a diverse cultural programme is arguably the most important quality of an independent cinema like QFT, even more so in a city that’s been through so much political conflict. There is always a sense of duty to show films that are of local interest. Not just movies that were made in Northern Ireland/Ireland but also films that would challenge the divide in the Northern Irish community. Of course, being an independent cinema there is the need to show films that wouldn’t be picked up by the big chain cinemas in Northern Ireland, which is a huge problem. Northern Ireland has the most screens per head in the whole of the UK, yet you’ll find that QFT is one of the few places that would show foreign language films like Borg McEnroe or After the Storm. As much as I love watching the yearly release of a Transformers or Marvel film, I’d always prefer something original, especially in an era of remakes and sequels.

QFT vintage
QFT back in the glory days: the cinema has always proved a safe haven at times of strife

If you ask a regular visitor why they like QFT you’ll hear the phrase, “I feel at home here” a lot. I remember the first time I walked into QFT and feeling a little intimidated but after going to the box office, buying a ticket and having an in-depth conversation with the person behind the glass about the film I was about to see that I felt rather silly about being intimidated. Independent cinemas always strive to try and welcome all communities. For instance, there is a desire to improve the cinema experience for people who suffer from autism or dementia. Making the cinema a friendlier environment for people with these conditions is a great way to make people “feel at home” and “welcomed”. In the time that I’ve been here, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in training sessions that made me see what it’s really like to be in a situation that would impair my day to day life. For example in my first month most of the QFT staff took part in the ICO’s Deaf Awareness training. A great exercise where I learnt about the community, the correct etiquette and even some simple sign language to gain valuable insight on how we can improve the cinema experience for the Deaf. More recently, we had some vision awareness training which, as you might expect, gave the same valuable knowledge as the Deaf awareness training, but for the visually impaired community.

With the traineeship being based in marketing, these are things I didn’t expect I’d be involved in. Things that I’m glad I got the chance to take part in and learn from. It’s refreshing, not only to see the work that happens behind the scenes but also being involved in it. With only a few weeks left, some big changes in QFT, Halloween and Christmas just around the corner, it’s going to be a busy few weeks and I look forward to it!

PS. Yes, I absolutely did get to watch films early before they officially came out...

If you would like to apply for FEDS yourself, you have until 18 October to do so. You don't need past experience, only passion, so get your application in.

How to make your cinema more inclusive with creative collaborations: FEDS 2017

Posted Thursday 28 September 2017 by Maria Cabrera in Cinema Careers, FEDS scheme, General

We spoke to Maria Cabrera, one of the most recent cohort of FEDS trainees, about her experiences at the Barbican during her traineeship and what she's learnt about the best ways to collaborate to create meaningful film experiences and reach out to new audiences. To read more about FEDS 2018, which will open for applications soon, click here.

Mi Vida Loca
Allison Anders' Mi Vida Loca, which Maria will screen at the Barbican on 10th October

Before starting my placement at the Barbican as part of FEDS the majority of my film experience came from putting on my own screenings with Reel Good Film Club, which I set up with my friends, and helping out at places such as Deptford Cinema and Scalarama, where I was encouraged to just give it a go. I found studying film studies at university tiring (something I won’t bore you with) and film programming made me excited to get a chance to put the films me and my friends chatted about, and which often were made and starred people that looked like us on a screen to share with ourselves and others.

Through trial and error and having opportunities to link up with other institutions I’ve been able to learn a lot, but I was really keen to gain insight and experience from the other side. As a big cross-arts centre, collaborations are a fundamental part of the Barbican with departments joining up on projects throughout the year and working with different artists and groups to curate spaces and events together. I’ve really enjoyed getting to experience how it all runs and to contribute to some of the amazing projects they work on.

Although grassroots and community-based independent film programming have always played a part in cinemas, collaborations between institutions and outside organisations have become a thing. From takeovers to one-off partnerships, museums, cinemas and other art venues have been keen to reach out and open their doors to the possibility of new audiences and a varied programme to match.

While here I’ve tried to soak up as much as I can, here are the notes I’ve made on working with collaborators...

