Tags: Bursary Blog
Posted: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:35
Maria Fe Valen, Ipswich Film Theatre
REACH: Strategic Audience Development is a six month course delivered by the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) in partnership with the BFI Film Audience Network and supported by Creative Skillset.
They define it as a 'workshop driven, project-based training programme for independent film exhibitors who wish to learn how to expand their audiences in a strategic manner, best utilising available resources of money, expertise and time'
I work at the Ipswich Film theatre, a community-based two screen cinema located underneath the Ipswich Council building, right in the centre of town. Despite this central location the IFT doesn't have a regular cinema façade, being shadowed by the more prominent Corn exchange venue above us. Last year it was announced that a new multiplex cinema would be built at a shopping mall very near us. The nature of the films that we programme is very different to that of a multiplex, and therefore the arrival of such a venue doesn't necessarily present a direct threat to our business. Nevertheless, we felt that we should use this occasion to do something to identify our strengths and weaknesses as a venue and those of our programming, to explore our status and identity for the community of Ipswich, and find room for improvement. So when this course came along I felt that it was a great opportunity for us to have a close and critical look at our organization and figure out how we can improve our visibility and our existing audience's experiences.
The course started in London at the end of May 2016 with three days of talks by film industry experts and case studies by film exhibitors. It was complemented by practical workshops and peer- to-peer discussions. I arrived there with a loosely written project and a lot of excitement.
We were a total of 18 people, from all parts of Great Britain. This diversity was great, as it provided the opportunity to share experiences and different perspectives with similar organizations from all over the UK. The atmosphere was very friendly, the talks very inspiring. We had lovely lunches and one evening we were taken out for dinner, and we all bonded over delicious food! The range of subjects was fantastic, from data analysis to marketing and programming. All speakers were fabulous and incredibly knowledgeable. One talk I remember in particular. On the last day we were given a talk by Caglar Kimyoncu about accessibility for audiences, which I felt was very enlightening and pertinent. Beyond business and the need to have an audience in the first place, this talk highlighted the human experience of visiting a movie theatre, and how we so often ignore people's basic needs in relation to handicaps that are not immediately obvious to most of us. Wheelchair accessibility has become an obvious handicap that has been widely accommodated, yet there are other handicaps such as hearing impairment, sensitivity to noise or dyslexia, or even mental health difficulties and psychological difficulties, that have an impact on a visit to a cinema.
The course modules were very well structured. The first helped me to devise a clear and realistic plan. I was assigned a mentor to help me with the project. I went back to Ipswich and started
planning the next steps. I organized a series of focus group surveys at the same time as implementing some changes around the cinema, mainly intended to improve communication between us and the customers.
My mentor was great in guiding me through the process and participants could attend a meeting half way through the course in London in September where we could all share our experiences so far.
I kept working on the project through September and October, the main focus being a qualitative survey which we held at the cinema, asking questions to our regular customers and also non- customers. Results were encouraging, as people mostly asked for us not to change our identity, and they didn't mind the lack of venue visibility at all, though there were some suggestions that better marketing could help reach a greater audience. They did however ask for minor box office improvements, better access to programming information and, above all, a place to sit and enjoy a drink and snacks, which we don't have at the moment.
At the end of November we met again for a last time in Glasgow, where we all presented our projects and shared our experiences and ideas.
All in all the course was great in helping me to get a good picture of where the IFT stands in the context of the UK industry, and also of its potential and of the hindrances it faces. Beyond my personal interest in the venue that I represent, I found the whole experience very inspirational. I went away with lots of new ideas and many new friends. I would recommend this course to anyone working within the film exhibition industry wanting to expand their horizons and wanting to gain skills and ideas that help reaching potential audiences anywhere.
Posted: Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:34
Alexzandra Jackson Education Manager for Phoenix, Leicester and Festival Director of The Short Cinema Film Festival
At 30, I found myself as a senior manager and department head, within a nationally recognised independent cinema and arts centre. Even after having worked there for seven years, I couldn't really fathom how I got there and what I needed to do to progress and be the manager I needed to be for my organisation and our audiences.
After speaking to my Film Programme Manager I realised that I was experiencing something called imposter syndrome and I probably wasn't going to be able to be the leader I wanted to be without some guidance and expertise. He suggested that I look into the Independent Cinema Office's Elevate course. The course was specifically targeted at people like me: managers with at least two or more years of experience in film exhibition who were passionate and wanted to make a big contribution to our industry, but had never had the chance to sit down and learn key management skills.
