This Way Up 2017 Conference Evaluation


This Way Up is the UK’s film exhibition innovation conference. Organised by Film Hubs Scotland, North West Central and North, and part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, This Way Up 2017 was held at Hull Truck Theatre in Hull on 7 and 8 November 2017. This Way Up 2017 attracted 218 attenders including delegates and speakers, and the programme included keynote talks, panel discussions, presentations and one to one surgery sessions, along with a VR demo, vintage cinema bus, and private view of the Turner Prize.
The objectives of the evaluation were to provide the organisers with information about who came to the conference; how they heard about it; their conference experience and expectations, compared to the previous conference in 2016; the positioning of the event in the sector; and the perception of conference partners. The data that follows is primarily based on a post conference e-survey along with conference registration data and semi-structured interviews with partners.

The findings

  • Delegate profile was broadly the same in 2017 as 2016. The conference attracts delegates from a wide range of organisations, and they are predominantly working in marketing, programming and leadership.
  • The majority of delegates are Female, and more than half of delegates are aged 30-44. In terms of ethnicity and gender This Way Up delegates are more diverse than the film exhibition sector as a whole. One in twenty delegates consider themselves to have a disability and the majority of delegates identify as heterosexual.
  • The conference attracted delegates from across the Hub network; one in three were from the Film Hub North area; one in five delegates from Scotland, and the remaining 50% from the other Hubs.
  • The most effective information sources for delegates are the fact they attended the previous conference in 2016, the network of Film Hubs, and positive word of mouth. Compared to 2016, Twitter increased from zero mentions to one in eight.
  • The top three motivations for attending the conference were broadly the same as in 2016 – To keep up with sector issues, To hear about new ideas and To meet new people
  • For the majority of delegates the conference met their expectations, for one in four delegates, it exceeded their expectations and for one in seven it did not meet their expectations, this is a similar pattern to 2016
  • The conference is most useful for delegates as an opportunity to network with existing colleagues, make new connections and keep up with sector issues, with no significant change from 2016.
  • The most highly rated conference sessions were How can we make our cinemas D/deaf friendly, Impacts, Campaigns and Data, and Jenny Sealey’s keynote.
  • The One to One sessions and the complementary aspects of the conference – Vintage Cinema Bus, Unrest VR and Turner Prize private view were all highly rated by delegates.
  • Delegates consider This Way Up has had a considerable positive impact on the sector, primarily in terms of:
    o Providing a sense of collective identity – “ it unites a sector which is quite disconnected by ethos and by geography, it’s a statement that there is a regional exhibition sector with a specific agenda”
    o As an opportunity to connect with colleagues
    o A platform for sharing practice and collaborative learning o Providing a ‘state of the nation’ moment
  • On a personal level the conference has had most impact in terms of Networking and connections, Learning, sharing ideas and developing practice, Opportunity for review and reflection, Confidence building and positive reinforcement of the value of their work
  • The three words most used to describe the conference are challenging, inspiring and friendly.
  • Delegates considered the best things about the conference to have been the keynotes and networking.
  • Areas for improvement are primarily around the format of the conference, with a desire for more small group, practical, workshop style sessions. Quality of some of the presentations, scheduling, and more structured networking were also noted as areas for improvement.
  • Conference administration and booking process and the venue were both highly rated; catering was the lowest rated practical aspect of the event.
  • Delegates willingness to pay closely matches the existing pricing bands, and over 70% consider the conference to be good or very good value for money. They are also very likely to recommend the conference.
  • Partners are very positive about their relationship with the conference; they consider they have achieved their objectives; they are very satisfied with their profile, benefits and reach; and are enthusiastic about continuing to work with the This Way Up team in the future.

Conclusions and recommendations

  • This Way Up conference provides a unique and highly rated platform for independent exhibitors to galvanise as a coherent group, make and build connections, and develop their practice in a warm, engaging, and provocative environment.
  • Three stimulating and engaging conferences have created high expectations amongst delegates, who are looking for a combination of inspirational and challenging thought leadership with practical and transferable approaches they can use in their organisations.
  • The most successful sessions at This Way Up 2017 demonstrated this – a call to arms from Jenny Sealey around the visibility of D/deaf and disabled people in the cultural sector, along with practical sessions focused on using data and making venues D/deaf friendly.
  • Going forward it will be important for the conference to: keep innovating in terms of conference format, attract the highest quality speakers, pay attention to ‘hygiene factors’ such as the quality of catering, consider how to make delegate networking even more effective

Jenny Sealey on implementing REAL change now

Jenny Sealey MBE, is the CEO and Artistic Director of Graeae, a pioneering theatre company and force for change, placing some of the finest D/deaf and disabled actors where they deserve to be: centre stage, and encouraging others to do the same. Jenny’s activism for disability rights has led her to win the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award; she is also on the h.Club 100 list of the most influential people in the creative industries – these are but a couple on her long list of accolades.

Jenny joined This Way Up 2017 in Hull last November, giving an impassioned speech about disabled rights, the wrongs so often endured by the community, and taking part in a panel discussion with the BFI’s Gaylene Gould. We met up with Jenny in East London at the Graeae Theatre to find out what can be improved, the media’s responsibility towards disabled actors, and what changes film exhibition organizers can start implementing now.

Could you please recap the core ideas of your keynote?

