We spoke to Krushil Patel, one of 2016’s FEDS trainees, about what he learned during his time with Glasgow Film Theatre and what advice he’d give to those wanting to get started in film exhibition. Krushil is now a full time member of staff, having been hired by his host company straight out of the scheme.
My placement was at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), an independent cinema at the centre of Glasgow. As a Programme Assistant, I was able to get an excellent overview of the nuts and bolts of programming at an independent cinema. As part of my placement, I was able to assist with ideas and selection advice to the wider programming team; research rights and print sources; write copy and proof read; and assist with planning and execution of specialised events. After the placement, I was offered the position Programme & Events Assistant with the Glasgow Film Festival.
What are the experiences you most enjoyed while working at GFT?
Working at the GFT, firstly as part of the programming team and now as part of the film festival, has been a very insightful and rewarding experience. The first few months started off a little slow as Glasgow Film Festival 2016 had just finished, and so it was a massive drop off period for the staff. At the time it was a little frustrating as I was itching to get stuck in, but in hindsight it was probably a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to get used to a new city, accommodate to my new surroundings and settle into a new working environment. By May, things began to pick up and I was into the full swing of things. My placement occurred at an interesting time, with the biggest screen (around 400 seats) being closed due to refurbishments in the cinema and the GFT launching its new website over the summer.
Over this period, being able to work across different areas of programming and seeing how the various elements combined to put together a monthly programme was, in itself, a thoroughly valuable and enjoyable experience, one that reinforced my desire to work in film programming.
But if I had to go with one particular highlight, it was attending Gdynia Film Festival in September to identify potential films for Glasgow Film Festival. It was the first time I had gone to a film festival as a guest, wearing my work hat, and it was a fabulous experience. Through this I was able to learn a little about Polish cinema and to use the knowledge and understanding I had developed about GFT audiences to identify quality and interesting films that would work for Glasgow Film Festival. I always thought there would be nothing better than getting to watch films for work, and although viewing four films a day with little breaks was quite tiring, it’s still something I would love to do again.
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of GFT’s annual bestsellers.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to break into working in exhibition?
Getting your foot in the door
One of the key things I learnt from my placement was that the film industry is a small world and everyone seems to know everyone. To some extent, from the outside it had always seemed like this, but having spent a good stretch of time in the industry, it was reinforced and this always felt like a barrier, especially coming from a non-film background. When roles need to be filled quickly it’s easier to opt for someone who’s recommended to you.
So how can you make your way and get your name out there? Unfortunately there aren’t enough schemes like FEDS, especially ones that pay and allow you to support yourself, so you may have to look into other options. My first steps into the film industry came through volunteering at a small film festival. This was an invaluable experience that allowed me to see the inner workings of a film festival, while keeping a part-time job. Volunteering at a smaller film festival can allow you to do more than just ushering duties, so you can get to grips with the nitty-gritty side of film festivals, which can be useful for the future.
Building relationships is essential
Once you’re in, building and maintaining relationships is paramount. With the film world being so small, you’re bound to bump into familiar faces. Often you will be dealing with many of the same people, whether it’s distributors, other venues, programmers or individual organisations. Contracts are usually temporary and job-hopping may be the only way early on, so maintaining these relationships will allow you to discover opportunities earlier and make you more likely to be recommended for openings elsewhere. However, beyond the opportunities it can afford you in the future, it will make your life easier in the workplace.
Trying to be Flexible
I moved from London to Glasgow for the FEDS placement. This was a big move but one that I definitely feel has paid off. Only after moving did I realise that being able to move around, especially when starting out, is key, affording you more opportunities to work throughout the UK and abroad. Of course, this is not something everyone can do, but it has been a huge benefit to get away from the London bubble and realise that there are good opportunities outside of London!
There are various aspects to working at an independent cinema. If programming is not your thing, then there is finance, marketing, front of house, projection or events and all the departments that exist within a cinema environment. My biggest take-away from the placement was how close together all these departments work to allow for the smooth running of a cinema.