I hadn't come across any other opportunity like it, one which took into consideration the specifics of film exhibition and offered the chance to learn practical management skills, ensuring that you were moving in the right direction for you and your organisation. The course promised a bespoke training experience which would accelerate your development through a holistic approach, with expert support, coaching and peer-to-peer learning. It really didn't disappoint. In fact, it eclipsed my expectations time and time again.
The course took place over four months at the Arnolfini in lovely Bristol, which meant a 5 a.m. wake-up to travel down from Leicester. This was doubly hard before session one; where I didn't sleep at all the night before from nerves, but it was always totally worth it.
There I met eleven other cinema exhibition managers from across the country. Marketing, programme, education and business development were all represented within our collective job titles and we were all managers of programs and/or people. The course lead was a professional business coach called Lucy Ryan and she had the ability to enthuse all of us and to put us at ease simultaneously. Lucy was exactly the right person to guide us through the four stage programme: a self-possessed and poised female business leader with a MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and 20 years of coaching experience. Over the four months, we worked on understanding our management styles, the strengths and weaknesses of our leadership profile and the impact we have on others: influencing others and motivating different personalities within a team. The course was an extensive, holistic look at management, including time management, work/life balance, creating a team action plan, enabling progress and retaining team connection.
For me, the most influential session was our third, where we looked at having a positive presence and maximising our strengths. This session gave us the chance to learn practical skills to manage nerves. Lucy explained the science behind our body's reaction to nerves and stress and gave us simple breathing and standing exercises to counter their effect, as well as some psychological behaviours to take the blood-draining horror out of standing up to deliver intros and presentations.
As a painfully shy person who works in an industry semi-reliant on building fruitful human connections, I have struggled. I know what I'm on about most of the time and if I don't, I'm really happy to learn but, in a networking situation, however, articulating what's in my head to other people in an engaging way without almost immediately wanting the world to swallow me up was a rarity. If I was a bird or a frog, David Attenborough would have spent years trying to find me, my natural habitat is most certainly not at drinks receptions, where let's face it, some of the most valuable contacts are made and friendships are struck up which keep you afloat and relevant in the national conversation. And one of the greatest things to come out of Elevate is: that's okay. I know now that it's not my thing, I now know that I need to find other ways to speak to my peers that highlight my strengths. And, I have eleven new contacts from all over the country I can call upon. I have eleven new contacts that I can happily chat to at drinks receptions.
I would highly recommend managers actively looking to increase their skills and their impact to consider Elevate and I'm grateful to Film Hub Central East for the bursary which enabled me to attend.
Posted: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 17:33
Melissa Gueneau, Press and Marketing Coordinator at Broadway Cinema
Planning a trip to Sundance? Whether you are a volunteer or just attending the festival, here are five tips to help you have a great first Sundance experience.
1) KNOW YOUR VENUES. Although Sundance and Park City has an excellent free bus network that covers all venues, some theatres are further away than you may think – sometimes, much, much further away. The majority of the festival takes place in Park City itself, but screenings do take place in Salt Lake City and Ogden too, to give the local population a chance to enjoy the festival without having to travel miles in the snow. Watch out in particular for:
Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room – a luxurious ski resort and spa that sounds like it's nearby but is a good 45 minutes to an hour out of Park City. Although if you find yourself with a bit of spare time, Sundance Resort is a great place to have a nice dinner and a little break from the slight madness of the festival.
Peery's Egyptian Theater – not to be confused with the Egyptian Theatre. Whilst the Egyptian Theatre is at the top of Park City's Main Street and an absolute must visit for a midnight screening, the Peery's Egyptian Theater is all the way in Ogden which is over an hour's drive away from the main festival.
Salt Lake City Library Theatre – which, like the entry above, is not to be confused with the similarly named Library Center Theatre in Park City. Both will be shortened to "The Library" at one point or another but you may want to double check if you're not keen on the 30+ miles that will lead you to Salt Lake City.