Collaborations are good for your venue

I was excited to start my placement just in time for Being Ruby Rich, a film programme in collaboration between Barbican Cinema and Club des Femmes, a queer feminist collective run by some of the smartest and supportive people I know. Together with Barbican film curator Gali Gold, they put together a thrilling mix of screenings, discussions and workshops to celebrate the work of cinema activist, curator and scholar B. Ruby Rich. The event involved her flying all the way to London from California to explore the issues that drove the beginnings of her work to its relevance today. For me this was a dream programme; from pioneering De Cierta Manera by Afro-cubana Sara Gómez, shown on 35mm, to Yance Ford’s beautiful yet shattering Strong Island, recently picked up by Netflix....I could go on!

Strong Island
Yance Ford's Strong Island, screened at Barbican as part of Club Des Femmes' Being Ruby Rich

Every cinema has an expectation of who their core audience may be. What this collaborative programme showed is that an exciting programme with participatory elements can be the start to bringing a wider range of audiences into the space. Throughout the programme, surveys were handed out to audience members to assess a range of objectives. Of all the attendees, 40% said they were visiting the Barbican for the first time, with 80% of all attendees saying they were likely to come again. When it came to how people found out about the event, the majority reported that they had heard about the programme through word of mouth and… it caught the attention of people outside of London with some people traveling in just to attend. The feedback also showed that around 50% of the audience identified as LGBTQ* with 10% identifying as having a disability.

Although the programme took place in one of the hottest weeks in London, it showed how people do turn up for a fascinating programme.

How to maintain one-offs

While working here I’ve gotten involved in the running of the Barbican’s first Youth Panel, a space created to ensure the voices and ideas of young people can be heard by the rest of the centre. In one of the discussions a panellist asked, “How do we maintain what we’re doing now for the next Youth Panel?” The question of how outreach and collaborative projects shouldn’t just be temporary or worst, tokenistic, is definitely one to always think about.

Panel at Chronic Youth
Barbican's first Youth Panel, created to ensure the voices of young people are heard at the venue

Surveys such as the one mentioned for Being Ruby Rich, can also be very useful in checking out the positive outcomes as well as areas to improve on. Although the surveys highlighted some of the amazing responses from attendees, it is important to point out that niche film programmes take a great deal of effort to promote to the public. Audiences can take a long time to build so overnight success isn’t guaranteed and you should be prepared for it to take some work from you and your team.

Maintaining relationships that last is important in building a successful programme. There is nothing wrong with one-offs, it can keep your programming current, but committing to a few collaborations throughout the year with partners you trust and work well with can be a great way to not just fulfil the diversity quota but continue developing your venues’ identity and widening what’s on offer for audiences.

Where to start? Get some regional inspiration

As most people know, the film world in the UK is very London-centric and one of my favourite things about doing the scheme has been being able to visit all the venues the other FEDS work in. Although there are so many great screenings and events where I am in London (at times almost too many to actually go to) I’ve gained a lot of insight on new creative ways to get involved with local communities from the different regional venues.

Whether it’s working with a new festival in your city, or hosting a new local film club screening, there’s different ways venues are connecting with others. For example, I’m really looking forward to Showroom’s screenings in collaboration with Melanin Festival in Sheffield in October and CineQ’s screening of the much talked about Check It at Birmingham’s Centrala gallery.

Money, money, money

Things always get a bit awkward when money is involved but it’s crucial for creating your relationship with collaborators. Yes, budgets exist and can be especially tight as arts funding reduces, but taking into account the work and time your collaborator is giving to your venue or project is a great way to show that you respect and value your partnership. I have learned this is good practice when working with anyone from being on both sides of the deal; it’s best not to assume that someone is happy to work for free or not, and instead bring up the financial side of your project as soon as possible. Of course there’s always room for negotiation, but it’s always better to have a place to start. A good method that I’ve picked up at the Barbican is to calculate a standard fee for different roles and costs which is both within the means of your venue but which still pays your collaborator appropriately. For example, what can your venue or project afford to pay panelists, filmmakers or for someone to introduce an event (which they may also have to prepare for)? I’ve tried and tested this while working here and it's really useful in making communication easier and clearer.

P.S. Asking for money when you are providing a service shouldn’t be awkward.

