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As part of This Way Up 2016, the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) led practical session ‘Building Audiences: Stories from the Frontlines’.

ICO offer workshop-driven, project-based training programmes 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.

In this TWU session, past participants – Catherine Mugonyi (Winter Gardens Film Festival), Jessie Moroney (Centre for the Moving Image), Kate Wood & Catherine O’Sullivan (Dreamland Cinema) – share insights gleaned from ICO’s Practical Programming course, including programming and marketing strategies they’ve implemented to build audiences, and techniques and actions you can easily apply in your cinema or festival.

Watch the full session below:

Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 17: Save the dates

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We’re delighted to announce that This Way Up 17 will take place in Hull on Tuesday 7 & Wednesday 8 November 2017. Put the dates in your diary and Delegate Passes will go on sale in June.

In the meantime take a look at the highlights from 2016 in this short video. This Way Up 16 took place in Glasgow on 29 & 30 November 2016 with over 310 delegates and contributors engaging in 25 sessions, workshops, talks and events.

Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 16: Watch our three keynote talks


As a pre-Christmas treat we’re sharing the three keynote talks from TWU16 on YouTube. Our inspiring keynotes generously shared their ideas and experience, exploring the key themes of the conference: the problem with abundance, the future of storytelling, hacking the back office and the power of place.

Watch Bobby Allen’s talk:
Caring is the cure: solving the paradox of choice in the digital universe. Or, how a trip to a local video rental shop changed our fortunes

VP of Content for MUBI, Bobby explores the ways in which the digital universe is fundamentally changing human behaviour and argues that cinephiles need to work together to maintain the special status of cinema.

Watch Johanna Koljonen’s talk:
Bodies, Spaces & Communities: Designing Cinemas (& VR)

Editor of the Nostradamus Project, Johanna offers some experience design tools to help you create the film culture you yearn for. She also discusses the similarities between the challenges currently facing VR filmmakers and cinema exhibitors.

Watch Dawn Walton’s talk:
The Power of Place

Founder/Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company, Dawn asks how the venues/spaces exhibitors use affect audience engagement and attract (or repel) the audiences we seek to reach. And what are a creative organisation’s roles and responsibilities within their community?

All videos published so far can be accessed on our TWU YouTube channel. We’ll be sharing more in the new year – look out for videos of the RE/Mixing it, The Editorialists, Cities, The Problem with Abundance and ICO’s Building Audiences sessions.

Happy Christmas and New Year from the TWU Team!

Images: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 2016: Micro-moments, Moments of Truth & Lifetime Value


If you missed this practical training session from Culture Republic during This Way Up 16, catch up now on the latest tools and trends in online audience engagement.

Culture Republic provide the insights that arts and cultural organisations need to identify and understand their audiences. Using three key trends in online audience engagement, this session from Colan Mehaffey and Ashley Smith-Hammond will help you explore practical techniques for reaching audiences with the right message at the right time. They  look at: Moments of Truth when people share their experience with their networks; Micro-moments that are mobile, immediate and impulse driven and Lifetime Value – the longer term value of an audience member’s increasing relationship with your organisation.

Watch the full session below:

Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 2016: Amanda Nevill introduces BFI 2022


We were pleased to welcome Amanda Nevill, CEO of the British Film Institute (BFI), to This Way Up 16 to present BFI 2022. Amanda talked about the contents of the new strategy, which covers 2017-2022, and focused in particular on its significance to audience development in the UK.

A useful summary of Amanda’s talk appears on The Bigger Picture website and you can watch her full talk below:

Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 2016: Roger Ross Williams in Conversation


On the UK release of moving documentary Life, Animated, watch filmmaker Roger Ross Williams in conversation with Janice Forsyth, BBC Radio Scotland presenter, about his career and the impact of factual storytelling within and beyond the cinema.

A talented documentary filmmaker, Williams first emerged on the scene when his uplifting short, Music by Prudence, won an Oscar in 2010. He has since gone on to direct a series of acclaimed documentary features and his latest, Life, Animated, has won multiple awards worldwide including the coveted Directing Award: Documentary at Sundance earlier this year.

Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey

This Way Up 2016: Personal ‘Realities’ and the Communal Experience


Speakers: Tom Grater (Screen International – chair), Melanie Iredale (Sheffield Doc/Fest), Johanna Koljonen (Nostradamus Project), Jörg Tittel (Oiffy)

“The consensus” suggests Tom Grater, “is most VR is shit”. Indeed, it seems to be the one thing everyone on the panel is happy to agree on. One other is that it’s an embryonic art form, with huge and wide-reaching implications. And anyway, as Jörg Tittel, co-director of the upcoming The White King (in cinemas January 2017!), counters “Most cinema is shit as well.”

In a lively discussion, the cutting edge of virtual and augmented reality work is discussed, and the implications for the communal cinema experience and, by extension, cinema venues. Tom Grater, chairing, sets the scene with reference to VR’s major presence at festivals like Sundance and Cannes, serious directors and big Hollywood productions (The Martian, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) embracing VR, the burgeoning market for affordable consumer headsets, the first dedicated VR cinema in Amsterdam and IMAX’s commitment to opening dedicated cinemas in the next few years. Perhaps the highest profile recent use of the medium, and also demonstrated for TWU attendees just previously to the panel, is Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness.

Melanie Iredale of Sheffield Doc/Fest explains that while the market is currently dominated by “advertising, not-necessarily-innovative gaming and pornography”, everyone is experimenting. Doc/Fest in particular are interested in “the opportunity it affords to tell stories that need to be told,” of which Notes on Blindness is a prime example. However, as she explained, although the novelty of trying on the goggles for the (standalone) VR experience led to an avowed intention to see the film, that didn’t translate reliably into ticket sales. The caveat there being that while projects like the one tied to the release of The Martian are designed to drive sales, NoB: Into Darkness is a work of art in its own right. Johanna Koljonen suggests its success is because it’s one of the relatively few projects where the viewer’s perspective is relevant to the work.

Jorg, however, takes a dim view of the future of the cinematic VR experience in general. “Right now, we’re at the novelty stage… Ultimately, putting on a headset with 1,000 other people is probably going to put people off. I’m not a germaphobe, but…” Discussion turns to the presentation of these works in existing cinema spaces, which are not optimised for many VR experiences (which themselves are still varied in terms of form) with different demands of geography and processing power and which may require rotating chairs, or better, wholly bespoke environments. Add to which, Johanna points out, there’s no consistency across platforms.

And yet, the more people do it, Jorg maintains, the more quality they will expect. NoB fits the current restrictions of the format, but the longer, the more expensive and budget and investment are currently more restrictive than comfort. The future is more likely in augmented reality. Imagine, he says, five years down the road, a regular 2D movie screening to an audience with AR headsets. The same film is presented to those without – traditional films for traditional viewers – but an augmented version screens simultaneously. The appeal for traditional venues is that no new hardware is required. “VR inside cinemas is a fad, VR and cinemas is the future… We’ll all be living in an augmented and mixed reality. As soon as we start walking across that bridge…the sooner we will all thrive.”

Written by Sean Welsh. Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey.


This Way Up 2016: Better Exhibition Through Good Design


Speakers: Jon Barrenechea (Picturehouse Cinemas – chair), Paul Hudson (Festival and King’s Theatres), Jodie Wilkinson (Glasgow Film)

Towards the end of this densely-packed hour, Paul Hudson points out that dementia friendly awareness “is just excellent customer service”, articulating one of the session’s key themes. All three participants make the case that “Good” design is simply good for business. As advertised, the panel considers not only how to help organisations “to remove barriers for audiences with specific access requirements, but to make your organisation more responsive overall.” Chair Jon Barrenechea outlined the shared impetus, to find the “ways in which we can bring audiences who don’t typically come into our venues into them”.

Paul Hudson of the Festivals and King’s Theatres group began the first of two presentations with a broad overview of their work aiming to adapt all Festival City Theatre Trust venues to become dementia friendly. Paul outlined how dementia-friendly changes are actually helping everyone that uses their venues. Many of these changes – lighting, clearer signage – are not expensive, make for a better experience for general audiences and have a huge impact for those who would otherwise feel stressed, unconfident and even unwelcome in venues. As one audience member had shared with Paul, it wasn’t dementia but the building itself that was disabling her. The process, he explained, was simply about getting a slightly different mindset, looking at the building through a different set of eyes.

Jodie Wilkinson, who heads up public engagement at Glasgow Film presented on their ongoing Visible Cinema programme, a monthly accessible programme of film screenings enhanced for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. In this regard, Glasgow Film has a focus on engaging people in cultural activity and building audiences. In developing an inclusive and accessible environment, Jodie affirms that “audiences are the experts”. Beyond engaging with audiences, being honest with budgets and what you can achieve is vital, while staff training and partnership working are also key.