2) LAYER UP. Pictures from recent editions of the festival may have looked sunshiny, but do not be fooled: Park City is a mountain town and in the middle of January it will snow. And I don't mean British snow. I mean real mountain snow. The kind that drops 3ft whilst you were watching a two-hour film. The kind that wakes you up with a snow cannon in the morning. And because Park City doesn't just have real snow, but real winter, it also gets cold. And I don't mean British cold. I mean actual mountain cold. Temperatures can drop all the way to -15C overnight and whilst it will somewhat warm up in the day, it will get cold again pretty quickly as soon as the sun goes down. Having said that, all the venues are extremely well heated. So you don't want to end up overdressing and then barely being able to breathe as soon as you walk indoors. The best way to handle this is to layer up – enough so you don't get cold if you have to queue two hours in the snow, but easy to peel off once you get inside where it's nice and cosy. Oh, and from the weather conditions described above, it goes without saying that you need gloves, a hat and some good snow boots. Sundance is the most laid-back film festival there is when it comes to the dress code. They want you to be safe, warm and comfortable.
3) TALK TO EVERYONE. Sundance is an extremely friendly festival and because the town is so small, almost everyone takes the bus or walks. You may end up in a queue in the snow for an hour, sharing a table at El Chubasco with a bunch of people, or wondering if you'll ever make it out of that ride to Temple on a bus sliding on snow and ice – chatting to the person next to you will immeasurably improve your experience. You'll meet great people – perhaps even a festival guest – and you'll exchange super helpful tips on what films to catch next. The Sundance programme is huge and might be a bit overwhelming but word of mouth travels fast. If you hear three different people recommend a same film you hadn't really planned on seeing originally – sign up to that waitlist immediately.
4) DON'T MISS NEW FRONTIER. We all know Sundance as the snowy capital of indie film. The film programme is so dense and so exciting that you will want to watch (almost) everything; all the while knowing that task is pretty much impossible. But since you're not going to be able to watch everything, you might as well allocate some time in your trip to go check out some of the New Frontier programme. New Frontier is a strand that focuses on the nature of storytelling and how technology impacts on the way we tell and experience stories. The strand celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016. The programme is extremely rich and offers a variety of experiences including film, art, live performance, virtual reality, and much, much more. It is an absolute must.
5) HYDRATE. This tip comes last but it is actually the most important one. If I had to only give one tip, that's the one I'd give. Park City is a mountain town. You are at high altitude and air is thin and dry. You will be tired, not running on much sleep or a healthy diet, and you really don't want to get altitude sickness (imagine having the worst hangover possible) to get a hold of you whilst your body is already trying to pretend it's doing okay. Sundance has water fountains in all venues and all over Park City. They are even marked on the festival maps. So grab a reusable bottle – you can get some free ones from Main Street – and drink up.
Posted: Wed, 01 Jun 2016 16:59
A report from Georgia Pinfold, see the film at youtube.com/watch?v=axw6BVFrgJQ
Imagine books made music, Dogs & Cats in slow motion and Shakespeare's, Romeo and Juliet set at a beach. Flatpack Film Festival exhibited all of that…and more! On day one we explored central Birmingham and made our way to Impact Hub, a modern, stylistic venue filled where we were put into groups for a team building exercise called Spaghetti and Marshmallows led by YouTubers Jonbehere (Jon Aitken) and Shamphat (Shamil Ahmed).
After networking and building relationships with likeminded people we plunged into a Vlogging masterclass with Jon and Sham. I learned a lot about the composition of an image and top tips into vlogging, including always remember to look down the lens to create direct address with your audience. Their ideas were insightful to the vlogging industry, which I didn't know much about. From there, we found some films to see and headed to BMI (Birmingham & Midland Institute) to see Rare Visions: Shakespeare on Film, for his 400th death day anniversary?! There was a mix of humorous pieces and live action performance combining film and music, which was unique and although it was not to my taste, it was a superb concept.
For me, the Sound Book Project was the most innovative idea I saw over the weekend. The combination of music, books and film put together my three favourite mediums to create boocordions? (Accordions and books ha!) It was so clever, something I had never thought of before and would happily see again.
That evening, we watched a brand-new feature film based on the Tom McCarthy book, Remainder. The cyclical structure joined with the psychological thriller genres intrigued me, and at some points freaked me out! It only took a single gruesome shot to allow me to look away. I particularly found it amazing how a fantasy narrative could feel so real! From watching and enjoying the film so much I would like to read the original book to compare it and endure the amazing writing of Tom McCarthy.
Day 2, Laura and I got to interview Sham and Jon about YouTube and their ideas. Although they are not the most well-known YouTubers on the web, their passion for vlogging is just as big. I learned a lot from their work, how to address their audience and to always be themselves on camera (which I need to work on more). Overall, their work was encouraging and made me think about vlogging in the future. The concept of vlogging is perplexing, striking the balance between the real world and the fantasy vlogging world. The weekend as a whole was remarkable, introducing me to new films that I wouldn't usually watch. I hope to vlog again in the future and to continue going to film festivals to widen my knowledge of film.
