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First impressions: the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) Screening days at BFI Southbank

Posted: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:59

First impressions: the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) Screening days at BFI Southbank

Mariko Francombe, Fisheye Film Festival

ICO Screening weekends are held every few months, are popular and sell out quickly among those who have come to value them as a great way to preview a selection of independent films due for release during the upcoming season.

We found out about them through being members of the BFI Film Audience Network , currently in the Central East Hub and we are grateful for the bursary in support of our attendance.

Fisheye Film Festival is an annual film festival in its infancy, created in 2015 to celebrate film and screen arts in the area in and around High Wycombe, Bucks. We would like it to inspire filmmaking and broaden the range of cinematic experiences in our locality – both by organizing new events and by highlighting the activities of existing film societies and neighbourhood cinemas.

The festival is named after the fisheye wide-angle lens and embodies the idea of putting us at the centre of the all-round view with our eyes wide open to the world, to the new and to the future. International and independent feature films are therefore key ingredients in the mix of our current range of film-related events.

The 2017 Spring Screening Days happened at BFI Southbank, London on 11t h – 13t h March. It was the first time anyone from Fisheye Film Festival had attended. Two of us went to a day each, but we were too late to secure a booking for Saturday, the first and clearly the most popular day. Most films were screened on more than one day so we did not miss out too much on the film programme, which promised various cinematic treats on offer through several different distributors. The idea was to choose from a series of parallel screenings using the National Film Theatre screens 1, 2 and 3.

I went on Monday 13t h . For me, this was a day of delights in prospect. Greg Witek, in charge of our international film programme, had been the day before and we had had a lengthy late night instant messaging conversation about the films he had chosen to watch and what he had thought of them. He also tipped me off on some other films, which had been highly rated by the audiences on Saturday and Sunday. So I made my choices to watch four movies, wall-to-wall with a lunch-time bite-sized seminar about selling cinema experiences by Martin Carr, thrown in to aid the (cerebral) digestion!

My choices were After the Storm (Japan) ; The Other Side of Hope (Finland) ; I am Not Your Negro (USA) and Their Finest (UK film by Danish director, Lone Scherfig). All were quite different but thoroughly absorbing and stimulating, making for a very enjoyable day of watching films. The press embargo does not enable me to comment more specifically but suffice it to say that any one of them could make our shortlist!

The audience at the Screenings I went to were mainly teams of delegates from Film Societies and a few film festivals and independent cinemas from across the country. I noticed many were to be found in between screenings in the Blue Room cafeĢ sat in eager discussion and debate over coffee or sandwiches or staring at the detailed analysis of audience feedback for all the films, projected large onto one of the walls.

It struck me that the downside of trying to cover the programme between us was to lack common experience and therefore have the debate over a film, which so enhances cinema. I met one person that I knew from BFI but again that was rushing from one screening to the next.

Given the chance to go again, ideally I would go with more of our team, and have a strategy to enable us to cover the screenings and have time for discussion and networking with other people to maximize the benefit from this valuable opportunity.

Tags: Bursary Blog