In both cases outlined, funding was reportedly key. Jodie explained the Creative Scotland funding enabled them to  “take risks, be playful”, and facilitated her to go out and meet with people and organisations. For Paul, the Lottery money awarded – £320,000 over three years – gives them the time to try things, to experiment with programming and staff training. At the end of the three years, they’ll have a template to share with other organisations and venues. Jodie qualifies that what works for one location or organisation will not necessarily work for another and that each will have a “different journey”. Sharing knowledge will be about making other venues feel supported, potentially within a kind of mentor system.

All participants were keen to stress that results could almost never be perfect – especially when adapting the more “vintage” venues – but engagement is essential, and that working in concert with audiences is at the core of what they hope to achieve. Ultimately, accessible venues improve the experience for everyone. Chair Jon Barrenechea picked up the thread running through the whole hour that, “It’s not even charitable, it makes sense”.

Written by Sean Welsh. Image: This Way Up 16, Eoin Carey.

This Way UP 2016 Day 1: Storify Highlights

This Way Up 2016 Day 2 is upon us and we’re raring to go.

We got off to a great start yesterday with plenty of exciting discussion, new ideas and shared inspiration. You can catch up on the highlights from yesterday in our Day 1 Storify here.

In the meantime, we hope you all enjoy what we have in store today! If you can’t be here with us in person don’t forget you can keep up with the conversation via our Twitter feed (@thiswayupcon and #ThisWayUp16), and you can join in via this afternoon’s live-streamed workshop, Micro-moments: Moments of Truth and Lifetime Value, taking place 14:00 – 15:00. Tune in here when the time comes.

This Way Up 2016: The Editorialists


Kate Taylor (Film programmer – chair), David Hudson (Keyframe Daily, Fandor), Nick James (Sight & Sound), Hannah McGill (Writer, reviewer and columnist).

In an interesting sidestep from the focus of this morning’s keynote speeches, Kate Taylor introduced a panel of editors and critics to discuss the agenda of the film press. An agenda that is significantly different from that of programmers, distributors and exhibitors.

Hannah McGill spoke about rapid change in the film criticism scene across the past decade or so, as the internet has swept in with such noise that the opinions and expertise of professional critics has been drowned out. Many online voices (dare I say…trolls?) present such strong moral judgments now, which leads McGill to ask: to what extent do we require criticism to be a moral act?

David Hudson suggested major international film festivals are the key influence in editorial coverage, because what they programme is usually newsworthy. Any change in the what the press lead with may have to begin with a change in how festivals operate. Hudson also proposed a counter argument to the idea of twitter being just noise, suggesting there are worthy conversations happening there.

Nick James, as editor of Sight & Sound, spoke about the impossibility of sticking to the magazine’s original remit as a record of every film released per year. Echoing the dominant theme of ‘abundance’ at this year’s conference, it is impossible for them – primarily in terms of resources. James also discussed the loss of status the arts have suffered in recent years and how cinema in particular needs pushed back into place as an artform. How can we bring the romance back to the moving image?

For Hannah McGill, the point of film journalism is to open avenues for interesting debate, not whether or not you recommend a film. Why is it, then, that people feel able to challenge the expertise of a critic of film, as opposed to critics in the other arts? Perhaps there is a sense of ownership in cinema as a populist medium that is not quite so prevalent in other forms of criticism.

Kate Taylor asked if critical consensus could be stifling – are best of the year lists really any use? For David Hudson, there is enough space on the internet for them to exist. But he proposed that people visit Keyframe Daily to get away from just that, they are interested in what else is going on: what’s the news? Hannah McGill has little interest in best-of lists, where a few films rise to the surface in an unnatural ordering of things. Nick James countered that when Sight & Sound publish the breakdown of critics’ top ten lists, there are hundreds of films from a diverse range of writers there to be explored.

There was some amusing discussion of the BBC’s ill-treated Film Show, with particular reference to Camilla Long’s somewhat provocative presenting stint on last week’s show, where she sparred with Danny Leigh. Nick James made a fair point: it created a bit of a public row about cinema, surely a positive?

Kate Taylor left us with the idea that perhaps we need more film communicators: people capable of bringing us into a world of cinephilia in a positive, passionate and inclusive way. Yes please!

Written by Neil Hepburn.