I think I started with the fact the film [Hull’s 2017 City of Culture Film] wasn’t subtitled; I did get a bit arsey about that. I think the biggest link I had of translating my experience of theatre to my experience of film, is in and around the whole issue of “cripping up”: there’s a widening pool of disabled artists/actors, who are skilled, who are good, but we can’t get jobs playing disabled people or not disabled people – we just can’t get jobs.

There’s an ongoing joke, certainly in Ricky Gervais in Extras, where Kate Winslet is playing a “cripple” and she’s going on and on about how she’ll get an Oscar because she’s “cripping up”, and it happens time and time again. Eddie Redmayne got his Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking;  and the argument would be: well he was non-disabled and then he became disabled so you can’t reverse it.

Actually, if you can digitally shrink people so that they can be people of small stature in Lord of the Rings and all that stuff, then you can digitally make someone un-disabled, so I’d say let’s play around. I talked about the lack of imagination and awareness: for me, the whole Eddie Redmayne thing, if you have to have a star, then it’s about how do you frame it: so, you have Stephen Hawking – bless him, now gone – talking to a casting director and being asked, “Who do you want to play you?” What are the discussions? Because there’s a different way in to legitimize it.

Why do you think this is?

Lack of imagination, lack of exposure, and with film, in particular, you have to have ‘the star’, even in the West End, when we’re trying to branch into a more commercial side of things, the people we talk to ask, “Well, who’s going to be the star of this?’” and I say, “Well, my actors are!” they are the stars.

In the past I’ve had directors saying, “Jenny, of course we don’t want to put disabled people on stage because our audience will be offended.”

Maybe they’re not a ‘named’ person, but it’s ‘bums on seats’ and all that. It would be nice for our actors to be seen as stars and given that same opportunity. So we’ve still got a long way to go. Fear is a big one. Fear of difference. In the past, I’ve had directors saying, “Jenny, of course, we don’t want to put disabled people on stage because our audience will be offended.” Or, “Jenny, people don’t come to the theatre to be reminded of the tragedy of being handicapped,” “Oh Jenny, don’t you realise that if it’s a non-disabled person playing a disabled part it gives the audience a sigh of relief: Oh, they were just acting.” These are quite prevalent attitudes that still need to be smashed.

Is it also the media’s responsibility to better represent the disabled actors that there are, and therefore, that they could become names?

Without a doubt. Jack Thorne always says to me, that he’s hell-bent on everything that he writes for television that there are disabled actors cast. But he said his biggest battles are not with the director or the casting director but with the producers, they are the ones we really need to be challenged. Jack has always said that if there’s a disabled actor in his play or when he writes for television, they have got to be played by a disabled actor. That’s his deal breaker. We need more writers having the balls to do that. The writing team for Silent Witness are opening up. Liz Carr finally got cast, but she has been running a one-woman campaign to broaden her story, to give her character a bloody backstory and to bring disability into a wider agenda. She has finally switched on those writers. But it’s a lot of effort when it’s just one person fighting, fighting, fighting on your todd!

It’s brilliant that The Silent Child won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short, but a hearing director, what a shame – we’ve got so many good deaf directors and filmmakers, why aren’t they up there? Why aren’t they at the Oscars? Why are they still having to fight with a small organization BSLBT to get any scraps of money they’ll dole out to make something. Where’s the big money for them?

What is this resistance?

We’re living in a patriarchy aren’t we, and we’re living in a non-disabled patriarchy. We don’t get a look in. So it’s just the white middle-class man, they know best don’t they…so the rules are always their rules, so, we’re fucked.

Until we dismantle it?

But it’s HOW? I don’t know what it is, but I’m bored, I’m so bored. I’ve been on this same treadmill since I left college in 1986; I’ve been saying the same thing since 1986. Now I’m 54, I don’t want to spend the last third of my life saying the same bloody thing, I want REAL change before I die.

Maybe we could talk a little about THE Undateables, which you mentioned in your keynote?

Well, for a start it’s called the undateables which just makes it sound like disabled people are ‘undateable’ which is NOT GOOD.

It’s picking on vulnerable people and making a laughing stock of them, goading them, asking questions to just scratch away at them and not taking any real care about them as people. It is car crash television; it’s immoral actually. Which is weird because Channel 4 do some amazing stuff, so when they get it right they are superlative, but when they get it wrong, oh my god they get it wrong. I was so close to getting it closed down, and I did get in to see the commissioner and she said she’d look into it but then she went off to America, and now the franchise is in other countries.

Did TWU have any impact on your thinking?

It introduced me to Gaylene at the BFI, and we’re in conversation with them – hoping to – share the film of our REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL production. They’ve also taken on the thought that maybe there are a few other films we could show from the disability arts community and make a bit more of an evening of it – so that’s been a fantastic connection.

Have you seen improvements or great examples of inclusivity and diversity in theatre or the arts more generally (equally, seen anything you’ve been really disappointed by)?

I know that National Theatre is taking access seriously and pioneering new methods of captioning so any show can be accessed through captioning whenever a Deaf patron wants it.

Could we get three top tips from you as to how film exhibition organizers can start implementing changes to improve the experience for D/deaf audiences, immediately?

