Too early for networking, swimming in outdoor pools and Sundance pushing you over the edge…

The second instalment of Sally Folkard’s blog from Art House Convergence 2015

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There was no time for jet lag on the first full day of the conference as we walked, dauntingly, in the cold mountain air to the 8am speed networking session. A room full of strangers holding wads of business cards and a bell to mark 90 seconds…what’s to worry about? This is an alien concept to me and one that I can imagine if we recreated in it’s current form for TWU would leave delegates running for the nearest exit but it had it’s upsides. Between us we met a number of the speakers and put faces to names of delegates we had hoped to catch up with. Not as bad as I’d imagined!

After a much needed coffee and picking up our amazing delegate bags (no sharpies mind) Russ Collins, Michigan Theatre and Founder of Art House Convergence presented the opening keynote and remarks on the state of independent exhibition in the US. The conference started ten years ago with 25 venues and has grown year on year to 500 delegates including greater representation from festivals and distributors. Russ make it clear that although they have been supporting art house cinemas for a decade, we, in Europe, have been doing so for six and there is a lot the US can learn from across the pond. Russ is an energetic and enthusiastic speaker and with lots of whoops and cheers from the room he closes his keynote by saying “Together art houses are not afraid and continue to celebrate the richness and diversity of cinema art, we must challenge the narrative that people will stop going to the movies!”

Our first panel of the day “Community is brand” included Ellen Tejle from Bio Tio Stockholm and our very own Jon Barrenechea, Picturehouse Cinemas. The main themes were also heard last year at TWU including the importance of making your audience feel they belong, creating an open space and ensuring that you regularly talk to your membership to learn from their experiences.

Media and ticketing guru Gene Carr talked a packed room through key points from his book Breaking the Fifth Wall: Re-thinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century”This was an eye opener for me as I frantically took notes for future Film Hub marketing:

  • 50% of people find out about events through direct email marketing not websites
  • In the US Facebook is still the giant – is this the same in the UK, how useful would it be for all projects to have a Facebook page?
  • How obvious is our newsletter sign up- it should be at the top of the page
  • Don’t send everything to everyone, learn about your audience
  • Your audience doesn’t have to like every film, but they do have to like what your organisation stands for- so tell them!
  • The first 20-30 characters of the subject line of emails is the most important- it has to contain the main point of what you’re trying to convey.

Some changes to be made back at Hub HQ!

Gene was followed up by Anne Thompson – Thompson on Hollywood (Indiewire) – who reminds us to trust our gut and continue to lead our audiences to content they don’t know they wanted to see. She also allays our festival guilt of not being able to see everything by saying at the end of every Sundance she wants to kill herself as there is always something key she misses!

After a well deserved swim in the outdoor pool surrounded by snow we headed to the roundtable dinner meeting valuable connections including venues from Denver and festivals from Portland! This was followed by a screening of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows which as it happens is also screening at our ICO Screening days on the 26th January at The Light, New Brighton. The film was well received and I enjoyed elements especially the sound and camera work which added to the suspense.

Tomorrow is another packed day…..