Session 11 – Independent film exhibition support and development

Chair: Anna Kime (Audience Development Consultant)

Developing diverse audiences in Scotland

Robert Livingston (Regional Screen Scotland)

To achieve ‘diversity’ in film exhibition we need to undertake a series of steps:

  • Enable the physical means and the human resources to screen and share films, to a degree which any given community aspires to, and can credibly sustain
  • Ensure that this screening resource is actively open and welcome to all sectors of the community
  • Encourage a diverse and varied audience to enjoy a wide range of film experiences

In January 2019 Screen Scotland invited Regional Screen Scotland and Film Hub Scotland to devise a two year programme which would address gaps in both geographic and  demographic screen provision across Scotland, recognising that some of the largest gaps were (a) in larger towns and edge-of-city estates and (b) paralleled areas defined as ‘multiply deprived’ by the Scottish Government. This programme launched in June 2019 as A Cinema Near You. Originally intended to be completed by June 2021, the programme has now been extended, due to the pandemic, to the end of 2021. This paper will describe how the programme was designed to be as accessible as possible, what the response had been until the first Covid-19 lockdown, and how we have redesigned the programme for the coming year. It will then go on to consider how the second and third bullet points, above, can be addressed in a specific Scottish context, drawing on 22 years’ experience of operating the Screen Machine mobile cinema in some of Scotland’s most sparsely populated areas, and on the process of drawing up our new online resource Mapping Scotland’s Screen Community  And finally it will consider alternative approaches to encouraging diverse programming, including our new Video on Demand platform, Small Screen Machine, launching in January 2021.

Robert Livingston originally established Regional Screen Scotland (RSS) in 2008, and subsequently became its CEO in 2015. RSS is a charity, funded by Creative Scotland, which aims to enable more people, in more places, to share great screen experiences. It does this in two ways: by operating the Screen Machine mobile cinema across the Highlands and Islands and by working with communities across Scotland to help them to get access to, or improve, screening facilities. Robert was born and educated in Glasgow, and over a varied career has worked for: the Glasgow Evening Times, BBC Scotland, Dundee Rep, the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow, the University of St Andrews, and the Scottish Arts Council. From 1994 to 2013 he was Director of Highlands and Islands Arts, the cultural development agency set up by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Freelance contracts have included writing a cultural strategy for the Scottish Borders and undertaking an audit of voluntary arts in Perth and Kinross. Robert has had the good fortune to experience lockdown living in a small village near Inverness, but misses meeting up with the rest of the RSS office team, based in Edinburgh.

Decolonising (D)evolving Film: Notes from Scotland and Wales
Yasmin Begum

Covid19 has irrevocably affected the film sector, exacerbating underlying fractures in regionalised approaches. Many conversations are shaped by unconscious or conscious bias in a demarcation of “normative” conversations focusing on audiences in England in the sector. This, combined with an anti-racist renaissance in Britain following a resurgence of Black Lives Matter has changed discourses on engagement, equality and devolution in the sector beyond “the anxiety threshold” and “future proofing” to explore the decolonising trend in film. A differentiation in regional approaches to film are underpinned by various legislations,
compounded by innovative approaches towards funding and language across England, Scotland and Wales. This has been located as a case study because of both devolved healthcare which has led to different lockdowns, different duties for cinemas under legislation and owing to unprecedented approaches towards the devolved landscape by funders such as BFI. The 1997 referendums in Scotland and Wales have irrevocably changed the landscape of film, with a devolved approach hugely differing to that of England on the subject of film exhibition. Working with the Macrobert centre (Scotland) and Cinema Golau (Wales) as case studies, this
paper will platform inventive and new approaches towards film exhibition, programming and audience development in Scotland and Wales. Focussing on equality, diversity and inclusion with diverse groups between the Equality Act 2010 and other legal duties (e.g. the Gaelic Language Act 2005 and the Welsh Language Act of 1993), it will also assess the competency of
legislation in an ever-evolving landscape and its impact on film given the upcoming 2021 census. Critically interrogating relationships between funders, organisations and communities, this paper uses case studies, literature review and, interviews to assess devolution, equality and
engagement in the sector and how it has responded to the pandemic to platform and highlight best practice.

Imagining Cinemas as Eco-Systems
Monika Rodriguez and Michael Pierce (Cinema Nation)

Monika Rodriguez and Michael Pierce from Cinema Nation, a community interest company based in Liverpool, will present a new method and framework for cinema, one that balances the different organisational aspects and revalues cinemas’ role in the midst of multiple crises (COVID-19, Environmental, Mental Health, Social Isolation and Trauma). Lead by their research into audiences of grassroots and alternative cultural activity both locally and across the UK through their work on the annual Scalarama celebration, Monika and Michael will show how thinking of cinema culture as a holistic eco-system can lead to a more equitable and balanced film sector (and beyond), and help audiences and organisations to create collective plans of action to overcome adversities. Viewing cinema as a tool for personal, social and planetary healing, Monika and Michael will talk about how their personal and ancestral experiences have shaped their own practices including viewing audiences as active participants in culture creation and partnering with cinemas of all sizes, regionally and nationally. By studying the potential of cinema networks and in creating training programmes for young and/or marginalised people, Monika and Michael’s work has focused on how cinema can affect social change. Now, with the pandemic highlighting both cinema’s and the environment’s vulnerability, as well as historic and ongoing cases of abuse and exclusion within the film sector, it is essential that artists and cultural organisations form new collective methods of working in order to tackle these problems and imagine, create and show alternative ways of living. In this workshop, Monika and Michael will present how cinemas can use this new methodology to map their activities, revalue all roles necessary in cinema, identify imbalances and make a plan of action that can connect easily with those of other organisations.