P.P.S. Of course some people are more than happy to contribute their work for free. I’ve found that some short filmmakers are pleased to have their work seen by more audiences, but this isn’t always the case!

My screening

Because there is always space for a bit of shameless self-promotion, I will be putting what I’ve learned to practice here at the Barbican with a screening of Allison Anders’ iconic Mi Vida Loca on the 10th of October. The film will play alongside Top Girl, a film by Rebecca Johnson (Honeytrap) about two young black British girls juggling school with growing up.

Top Girl
A still from Top Girl, which will screen at the Barbican alongside Mi Vida Loca on 10th October

I put them together because not only do they explore the friendships of young women of colour but because they are both led by untrained actors, and I wanted to create a discussion around the nuances of representation on screen whilst paying tribute to the artistry of the black and brown women in the films.

Whilst programming I wanted to explore not just the role of the directors but also the labour and input of the actors who lend the experiences to the film - which I believe is what make both films special and why they resonate with me and others. As soon as Top Girl popped into my head I knew I couldn’t go ahead without reaching out to poet and writer Abondance Matanda to do an introduction as her article about the film for gal-dem last year is the reason I and others know about the film. I wanted to highlight the influence her work had on my programming decisions and the way I think about film more generally. I hope to make it a small collaboration between us and the Barbican.

Would be great to see you there! You can buy tickets for the event here.

FEDS: Anthony's experience in the world of Artists' Moving Image

Posted Thursday 3 August 2017 by Ellen Reay in FEDS scheme, General

Anthony

This week we caught up with Anthony Gartland, one of this year's FEDS trainees, to see what he's been up to during his traineeship at LUX Artist Moving Image.

I’ve been a trainee in the distribution department of LUX Artist Moving Image for the last four months. LUX is a national public arts agency for the support and promotion of artists working with the moving image. Founded in 2002, it builds on a lineage of its predecessor organisations (The London Filmmakers Co-operative, London Video Arts and The Lux Centre), which stretches back to the 1960s. There’s a really interesting video essay by artist/filmmaker Matthew Noel-Tod that you should watch to find out a little more about LFMC’s history here. These are the sort of things I have been up to, the places I spend most of my time and how it has felt so far.

LUX

A pretty idyllic office...

This is the building where I’m trainee-eeing. As you can probably see, it’s really lovely and because it’s the summer it’s been even lovelier. The building holds LUX’s 6,000 strong film and video collection by over 1,000 artists. It spans from the 1920s to the present day and it’s the largest of its kind in Europe. There’s some photos of the archive below but you can browse the entire collection online here. It’s an active resource and all of these works are bookable - and should be booked, over and over again!

John Smith Gargantuan

Image: courtesy of John Smith and LUX, London

Like this one for example. Gargantuan is a one minute film by British artist-filmmaker John Smith. Commissioned in 1992 by the Arts Council of England and BBC2's The Late Show, the film begins with a closeup of an enormous amphibian. As the film plays out the enormous amphibian becomes progressively smaller. A gentle, lyrical sounding John Smith can be heard describing the shifting scale of the newt; from ‘enormous’ and ‘huge’ to ‘tiny’ and ‘minuscule'. The film ends with an alarm clock buzzing and the word ‘minute’ emblazoned orange on a black title card.

Nine people make up the organisation at the moment; Ben, Maria, Charlotte, Moira, Alice, Lyn, Matt and Bree; and LUX’s main activities are: collection management, care of and access to its film and video collection; distribution: acting as an agent for artists who work with the moving image; public exhibition (screenings, gallery exhibitions, touring shows); education (workshops and talks); publishing (books, DVDs, websites); commissioning new artworks and writing; research support for artists, curators, researchers and students; professional development support for artists and arts professionals; and the development of public research resources to improve understanding of artists film and video.


LUX archive

Most of my daily activity lies within the distribution department and whilst it can sometimes be a lot of lonely work behind your computer, the outputs, and my interest in it, are manifold. I applied to the traineeship because I wanted to learn about film distribution and gain a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the logistical, technical and administrative operations necessary in distributing and exhibiting moving image artworks professionally.