1. Make Sure Everything Is Captioned.

2. Have Deaf Actors and Filmmakers As Integral To A Piece Of Work. If a film is to be truly representative of our society, which it should be, then please can we be in them – whether a character is disabled or non-disabled. I had to wait until I was in my 30s when West Wing hit the screen to see Marlee Matlin on the screen – she was a hotshot lawyer, with brilliant storylines – in America, they get all that right a lot more than we do in this country…

3. Creative Captioning. I am desperate to make the film of our production of Signs of a Diva by Nona Shepphard with Deaf actor Caroline Parker. I have this image when she is putting on her makeup in front of a mirror, and talking to the audience that the subtitles come on to the mirror. I would love to just play around a bit with creative captioning so deaf audiences get a sense of intonation when she’s whispering or when she falls involve, hearts emoji’s could create a heart around the screen.

I think for me, as a Deaf theatre person, how do you put theatre into television, how do you put theatre into film? There are ways. People are doing it but we need more.

Anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re doing at the moment, what’s coming up here?

I am doing the most incredibly big, project called This Is Not For You by Mike Kenny. It is about wounded veterans, some of whom have been wounded in conflict, others wounded afterwards, but they’re all veterans and part of BLESMA [British Legion Ex-Servicemen Association] It’s a big piece commemorating end of WW1, about war then and now, and the fact that most of them say it’s better to come back dead than it is to come back disabled because your currency is so low, and you are a reminder of the atrocities of war.

The title came from one of them men wheeling up to the Cenotaph and a bystander shouted “Oi, this is for the dead, this is not for you,” so that became the title. We’ve got ten storytellers who are on the ground, and we’re training fifteen amputees in aerial skills to enable them to use this skills to manifest their physicality within our set design. It opens at Greenwich+Docklands Festival on 30th June and 1st July; Stockton Riverside Festival on the 2nd and 3rd August – and we’re opening the Stockton Festival which is a huge privilege.

And then the Graeae book is being published. I have been proofreading this for what seems forever! We’re doing the audiobook as we couldn’t get any money from Audible, so we’re trying to do it as in-house as possible because of course, we have a commitment to make sure it’s [the books] accessible. The book and the audio file are being launched on 26th April!

Sarah Mosses reflects on TWU17

Sarah Mosses is the CEO of Together Films, a consultancy that specialises in impact distribution strategies and a champion of data and its myriad uses in the industry. Together Films’ roster of clients includes, DocSociety, the BFI and Amnesty International, and film campaigns including the Oscar nominated, Unrest. Sarah joined us in Hull at This Way Up 2017 as a speaker, and we sat down with her recently to get her top tips, her most memorable questions from the audience and advice for film exhibitors on how the can best utilise data.

Taking you back to a very chilly Hull in November, could you tell us about your experience at This Way Up (TWU), and what you think of it as an event and a fixture in the industry calendar?

It was the first time I presented at TWU, if I remember correctly. What was really nice for us was we got to engage in a dialogue with a number of different exhibitors from across the country. We’re working with exhibitors both as a impact distribution specialist — where our client’s we’re pitching them films throughout the year and have lots of work on — but as a consultant, which is our main area of work. We’re always trying to make sure we’re enabling organisations to be better and do better, and so it was really nice to have the chance to speak to the exhibition sector and see if there were any of our strategies that could help them to enhance their marketing efforts.

It was a really good moment to have everybody in the room at the same time, hear the difficulties people were having on the ground, hear the experiences people were having on the ground. And I really felt there was a lot of dialogue happening between all the different sectors that were there, and I think that’s really important with an event, that they facilitate dialogue and learning; and I really felt like there was a lot of conversation happening at lunch, a lot of conversations about experience. So in terms of an event it definitely delivered on the aspect of dialoguing and facilitation that I think everybody was hoping for.

Could you recap the core ideas of your session for us?

We did one called ‘Impact, Campaigns and Data’. It was a review of our methodology of the facts around what’s called ‘impact distribution strategy’, which is around titles that are looking for distribution need to do all the general aspects of artwork, posters, distribution, social media, but at the same time are wanting to raise awareness of important issues.

We’re looking at framing the film and saying, ‘Not only a wonderful watch, but it’s something that might be able to change mindsets.’ So, we included case study references of a project we recently worked on called Unrest, which was shortlisted for the best documentary feature at the Oscars. We had support from the BFI for the release through the Audience Fund, and for that particular title it was around accessibility to audiences, because the film is about a disease called M.E. [Myalgic Encephalomyelitis], we were targeting not just those people who might have that particular disease, but also other elements that may restrict you from accessing a cinema. So our talk was about how we can prepare cinemas for simple things like having more than 2 wheelchairs in attendance, as most cinema rooms only have two spaces – so what happens when you have three, or five attending?

The focus around data for us was the fact that I’m building out a database model for the industry, which will be out later this year and it’s about getting people to think about how we use data in more efficient ways. I shared a document called ‘a strategic partner matrix’, which is our fancy word for an excel spreadsheet, this had a series of different columns around the people we’re trying to target, what we wanted their response to be, do they actually deliver anything, and what do we think it can turn out to be actually bums in cinemas.

It’s not enough to say, ‘We emailed some people.’ You want to know: who opened the email, did they click on a link, did they put something out on their own social channels – what did it deliver?

So, the summary of our session: Data’s really powerful, you need to be tracking action points, it’s not enough to say, ‘We emailed some people.’ You want to know: who opened the email, did they click on a link, did they put something out on their own social channels – what did it deliver? So you can see if your effort it s being returned. And knowing you can use that data.