Posted: Mon, 25 Apr 2016 17:13
Audience Development, Diversity and Engagement Co-ordinator - Broadway
Film Programmer and Producer
As one of the six-participants on the National Film and Television School's first Black Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) Leadership Programme, I'll undertake an intensive six-month programme of individual training, coaching and mentoring, allowing me to rapidly develop my career confidence in today's industry, with the ultimate aim of developing my leadership skills.
The BAME Leadership programme is a new programme to rigorously encourage diverse representation in the film industry, bringing on the next generation of diverse talent working at executive level in production, distribution, sales and exhibition. Supported by Creative Skillset, the scheme is aimed at emerging film business executives from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds with a proven track record and the potential to lead in their industry to take part.
The programme kicked off with a 2-day immersive boot camp for the group as a whole with sessions focussing on building and honing leadership skills. The boot camp consisted of a packed schedule of guest speakers from across the film industry, including Ben Roberts and Ben Luxford (both from the BFI), Duncan Kenworthy (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) and Finola Dwyer (Brooklyn). The venue was the Über modern Ingenious Media offices; very inspiring!
As a group we gained a wide ranging insight into the financing, sale, business affairs, marketing, domestic and international marketing/distribution of film, including up-to-date analysis of current market and financing conditions, and the practical and negotiation skills required to facilitate a project's success.
Participants were then matched with a mentor (a senior executive) for the duration of the initiative, and allocated sessions with a career coach. I am absolutely delighted that my mentor is Duncan Clark, President of Distribution at Universal Pictures International.
Why the need for a Leadership Course to target specifically BAME communities?
Targeted support of under-represented groups to encourage leadership is an essential strategy to address the current imbalance of diversity representation and equality of opportunity, particularly in arenas of strategic-decision making, such as commissioning and production. In a recent article the BFI stated:
"…picture of inequality among the workforce is bleak when looking at senior positions …fewer people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME), women and people with disabilities are employed in senior positions. What's harder to quantify is the effect that peoples' background plays in how successful they are in film, but anecdotal observations suggest that class is a strong factor affecting people's engagement with film and progression within the film industry".
Not very encouraging, I'm sure that you'll agree.
What is positive is that the industry does recognise that diversity is good for business. Variety magazine highlighted the "wildly inaccurate" figures when predicting the opening-weekend results of films with diverse leading cast, citing "Straight Outta Compton's $60.2 million debut was roughly $20 million more than most trade publications had predicted". Diversity means choice, and from my experience in films exhibition, I do know that audiences are thirsty to see fresh ideas and new cultural perspectives.
The BFI also support this view stating that "Diversity is not only good for creativity, it's also good for jobs. It supports economic growth, it taps into what audiences want to see and it makes good business sense".[ii]
I genuinely believe that the film industry is a fantastic place to work and I don't believe that "gatekeepers to power" are particularly racist or prejudice, however as part of this discussion, we should consider the phenomenon of unconscious bias, defined by the Equalities Challenge Unit as:
"Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications."[iii]
Social-economic factors and class are also important considerations when looking at access to opportunities and career development, in an industry where professional industry networks and contacts are critical to progression.
I'm not a supporter of nepotism, for me finessing the craft of the business is paramount. I'm an experienced film producer and programmer and it's important for me to be considered for my skills and abilities. As a black woman I'm not asking for special treatment, simply equal access to opportunities.
So, more to share with you in my next blog post, I'm looking forward to the journey ahead.
Sophia Ramcharan is based at the Broadway Cinema as the Audience Development, Diversity and Engagement Co-ordinator.
To read the BFI report in full see: http://www.bfi.org.uk/about-bfi/policy-strategy/diversity
Posted: Tue, 16 Feb 2016 15:41
Melissa Gueneau, Press and Marketing Coordinator at Broadway Cinema
As a film-lover, Sundance Film Festival has always been on my bucket list of things to experience. For the past 30 years, the festival has been home to some of the most exciting and bold independent filmmaking, as well as a hub for up-and-coming talents. Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson all got their big break at Sundance. But if the idea of discovering the next Steven Soderbergh before everyone else, spending 10 days in a gorgeous snowy mountain town, and the odds of bumping into Robert Redford wearing a woolly hat all sound dreamy, heading to Sundance can be a rather expensive affair. Flights, accommodation, accreditations, food, winter gear – all of it adds up pretty quickly, to the point where it becomes more of an investment than a wintery cinematic outing.