I have been working closely with the distribution manager on a wide range of tasks, everything from corresponding with artists and organisations to facilitate screenings and compiling promotional material for each of the works to submitting recent acquisitions to various international film festivals and creating online subscriptions to LUX’s preview pages for potential programmers and researchers.  I have been assisting the collections manager with the care and maintenance of LUX Collection, including helping cataloguing new acquisitions and updating existing works' entries on the website in consultation with each of the artists.

LUX inside office

In the last four months I have been lucky enough to attend screenings by Malcolm Le Grice, Gill Eatherley and William Raban. There have been screenings by Lynn Loo and Guy Sherwin, Kim Kielhofner, George Clark and Liz Rosenfeld. I have also been fortunate enough to participate in masterclasses led by researchers, artists and curators such as Ghislaine Leung, Herb Shellenberger, Deborah Stratman, and Larry Gottheim. I took part in a three week evening course entitled From Programming to Curating by Dan Kidner that explored the historical, conceptual and critical relationships between film programming for the cinema and screening room, and curating film and video for the gallery. That was really great. I received training from Learning on Screen on the importance of maintaining strong standards in moving image metadata. A little embarrassingly, I hadn’t encountered many of these practitioners (or the discursive avenues they opened up) before starting at LUX. The contact, with the collection, artists, researchers, public and colleagues, is of immense value to me and has positively impacted the way I think about operating in this area.

LUX technology

At the beginning of my placement, LUX launched a week long programme titled REGROUPING. The project looked at the structure and historical trajectory of LUX to self-reflexively question how it could best serve a new generation of artists, researchers and audiences. It aimed to take a moment to think about what kind of organisation was needed in the present and for the future. Entering an environment at this moment of re-evaluation was simultaneously motivating and a little disorientating to navigate. It made a space available for open and frank conversations where everything seemed to be in flux. Although LUX is no longer artist-run those core values are still vital. The press release read, 'We want to ensure that our organisation and ideals remain connected to the visceral emotional, intellectual and material realities of lived experience. To define ourselves less by what we are against and more through the conversations we can make together.'

LUX working

I find myself extraordinarily happy, and at times overly excited, distributing artist moving image from a park everyday. I would like use the remaining months to actively locate the conversations that interest me the most and place myself productively within these. By the end of the traineeship I hope to be able to meaningfully contribute to this field and have the foundations necessary to continue on the trajectory that FEDS has created for me.

What do young people really want from your cinema?

Posted Thursday 20 July 2017 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme

Daphne
Daphne, one of two titles selected for the new youth-focused BFI FAN New Release Strategy

Guest post by Alice Quigley, Marketing Manager, Film Hub South West & West Midlands

On a fairly frequent basis - at events, during workshops, in articles - I’ve heard people say that young people aren’t that interested in the cinema anymore. Which would be a huge cause for concern if it were true. However, in her excellent recent article for Sight & Sound, Screening it for themselves: young DIY British film programmers, Simran Hans points out that 15-to-24 year olds are in fact the largest sector of the cinema-going audience and last year accounted for 29% of the UK cinema audience and goes on to spotlight some of the many interesting events young programmers across the UK are working on. Admittedly a decent swathe of this percentage are watching blockbusters at the multiplex, but that isn’t the full story. Loads of independent venues are doing great work already to welcome this age range, but there is plenty more we as the independent exhibition sector can do to make sure our doors are truly open to people this age.

Since BFI announced a focus on developing young audiences, specifically aged 16-30 in their recent BFI2022 strategy, there has been a flurry of activity to come up with the answers to get this age group through cinema doors. While 16-30s are frequently cited as ‘hard to reach’, from what I’ve seen, heard and experienced via various projects, the key to reaching them is relatively simple and can be boiled down to one piece of advice: talk to them. 

It’s something I’m conscious of trying to do more of, especially now that the BFI Film Audience Network’s New Release Strategy (NRS) is also focussing on the 16-30 age (more on that at the end of this article). So, while hosting a Young Creatives Focus Group at ICO’s recent Screening Days in Leicester to get their thoughts on the NRS shortlisted films, I thought it would be a good idea to start off by asking them what they thought we could do to get more people their age watching independent films at the cinema. The dos and don’ts that they came up with are disarmingly straightforward and form the beginnings of a solid roadmap for anyone interested in reaching out more to young audiences.