Do you remember any particularly interesting audience participation?

When we were talking about how people are storing data, there was definitely, interestingly some people who’d heard about the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] change of legislation, which is around how companies are allowed to store data, it’s a big European-wide legislation to update the privacy laws basically. So it was important to hear marketing managers and assistants are on top of that policy, because it has a fundamental impact on how you are able to communicate with your customers. So just from the sector view: it was really good, because even then – the law change is next month in UK – it was really good to see that people had already heard about it and people were already thinking about it and making changes. It doesn’t mean huge changes, but simple things like you can’t automatically sign someone up to your newsletter, they have to manually click a button that says, ‘Yes I want to be on your newsletter.’ Subtle changes, but huge impact.

When we were looking at the bigger picture stuff: a lot of frustration from people around just having the capacity to do this work – they would love to have an ongoing list of partners they’re working with locally, but who’s going to keep that updated, keep contacting them, who’s role does that sit under, and how do I make sure I have enough time? A lot of people saying, ‘I want to do more, but there’s just not enough hours in the day.’ So again, getting to a point where organisations can be streamline in their efforts, have any essential process that everybody understands and then doing what I say: little and often […] making sure that every day you’re spending even 20 minutes, finding new marketing partners and being in touch with them.

Could we get three pointers from you as to how film exhibition organisations can right now improve the way data informs their campaigns: three things you can start implanting now?

1. Awareness of KPIs [Key Performance Indicator] Across The Company. So if the marketing company’s goal is to amass an extra 500 Facebook followers, programming should know that as much as marketing. So KPI needs to be company wide. And having weekly refreshers so that every department knows.

2. Consistency of Spreadsheet Use. Which sounds so boring! But so, so important, because if in one document you have ‘Name’ and its first name and last name in one column, and in another document you have first name last name as two separate columns, you can’t store or filter that data together.

3. Constant Evaluation and Measurement. So once you’ve set a KPI and you’re saying ‘This is what we want to do for this,’ how are you measuring that, how are you tracking that and how often are you sharing that with your team? So what are your KPIs, but on the flip side of that, how are you measuring how you evaluate and share that success or not success with the team on a regular basis? And getting away form just using new box office numbers and leaving it at that because if you’re not looking at your impression rate on Facebook, your engagement rate on twitter or your open rate in email as a team, how are you going to affect that final box office number? Make it something really easy, so the intern who comes in can understand as quickly as the managing director.

Andi Jarvis on speaking to your audiences

Andi Jarvis is founder of Eximo Marketing, which helps companies communicate with their audiences and their overall marketing strategies. Founded after years of studying and working in the industry, his agency’s clients have included international brands such as Budweiser and Expedia as well as national companies, like the RAF Reserves and Trust Pilot.

Andi joined us at the This Way Up 2017 in Hull, work-shopping marketing strategies for community cinemas and giving advice to members of the audience. We caught up with Andi to chat about his experience at TWU 2017, his top tips on how film exhibition organisations can improve the way they speak to their audiences, and how his thinking has changed over the past few months.

Could you tell us about your experience at TWU?

In terms of an organizational point of view – I speak at a lot of conferences, usually marketing ones rather than industry specific ones, and I thought it was tremendously organized, the way the sessions were put together and the opportunity for discussion – what you usually get at conferences is somebody driveling on for 20 minutes and then somebody else driveling on for another 40 minutes; where as TWU had built in a platform for discussion and that gave the diverse audience from different companies the time to ask questions and interrogate speakers or add to the debate. So is it a worthwhile addition to the arts sector? Absolutely, I thought it was a tremendous way to put it together. And the opportunity to meet and network outside were obviously pretty good.

And would you mind giving a brief overview of your session?

I’m involved with Film Hub Northern Ireland and we were talking about marketing in community cinemas. We did a presentation on what happened and how that worked and the outcomes, and then opened to the floor for questions. I talked about the theory that we went through and how working with community cinema is different in different parts of the industry – for example working with volunteers. But also, what’s the same: the fundamentals of marketing are all the same, so you’re hopefully giving people a chance to say, “Well I can go home and implement that into my business, or say no, well this is very different because we’re a different sort of organization. Then we took questions for 20-25 minutes, which was probably the most enjoyable part for me, it felt like people were getting real value out of that.

Could you tell us any key lessons that came out of that?

One of the things we talked about was having a mission statement and being clear about that, and I think a lot of people overlook that step because they just wanted to get on with doing stuff. There were a couple of good debates about how you create mission statements: why is that important in marketing, and how do they help shape what you’re trying to do, especially with the backdrop of falling budgets. So that was one of key learning. And the reinforcement of the importance of the planning process I’d say was the second one, rather than just jumping straight into implementation let’s plan, let’s understand why, and then get started.

Could you give us 3 pointers as to how film exhibition organisations can improve the way they speak to their audiences?

1. Don’t make assumptions: there’s a lot of assumptions like old people don’t use Facebook, or, my website doesn’t need to be mobile friendly – things like that. People make those assumptions and it shapes what they do. Don’t. Look at the data and the information that you have to understand it. Because that will inform your decision making instead of your, sometimes, lazy assumptions.

