Introducing 'live cinema' - and why it should be on your radar this year

Posted on May 4, 2018 by Lisa Brook

Categories: General, Pop-up and Event Cinema

For the first time, Sheffield Doc/Fest is hosting the Live Cinema Summit, two full days on ‘live cinema’, with a plethora of live cinema events throughout the six-day festival. As the festival announces its full programme, Lisa Brook, Director of Live Cinema UK and Doc/Fest’s events consultant, addresses the importance of ‘liveness’ to the cinema sector.

Sheffield Doc/Fest (7-12 June) asks us ‘What’s Your Story?’. This is the same question we should always be asking our film audiences, and a question that I believe live cinema attempts to answer in a particularly unique way.

Our film experiences are nothing without bringing our own lived reality to the cinema, and in-venue ‘liveness’ through augmentation and participation is key to this. Whether that is by engaging an audience with a live performance accompanying a film they wouldn’t usually see, asking them to become part of the film through an immersive production, or even by literally  creating their own narrative to a film, the lived reality of the audience member is almost an inseparable part of that experience.

This was my starting point for curation of the 2018 Live Cinema Summit. The Summit, which has grown from the 2016 Live Cinema Conference, addresses the cornerstones of live cinema: live scores, experiential cinema, audience participation, and live audio-visual performance. This isn’t event cinema, where the live action is happening at a theatre or opera house miles away from you – we’re talking about cinema moving and evolving, right in front of you, that immerses the audience, and that can only be experienced in that room at that time.

But for the Live Cinema Summit, and the daily special events throughout the Festival’s 25th Edition, it’s all about the audience being there, and what they bring with them. Announced today with the full Doc/Fest programme are huge world premiere events and experiences that are nothing without the audience, including Iain & Jane Pollard’s (20,000 Days on Earth) DOUBLETHINK: the Festival’s world premiere commission where the audience’s choice between HOPE and HATE will dictate their audiovisual experience.

Sheffield Doc/Fest is the natural home for a focus on live cinema. For years, the festival has welcomed world-famous artists including Jarvis Cocker and British Sea Power to create new live scores to documentary films, and this year is no different. Gaika, signed to Sheffield institution Warp Records will do what has been so difficult to do for many: create a re-live score for a new release title, in this case, Khalik Allah’s Black Mother.

To coincide with the summit, Live Cinema UK has also commissioned three new events for the 25th edition, including the world premiere of vocal artist Reeps One’s We Speak Music Live, which will blend Reeps’ mind blowing vocal ability with artificial intelligence and voice-triggered projections, and we’re inviting all of Sheffield to join live artist Richard DeDomenici to bring his shot-for-shot low budget remake skills to Sheffield for Threads: Redux (you can come and be part of the apocalypse in Sheffield by emailing

Reeps One

Live Cinema UK have previously tasked musicians with creating their own live soundtracks to films that don’t exist, as we did with Francesca and Mica Levi and Wrangler for The Unfilmables. We’ll be deep-diving into live scores and archive as part of the Summit with help from the BFI, artists Esther Johnson and Jason Singh, and HOME Mcr’s Jason Wood.

I often speak about the importance of live cinema to retain the communal cinema experience in the age of VOD. Live cinema can, and should, be an integral part of a films release strategy, and we’ll be tackling this on our panel Eventise! Experiential Cinema  where Mubi, Dogwoof, We Are Parable and Together Films will address what they are doing to retain and augment the communal cinema going experience, even in the era of ‘day-and-date’ releases.

Augmented reality is also very much a part of the live cinema experience. As consumer VR becomes commonplace, we’ve not seen the long predicted downfall of the cinema due to increased home technology. Doc/Fest’s amazing Alternate Realities programme is now a staple of the international VR, AR and MR industry, and alongside the excellent Alternate Realties Summit (Sunday 10th June) and the stunning Alternate Realities Exhibition, which now has Arts Council England NPO status and runs for free throughout the festival, the Live Cinema Summit will address technology that can create an increasingly personalized, bespoke experience for the audience outside of the headset. Richard Ramchurn’s brain-controlled film The MOMENT premieres at Doc/Fest and he will be joined on our Audiences and Tech panel by Sam Smaïl, co-creator of Choose Your Own Documentary, the 2014 ‘choose your own adventure’-style documentary with live audience choices dictating the narrative.

Also part of the Alternative Realities programme is the incredible world premiere commission Face to Face. Major spoiler alerts abound for this one, so I’ll just say this is a truly immersive experience with a live theatrical element unlike anything you’ll have seen before. For comic relief with a factual edge, live-action gaming events The Incredible Playable Show and cult smash The Dark Room come to Sheffield for the first time: if you’ve not entered the Dark Room with John Robertson before at Edinburgh Fringe, now’s your chance to join the hilarity and nostalgia of multi-option text-based adventure game.

That’s only the start of the live events programme at Doc/Fest this year. Docs screen with additional live performances including Singaporean vocal loop artist Weisch at the UK premiere of Shirkers, Berlin Teddy-winning Tranny Fag with Brazilian queer pop star Linn de Quebrada, and Thurston Moore of a little known band called Sonic Youth will perform following the UK premiere of Desolation Center.

So I encourage you to get real, get inspired and get live at Doc/Fest this June.

The Live Cinema Summit takes place 8-9 June. Passes including access to two days of sessions, workshops and world premiere live cinema events including Reeps One: We Speak Music Live, Richard DeDemenici’s Threads: Redux and nature doc live soundtrack event Nature’s Nickelodeons are available now for £88+VAT.

Festival Passes for the full 6 days of Doc/Fest including all the above are available via the Doc/Fest website.

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