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Posted: Tue, 16 May 2017 12:18

ICO Young Audiences Screening Day

ICO Young Audiences Screening Day

Ursula White, Independent Cinema Milton Keynes

I am heading north on the train to Sheffield researching films for our Children's cinema programme Tracks. Venturing out of Milton Keynes is difficult as no one covers my role while I am away.

I work for Independent Cinema Milton Keynes. Our organisation creates memorable encounters with moving image, producing films and film programmes, celebratory events. ICMK also develops the skills and profile of filmmakers in Milton Keynes running networking sessions, screenings and film challenges. The core of our work is programming Friday Night Films at MK Gallery, but we also work right across Milton Keynes producing events with a wide variety of organisations and groups. www.ic-mk.org

So I'm on the train and the day is stunning- not a cloud in the sky, a group of brown cows still drowsy in the green field, it's early and I haven't had coffee yet. The local council elections were yesterday and I am glad not to be listening to the Radio this morning. I am looking forward to watching films today and not writing proposals, reports, and funding applications. It feels like I am actually doing what I want to do when I come to ICO screening days.

And its great to be going to Sheffield, as usual ICO have got some great choices. I am very interested in cinema and film for younger audiences. We started a monthly children's cinema aimed at 7 – 12 year olds last year called Tracks. It was set up with local parents and children who assist with marketing efforts and event management. It has gone well so far but we are limited with our lack of DCP capability, which means for instance that we can't screen Studio Ghibli titles.

Looking forward to catching up with other exhibitors too… signing off now as I approach the first of my train changes.

I arrive and am in straightaway to hear the keynote address from Florine Weibenger, Head of Education at Eye, Amsterdam. The address is about engaging young audiences and a great overview of all their projects with different age ranges. I come out with a sense of envy at the amount of investment there and looking at what we can take from that with the resources we have. Later, luckily for me, there is Engaging Audiences on a Shoestring.

Just got out of screening of The Big Sick, a US indie movie that premiered at Sundance. There was a lot to like about the film – some good humour, exploration of what it means to be a Pakistani Muslim in the US. On the whole the film is a bit long but I was genuinely moved by the story and would probably screen this. It's lunchtime and some quick chats to fellow exhibitors who come from North and South. I manage to catch a bit of the anime Napping Princess before the shoestring session.Beautiful detailed background drawings, but the story a little awkward and the soundtrack a bit generic, but I think my daughter of 12 would enjoy it.

I manage to catch a bit of Into Film: You Tube and then sneak out to see a bit of Rock Dog and then its time to go back. A lot packed in - great ideas and inspiration to take back to Milton Keynes.

Posted: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:59

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

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 café 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.

Posted: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:35

REACH: Strategic Audience Development

REACH: Strategic Audience Development

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

Independent Cinema Office’s “Elevate: Introduction to Leadership”

Independent Cinema Office’s “Elevate: Introduction to Leadership”

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

5 Top Tips for Sundance

5 Top Tips for Sundance

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

Vlogging at Flatpack Film Festival

Vlogging at Flatpack Film Festival

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.