2. Involve a wider group of people: often marketing lands with someone whose job it is to do marketing and actually this is best done when it also involves any who interacts with customers – anyone who takes a ticket or volunteers on the door, all of those people have a really important input in how marketing works, because they hear from the customers first hand what people say.

3. Review everything: The easiest thing to do when you’ve finished something is to say, ‘Thank goodness that’s finished! What are we doing next?’ But spending that time to look at: did this work, what did we spend, how did we get a return on it, did people turn up. All that sort of stuff, spend the time reviewing it because it informs where you go next.

Has your thinking or experience changed at all in the intervening months in regards to storytelling and marketing?

One of the things that came out of the session was that, from the whole conference – obviously I was there for the whole time – was that as an industry we’ve got so many stories to tell and so many stories not being told, and I think part of that is because people don’t know what stories to tell and when and how. There’s almost too much content and so we don’t do enough with it.

I think that the ‘done is better than perfect mantra’ is important. Get the stories, tell the stories, let people hear about it – in line with the marketing and planning– tell the stories get the feedback, tell more stories. I think, if we have stories, let’s tell them, let’s use them!

“DOING something somewhere CAUSES something else to HAPPEN,” a chat with Iain Simons

Iain Simons presented Playing with Platforms on day 2 of This Way Up 2017 and here he reflects on the conference and gives his top tips for engaging audiences using interactivity.

Iain Simons is the CEO of the National Videogame Foundation and the co-founder of the National Videogame Archive and National Videogame Arcade, both of which, among being a collection of Videogame software, hardware and ephemera, raises awareness of video games in culture and developing their role in society in general. His many accolades include writing articles for the Guardian and three books, Difficult Questions About Videogames, Inside Game Design and co-authoring the book 100 Videogames.

Specialising in videogames,  video game culture and it’s interactions with the general public, Iain travels the world talking all things video game, and he travelled all the way to Hull to be one of our brilliant guest speakers at TWU back in November 2017. Here we catch up with Iain about his thoughts on the This Way Up conference and his top tips for engaging audiences.

Could you tell us about your experience of This Way Up 2017, and what you think of TWU as an addition to the calendar?

For me as a ‘games guy’, coming to TWU is always a great experience. As an aligned industry with so much in common, I’m always really surprised at how few games folk are there, although I fear once the secret gets out that’ll change and then I’ll regret mentioning it. TWU is put together with a huge amount of care and the audience clearly responds to that. It’s a hugely plural event in its outlook and encompasses a great variety of emergent themes. For me, as well as technological concerns, that’s especially apparent in this fearlessness. As a conference, it’s unafraid to confront the profound problems within the industry it represents, shining a light into some of its dark corners. This year, of course, that’s been especially timely. TWU anchors itself into the contemporary industry agenda in that way, performing a vital function.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I could give is that as a film industry conference it’s now a firm fixture in my calendar – and I’m from the games industry.

What would be your top three tips for film exhibition organisers to start implementing to engage audiences with interactive elements beyond film?

1. Interpret them with care. 
Games are fragile. Given their economic might, it’s tempting to think that they can stand up for themselves in an exhibition environment but they really can’t. Just because games are often also displayed on screens, don’t assume that they can get away with the same level of exhibition interpretation that film does. We can screen say, ‘Toy Story’, and in order to comprehend it at the simplest level, we require the audience to be able to see, hear and understand the language that it’s dubbed in. From that point, we can at least assume a basic shared experience. 
Now let’s think about exhibiting ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ to the same audience. In order for them to play it, they need to be able to hold a controller with 15 or so buttons on it (and know what a controller is), they need to use it to navigate a menu system, start the game, and then they need the motor function, hand-eye coordination and conceptual understanding of what’s going on in order to move the hedgehog through the level to achieve their goal (having understood what the goal is). Not only that, but every individual player is going to have a completely different experience. 
Even at the simplest level, games have a barrier to entry that film doesn’t which shouldn’t be simply ignored.
This all adds up to building a shared critical understanding of even the simplest game, quite challenging to achieve — but a fascinating challenge. 
Know your audience and make any assumptions with care…

2. Games are a performance. 
It’s tempting to think of games as things that are played, but luckily for the purpose of exhibition, they are also things that are performed and spectated. From performance of excellence in things like eSports to more physical performances in things like Singstar or RockBand, games offer a remarkably diverse potential for the staging of performance. 
The assumption is that to be appreciated, everyone needs to be playing. That’s wrong. 
Don’t forget though, like all the best performances of art or sport they often benefit from some contextual commentary and some of them require it to make any sense at all.

3. Use the converted. 
As a venue programmer, you might not be an expert on games. I guarantee you that somewhere in the community around, there will be experts who would love to share their passions and knowledge to help you exhibit. A word of caution though, don’t be afraid to confront their passion with your ignorance and force them to meet it head-on. When shaped and corralled into inclusion, gamers’ passion can be incredibly powerful and develop new audiences. Left unchecked though, through no fault of its own, it can drive the unconverted away.

How can video games or the interactive elements be better incorporated into the cinematic landscape?