God's Own Country
God's Own Country, one of two titles selected for the new youth-focused BFI FAN New Release Strategy

Do: Add Value

Competition for time and hard-earned money is stiff, and young people expect more from their entertainment activities. They don’t want just a film - they can get this from the comfort of their own home - they want a night out. Think about how you can make a screening a more social experience with post-show conversations, party nights and themed food and drinks. (My favourite example was one young programmer who served up Chicken Kievs at their Eurovision night held this year in Kiev, Ukraine.)

Do: Work with young people

Why waste time second guessing what will get a younger audience into your cinema when you can work with young people to programme, promote and run events? Yes it does take time to support them through the process, and it does mean handing over control to an extent, but if you empower young programmers and producers to create, promote and manage events the rewards are plentiful: new energy and ideas, a surprising amount of fun and potentially lots of new, younger faces in the audience.

Do: Price your tickets to suit

Harking back to young people are skint - they really, really are - this was a unanimous point by all the young creatives at the Focus Group and is backed up by various pieces of research citing price as a key barrier to entry for young people.  Having a clear, simple, consistent and well-communicated youth ticket offer does pay off.

Young Audiences focus group
The assembled young audiences focus group at Screening Days in July, including some of our FEDS trainees!

Do: Go to where young people are

Think about taking events to where young people hang out. If that’s not an option, then make the effort to go and talk to them (or get other young people to go and talk to them) where they hang out. Find out what they’re passionate about and what they want to see in the cinema. Listen to them and, most importantly, respond to what they say. It can be pretty disheartening if you don’t pay heed to their ideas, which will naturally be different to yours.

Do: Get on board with GIFs

A cute cat GIF can go a long way. Love it or hate it you’ve got to embrace it. This generation are visual animals so leave the lengthy copy behind and get on board with good quality social assets. If you’re not a natural social media user then get someone that enjoys it to take the reins. 

Don’t assume

Think that young people are only interested in super-hero franchises? Think back to your late teens and early twenties. This is a time of cultural awakening and young people are more interested in the experimental and avant-garde than a lot of older people (who can get tired and just want to watch First Dates and drink wine, no blame here). There is a world of amazing cinema to discover, both new and old, and many of the people I spoke to were fed up with the risk-averse nature of youth programming.

Don’t make nominal gestures

The young people I talked to were well aware when venues made nominal gestures - suddenly programming one or two youth events and getting disheartened when not a lot of people turn up. Maybe you didn’t get it quite right this time but stick with it. If you don’t believe you are building a relationship (which takes time) then it’s never going to work. Talk to people, make changes, see what works, build trust and sustain a consistent offer for young people in your area.

Graffiti
Sadly, it's going to take more than emojis and graffiti fonts to get young people interested in your cinema or film festival (Photo by Paulette Wooten on Unsplash)

Don’t use youth speak

Overcome with a desire to speak in emojis? Think that jazzy graffiti-style font is going to attract a youth audience? They are going to smell your over-30-year-old-self a mile off. By all means work with young people to write copy and come up with promotional ideas, but if that’s not possible at least keep your tone and marketing simple and authentic.

The BFI Film Audience Network have announced the next two titles to receive New Release Strategy support:God’s Own Country (1 Sept, Picturehouse) and Daphne (29 Sept, Altitude). These films were presented at ICO Screening Days and discussed in detail with the Young Creative Focus Group. Surprise surprise, the Focus Group had lots of different ideas about the two films, underlining that young people are not a homogenous group who all think the same thing. Their campaign ideas will form a key part of our approach to these films, so you can expect to hear lots of opportunities and ideas for engaging with audiences aged 16-30 in the coming weeks. As with all NRS films, you will receive an expanded marketing pack containing everything you need to successfully promote the films including top quality social assets, engaging copy and great event ideas. Both films are now available to book via the distributors.

If you show NRS films and are interested in additional event or marketing activity, you can also access support from your local Film Hub: get in touch with them to register your interest and for more information. 

The young creatives who attended the Focus Group were reached via BFI Young FAN (previously Young Programmers Network), a source of advice and opportunities for people working with young programming groups. If you’re interested in finding out more, please visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BFIYoungFAN/.

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