Michael Pierce, Liverpool – Michael worked for the BFI London Film Festival’s Industry team and at the Phoenix Cinema as a projectionist, before joining Curzon Artificial Eye, working in Marketing and Events before project managing the Curzon Home Cinema initiative. He has an MA in Film Curating from the London Consortium/London Film School and now lives in Liverpool. His recent work has been as producer and consultant for Food for Real Film Festival, a founding volunteer programmer at Liverpool Small Cinema. He produced the 2015 This Way Up conference at HOME, Manchester and in 2016, he was appointed regional marketing coordinator for I, Daniel Blake for eOne Entertainment

Monika Rodriguez, Liverpool – Originally from Madrid, Monika moved to Liverpool in 1998 and has never looked back! She has an MA in European Studies from Liverpool John Moores University. In 2012 she started Think Cinema, unique in its format of film screening with a debate afterwards. She was a co-founding volunteer programmer at Liverpool Small Cinema and Big Adventure Cinema, working with a variety of organisations such as Eat Me and Preach, Tate Liverpool, International Slavery Museum and University of Liverpool. She is coordinator of Scalarama Liverpool and in 2018 joined the Cinema Nation team. In 2020 Michael and Monika won Cinema for All’s Roebuck Cup for their dedication to
community cinema.

Celebrating Women in Global Cinema: Curating a year-long programming initiative at HOME, Manchester

Rachel Hayward and Andy Willis (HOME, Manchester)

In this paper, proposed for the industry strand of the conference, we will discuss our curation of Celebrating Women in Global Cinema (CWinGC). CWinGC was a unique year-long programming initiative that took place across 2019 (and into 2020) at HOME, Manchester.   CWinGC has the potential to provide a model for large-scale, extensive and connected programming initiatives that could be taken up across the UK specialised cinema exhibition sector.  We will begin by outlining HOME’s cinema offer, identifying how CWinGC emerged from the organisation’s clear and on-going commitment to the programming of work from women filmmakers from various socio-economic and geographical backgrounds. We will then go on to discuss the initial development of the idea of a year-long commitment to highlighting the contribution of women to the richness of global cinema rather than the more conventional season or month-long series of screenings and events. The paper will then explore the key issues we addressed when approaching the curation of such a large-scale project. In doing so we will identify the over-arching themes and concerns that allowed us to offer curatorial coherence across such a long programme of linked screenings, events and engagement activities. In doing so we will touch upon the following:

  1. Arriving at a name for the project
  2. The creation of cornerstones through HOME’s in-house programming
  3. The focus on under-valued filmmakers and the creation of seasons and ‘mini-seasons’ that were interspersed across the year
  4. Programming HOME’s key annual projects, such as ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Festival and Not Just Bollywood, to ensure they reflected a commitment to CWinGC
  5. How we worked with HOME’s established collaborators, such as the British Film Institute and the Chinese Film Forum UK, to expand the footprint of CWinGC 
  6. Expanding the programme across other HOME teams and projects: Talent Development, Engagement and Artist Film 
  7. How we sought to invite new collaborations and identified new outside partnerships 

We will then argue that, in its striving to offer an alternative to the more usual ‘short-term solution’ approach to more diverse programming, our approach to curating CWinGC offers something that on reflection can be seen as innovative within the UK exhibition sector. Finally, the paper will suggest that CWinGC has helped ensure that across its on-going programme HOME continues to highlight and celebrate women’s contribution to global cinema, and that it offers a model that can be utilised across the sector in the future to address other gaps and omissions within the UK exhibition landscape.

Rachel Hayward is Head of Film at HOME and Andy Willis is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Salford and Senior Visiting Curator: Film at HOME. Together they curated Celebrating Women in Global Cinema for HOME, Manchester

Chair: Anna Kime (Audience Development Consultant)

Anna spends her time in Sheffield as an artist, writer and freelancer. She continues to survive a restricted lockdown life via an allotment, an embarrassment of books – more read than before – and multiple online peer networks for which she is eternally grateful. Anna has led on audience development strategies for Greater London and the North of England, worked nationally at the Independent Cinema Office and autonomously as a freelance consultant. As Head of Film Culture for Film London Anna was instrumental in the research and development of BFI’s Film Audience Network. Through her leadership of Film Hub North Anna championed a research-led approach with an assertive communications strategy and brand identity at the heart of the Hub business plan. She co-founded This Way Up, helped secure funding for Beyond the Multiplex and Hull City of Culture 2017. “Anna displays what I think is the most important of ambitions, to take her voice and her intelligence, with all the insight and eloquence that she has crafted over the years, and using it to lift up others so that they might be heard. Whether geared towards the industry professional or the audience member Anna is skilled at adapting and evolving her approach while never compromising her own skill.” Wendy Cook, Head of Cinema at Hyde Park Picture House. Previous freelance work includes producing Sea Change for Screen Argyll in 2019, promoting Reclaim the Frame in Sheffield for Birds’ Eye View Films and voluntary counselling for Light Peer Support, a charity working to support the emotional wellbeing & mental health of mums and their families in Sheffield and beyond. She is part of the steering group for Dial F for Freelancer. She recently completed an entirely remote consultancy with Film Culture (Dan Thomas) for Birmingham City Council and Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP on business model recommendations for Film Birmingham and business planning workshops for Sheffield Creative Guild.