This is a pretty big question! For me, this is gently starting to happen, largely through closer collaborations in production. Particularly in areas like VR, the divisions between film and game production are rapidly breaking down. I think one of the key problems to be defused is the assumption about what we mean when we say ‘interactive’. There’s often an implication of a baseline of complexity which it doesn’t really need to be. At the VRWorld Congress last year, one of the most striking points being made was about a more ‘gentle’ level of interactivity that audiences are enjoying, particularly in VR. 
To give ‘players’ agency in an experience doesn’t necessarily mean that they need a complex set of controls and goals. Simply feeling ‘present’ and being able to explore is sometimes enough. Keeping exploring and revising what that spectrum of interactivity consists of will be vital for answering your question.

Could give us an overview of your TWU session, recapping the core ideas and any interesting input from the audience?

My session at TWU was largely concerned with thinking about exhibition and cultural spaces as ‘platforms’ that could be described in simple, computational terms as systems. Having done that, multiple ‘platforms’ could join together to make new work together particularly to the end of creating time-based festivals.

Simply, it’s about Input and Output. DOING something somewhere CAUSES something else to HAPPEN.

For example, an audience member in Hull pushes a button that causes a tone to sound in a room in a venue in Brighton. The button is the input, the loudspeaker is the output — but of course, the fun comes from playing around with what those could be…

Given that agreement between multiple venues, that then presents the opportunity to create time-bound appointments where locations could sync-up to play these experiments together. You could call these appointments ‘festivals’. Finally, when the network gets internationalised, it gets even more exciting to sync-up e.g. If you’re in Hull, Kyoto is literally living in the future… The idea was called ‘sync’ and it’s something we’ve been playing with for a little while now.

And please could you let us in on any exciting developments that have occurred within the intervening months?

For us, the biggest development has been our organisation transitioning into becoming the British Games Institute, for which I’m now the Culture Director. This has been a huge step forward for us, which for me personally now presents a much richer platform for reaching other organisations with. We’ve a rich programme of work developing.

John A Letham: reflecting on This Way Up 2017

John Letham delivered one-to-one mentoring sessions at This Way Up 17, we caught up with him to reflect on the conference and his advice for cinemas and venues.

John A Letham has had a successful career spanning several industries. As an engineer he worked within digital technology at Motorola, moving on to co-found Park Circus, a film distribution company that has offices in Glasgow, London, LA and Paris; it was sold to the Arts Alliance in 2014, with John returning to the company in 2016 as co-CEO.

As founder and director of his company, Considered Thinking, which specializes in executive coaching and mentoring, he works as an executive coach at the company with this breadth of experience. This Way Up were lucky to have him take part in TWU Festival 2017 as a coach, giving rare, personal, one to one, coaching sessions in Hull back in November. We catch up with John to get some his insights on the festival, the industry in general, and some of his top tips.

Could you tell us about your experience at TWU, and your thoughts about it as an initiative?

There is an extra layer, without doubt, about operating regionally […] I think the danger of taking a national event and just having it in London is that those delicate situations of operating regionally aren’t able to come up to the surface. And what I think is important about TWU and about where it is, where it’s choosing as its venues, and being centric in those venues – for example, we were in Hull, the city of culture, we had representatives from the city – the city is very much there, a strong presence, like an attendee at the event, it makes its presence known, which I think is really important because it gives that sense of place […] The vital importance of the event is being able to talk about global issues, international issues, national issues, national considerations, but always having that regional slant, that regional focus – because it is different and there are extra considerations, and pleasures, which is why I think it’s very much a vital addition to the industry calendar.

Could you tell us a little about the differing experiences in regards to the people you consulted with at TWU?

I worked with eight individuals, on a sort of one to one coaching surgery; it’s not something I would normally do, typically I would coach over 6-8 sessions, over a period of time, so I did warn people I would operate at a pace. But from the responses I’ve had, I do think people found benefit from it, and I do think even a brief intervention can have an advantage, an effect, and is certainly worth considering.

It was a great mix of eight people: everything from fairly new in their career path — perhaps in their first role looking to explore where to go in their next transition – right through to management, and beyond into board level. So the diversity of experience and resulting physical age and knowledge was vast; there was also a nice gender balance, which was super.

A lot of different issues were talked about and it was interesting how quickly in every case we got into the issue and finding a solution […] and trying to move forward, even by one degree. I did actually get an email the other day from one of the individuals I saw who has recently made a major change, successfully moving to a new and challenging role, and contributed some of it to the session we had.

Who were the kinds of people in your sessions? Was there a breadth of vocation or a pattern there?

It was a real breadth: covering venues, film festivals, contributors who are organising events within the film space – a real mix, and within that everyone from board members to programmers and administrator type roles.

In your opinion, was there a common theme, a commonality within the challenges people were facing?

Yes, there was. It was quite interesting, there were a number of themes that came through: the first was about confidence and the ability to be able to sell oneself appropriately […] there was a sort of apologetic nature, which I think is a fine balance, but the danger there is if you’re not celebrating what you have achieved and what you are able to do then it can eat away at your confidence generally.

Linked to that there is a phrase that’s used out there: imposter syndrome. People who find themselves in a position and they can’t quite believe that they’re there, and often it’s because people love their jobs […] they aspired to a role and they got it, and all of a sudden they’re like, “Oh my goodness!” Because sometimes when people are learning and performing, that buzz of being out of their comfort zone can make people feel a bit giddy. That doesn’t mean you are an imposter by any means, it’s just a combination of being able to sit back and say, “Well done, I’ve got here, and yes I am learning, and yes I may feel I’m privileged to be in this position; however, I’m working hard, I’m contributing and I’m performing.” Celebrate that.