There are ways, however, to keep the costs down and still have a brilliant experience. One of them is by becoming a volunteer. This year, Sundance recruited over 2,300 volunteers covering all aspects of the festival, from snow shovelling, to ushering and ticketing, to running venues, to looking after industry members. To put it simply, the festival would not run without them. As part of my role at Broadway, I oversee some of the coordination for Mayhem Film Festival and volunteering at Sundance meant my trip could also be a learning experience – and what better place to learn than at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.
The application process for Sundance's volunteering programme opens in August. You need to fill in an online form, not dissimilar to a job application. The volunteer team then gets in touch in November to set up a phone interview, after which you eventually find out whether or not they have been able to find a role for you. The whole process is usually complete by the end of November. If the timeline does seem a little tight for a trip in January, it is still entirely feasible, and if you are planning a trip anyway, you can still book flights and accommodation ahead of time. Where volunteering will save you money, is when it comes to film tickets. Depending on how many hours of your time you give to the festival, you will be rewarded with a full accreditation or volunteer tickets.
Sundance is very grateful to its volunteers and there are other perks for those willing to give it a go. In addition to access to screenings, volunteers each receive a branded jacket designed specifically for them, a full festival catalogue, access to the staff and volunteer party, special advance screenings exclusive to volunteers with filmmakers often in attendance, and a fair amount of free snacks throughout the festival. There is also Volunteer Appreciation Day during which the festival celebrates its volunteers with volunteer-focused short films in front of every screening and a party for volunteers only. Volunteers are helmed as "the real stars of Sundance", and if the tagline sounds cheesy, it does really reflect the perception from festival staff.
But what do you learn from volunteering at Sundance? Well, you learn a lot. Training is tailored to each role individually, but you will generally be given a sense of what Sundance stands for with an emphasis on the fact that you are now part of the family and that for the 10 days of the festival, you are the face of the festival. Ahead of your trip, your inbox will fill with volunteer expectations documents and information about the department you are joining. Most of it will sound like common sense, but there is a reason the information is sent to you, and it isn't in any way for patronising purposes. There is no culture of presumption at Sundance. The festival will never presume that you know how to do something, unless you have specifically told them you do. Everyone receives the same starter's guide, so the rules and expectations are the same for everybody.
And it really is in your best interest to give it your all. Everything you learn from your experience, you can pretty much bring back with you and apply to your day job – customer service, how to show initiative, team building, management skills, communication, not to mention anything specific to the role you are in. The more you give to your role, the more you learn, the more you experience the festival, the more you learn. And so does the festival. Feedback is warmly welcome and any mishap, mistake or bump on the road is immediately acted upon, possibly making it one of the best run festivals out there.
I haven't even mentioned the best part of volunteering yet – the people you'll meet. There are so many volunteers at Sundance that the diversity of backgrounds is impressive. Some people work in the industry, others just love cinema. It isn't hard to imagine that in a few years time, some of the people you met volunteering might return to the festival as guests. The story goes that David O. Russell used to be a driver for the festival. It's not just the other volunteers however, the whole film industry is there, and networking has never been so easy. Forget everything your parents ever taught you and speak to every single stranger you meet. You'll come back with a full address book and a few friends too.
You can probably learn a lot from Sundance by simply attending as a regular patron, but it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the festival and trying to watch as many films as is humanly possible. Volunteering gives you a chance to see how it works from the inside and that type of experience is absolutely invaluable. And there is still plenty of time to enjoy a few parties and watch tons of great movies. Speaking of which, watch out for Tickled, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Birth of a Nation and Life, Animated.
But there must be some downsides? Well, temperatures will drop to -11C, your nose will start bleeding for no apparent reason, you will be woken up by the avalanche cannons, you will be out of breath every time to try to do anything remotely physical, there is a 95% probability you will return from your trip ill and exhausted, and you will be the only person of the festival not to have had your picture taken with Elijah Wood (or whatever actor seems to be going around at the time of your trip). What I'm trying to say is: Sundance is a winter festival. Not a British winter kind of thing, a real full-on winter weather festival. If winter and snow isn't your thing, but you still like the sound of volunteering, there are other A-list festivals with volunteering opportunities like SxSW in Austin, and TIFF in Toronto – both of which are much warmer and both of which will probably have Elijah Wood DJing somewhere.