“Well done, I’ve got here, and yes I am learning, and yes I may feel I’m privileged to be in this position; however, I’m working hard, I’m contributing and I’m performing.”

In regards to operating regionally a couple of issues did come up: if people decide they do want to stay in a particular region or city, or equally, are happy to move from Scotland to Wales for example, there is more limited opportunity […] and people in the industry tend to love the industry, so when people in more senior roles like the industry they’re in, they might stay in that role for twenty-plus years and they’re not likely to be leaving anytime soon […] So it does mean that there’s, not even a glass ceiling, it’s a ceiling of progression, it’s a pipeline ceiling, and often there’s a blockage. So sometimes it’s about thinking, “Maybe I need to go up another pipe.”

A final point that did come up, particularly a mid-career thing, is that when people are younger, generally speaking, people are fairly happy — and I’ll choose these words carefully – with a relatively low level of remuneration as a norm in this sector as opposed to other industries […] That passion and love doesn’t die, but as life throws responsibility at you, such as partnerships and family and property and children and whatever, that low level of remuneration that may have been acceptable when you were younger […] later on, there is a sense sometimes of people feeling that they’re not being paid what they’re worth and that can have impact on peoples own self-worth and value and its just an awareness of that.

Those last two issues — opportunity and remuneration — are more acute regionally, in my opinion, than they are in London.

Could you give us your three top bits of advice?

1. Let Go. When you let go you create space, and much more interesting things can come in to that space. Linked to that, let go of what other people think.

2. Be authentic. Be your own person. Your contribution will probably be richer because of that. Don’t say you like movie, per se, just because everyone does or it’s the ‘thing to do’, be your true person. If you listen to your inner being, no one can argue against you if you say, “In my opinion …” And linked to that: don’t judge other people if they have their own opinion as well. Other opinions are vital. Everyone doesn’t have to agree, and that’s what makes the diversity of the world so rich.

3. Grow and develop confidently. We’re living in fast-paced world right now, and if the world is changing so quickly, you have to change at least the same pace, otherwise, you’ll fall behind […] It is hard work. It does take effort. Staying in your comfort zone and doing the same old same old is easy. But learning new things and trying new techniques, listening intently and trying to understand and empathise with other people’s point of view has major benefits.

TWU17 Schedule

Start planning – this way up is just two weeks away.

This is our draft schedule for This Way Up 17, it is subject to slight changes, full schedule details will be released this Friday 27 October.

Tuesday 7th November
10:00-11:00 Registration and Coffee
11:00-12:20 Welcome and Keynotes
12:20-13:15 Discussion
13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:30 Afternoon session 1
15:30-16:00 Break
16:00-17:15 Afternoon session 2
17:30-19:30  Evening reception and Private View of Turner Prize at Ferens Art Gallery
Wednesday 8th November
10:00-11:15 Morning session 1
11:15-11:30 Break
11:30-12:30 Morning session 2
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:45 Afternoon session 1
14:45-15:15 Break
15:15-16:15 Afternoon session 2
16:15-16:30 Closing remarks

Unrest VR, Jennifer Brea

Unrest is, at its core, a love story. How Jen and her new husband forge their relationship while dealing with her mysterious illness is at once heartbreaking, inspiring and funny.

Unrest VR, at This Way Up 217, is an interactive non-fiction experience inspired by Jennifer Brea’s feature documentary Unrest (Sundance 2017 Special Jury Award). An immersive journey into Jen’s experience of an invisible illness, myalgic encephalomyelitis, the project contrasts the painful solitary confinement of a bedroom world with the kinetic freedom of an inner dreamscape. When you’re too sick to leave your bed, where do you go? Unrest VR premiered in the Virtual Arcade at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. It was also showcased at Sheffield Doc/Fest in the Immersive VR section of the Alternate Realities Exhibition, where it won the Alternate Realities VR Award.

Jennifer Brea describes Unrest

Unrest is a personal documentary. When I was 28, I became ill after a high fever and, eventually, totally bedridden. At first, doctors couldn’t diagnose me and later began telling me that either there was nothing wrong with me or that it was in my head. As I began searching for answers, I fell down this rabbit hole and discovered a hidden world of thousands of patients all around the globe, many of whom had disappeared from their lives and used the internet to connect with each other and the outside world.

We were all grappling with a disease called ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This wasn’t a disease I had ever really heard of, read about, or seen films made about, even though it is an extremely common condition. It’s a story that’s been flying under the radar for the last 30 years. Unrest follows the story of me and my husband, Omar. We are at the very beginning of our marriage, of our lives together, when this asteroid hits.

At the same time, I start reaching out to other patients and documenting their stories. We meet Jessica, for example, a young girl in Kent, England who has been confined to her bedroom since she was 14, and Ron Davis, a Stanford geneticist who is trying to save his son’s life in spite of some incredible obstacles. I made this film four times. At first, it was just an iPhone video diary. Those first few years, I could barely read or write but needed an outlet. And so I started creating these really intimate, raw videos. I met thousands of people, all over the world, living the same experience; isolated, without treatment or care, and often disbelieved. I thought, “How could this have possibly happened to so many people?”

There was this deep social justice issue at the heart of it. An entire community had been ignored by medicine and had missed out on the last 30 years of science. A part of the problem is that many of us are literally too ill to leave our homes and so doctors and the broader public rarely see us. That is when I decided to make a film. When we began shooting, I was completely confined to bed, so I built a global producing team, hired crews around the world, and directed from my bed. I conducted interviews by Skype and an iPad teleprompter a sort of poor man’s Interrotron. We had a live feed that (when it worked!) allowed me to see in real time what our DoP and producers were shooting on the ground. Filmmaking allowed me to travel again. As we started shooting, and I started to get to know these amazing characters, the film became about some of those burning questions that I had. What kind of a wife can I be to my husband if I can’t give him what I want to give? How do I find a path in life now that the plan I had has become impossible? If I am never able to leave my bed, what value does my life have? And I started to become interested in what happens not only to patients but to our caregivers when we, or a loved one, are grappling with a life-changing illness. These are questions we will all face at some point in our lives.

Lastly, there was a point at the middle of the edit when we had a very strong cut, but I felt unsatisfied with just seeing us, these bodies, from the outside. I knew that there was so much about this experience that an external camera just couldn’t capture. And so we started bringing in these elements of personal narration, visuals, and sound design in an almost novelistic way, to try to give the audience glimpses of our dreams, our memories. It was important to me to convey that regardless of our profound disabilities, we are all still fully human. That even lying in bed, we have these complex, inner lives.

It’s my hope that in sharing this world and these people that I have come to profoundly love, that we can build a movement to transform the lives of patients with ME; accelerate the search for a cure; and bring a greater level of compassion, awareness, and empathy to the millions upon millions of patients and their loved ones wrestling with chronic illness or invisible disabilities.


Project Creators: Jennifer Brea, Amaury La Burthe

Co-Producers: Jennifer Brea (Shella Films), Arnaud Colinart (Ex Nihilo), Lindsey Dryden (Little By Little Films), Amaury La Burthe & Grégoire Parain (Novelab by AudioGaming)

Executive Producers: Diana Barrett, Katherine Phillips

Co-Executive Producers: Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman


Directed by Jennifer Brea
Director, Writer – Jennifer Brea
Producers – Jennifer Brea, Lindsey Dryden, Patricia E. Gillespie, and Alysa Nahmias
Co-Producer – Anne Troldtoft Hjorth
Executive Producer & Creative Advisor – Deborah Hoffmann
Executive Producers – Ruth Ann Harnisch, Lisa Gunn, Donna Fairman Wilson, Dan Cogan, Ian Darling, Regina K. Scully, Lynda Weinman
Cinematographers – Sam Heesen, Christian Laursen
Editors – Kim Roberts, Emiliano Battista

Unrest is a co-production between Jennifer Brea’s Shella Films, based in Los Angeles, and Little By Little Films, a boutique production company based in Gloucestershire, UK, founded by Lindsey Dryden

© 2017 Canary in a Coal Mine LLC


Inside of Vintage Mobile Cinema

Vintage Mobile Cinema

Audrey, the lovingly restored 1960s Vintage Mobile Cinema, will make an appearance at This Way Up 17, don’t miss her!

Vintage Mobile Cinema at This Way Up

Delivered by  Vintage Mobile Cinema and the British Council, the screening programme includes;

Documentary shorts from the British Council/Scottish Documentary Institute Stories programme, which, since 2011, has trained filmmakers from countries as different as Jordan, Libya, Pakistan and Syria, in the art of creative documentary;

First Acts: bold, daring expressions of creativity, delivered in short film form by young artist filmmakers. Commissioned by the Random Acts Network for Arts Council England and Channel 4;


New Animated Shorts from the UK, curated by Abigail Addison; One Minute: artists’ films, curated Hull based artist Kerry Baldry;

Flare Films: from a British Council international touring programme in partnership with BFI Flare.

10:45 Stories 1 One Minute
11:30 Random Acts Presents Astounding Animation 2
12:15 Flare Films Random Acts Presents
13:00 One Minute Stories 2
13:45 Random Acts Presents Astounding Animation 1
15:15 Stories 2 Random Acts Presents
16:00 Astounding Animation 1 One Minute
16:45 One Minute Flare Films
17:00 Flare Films Stories 1
17:45 Astounding Animation 2
18:30 Stories 2

Alice Morrison at TWU17

We are delighted to announce that Alice Morrison will deliver Fail and Thrive at this year’s This Way Up conference.

Perhaps it could be considered a back-handed compliment to be asked to do a speech on “Failure”. We all want to succeed, to be the “est”, have the most: get the most bums on seats for our obscure Kurdish film, have the BFI recognise our venue as the best in the country, win the most funding for our fabulous new building. But greatness rarely comes from the soft cushions of success, it is forged in the fire of failure. Join adventurer and former Chief Executive of Regional Screen Agency Northwest Vision+Media, Alice Morrison,  for an hour of forging, and some top tips on how to fail and thrive. Get ready to unleash your inner phoenix.

Alice Morrison for This Way UpAbout Alice Morrison

Alice Morrison is a Scottish Adventurer currently living in Morocco. She used to be the Chief Executive of Regional Screen Agency Northwest Vision+Media. She left the rat race for a bike race when she went off to cycle across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town.

She pursued a career in journalism for Middle East Broadcasting, and then BBC News in Arabic and English. She helped launch the BBC News Channel where she went on to become Editor of the daytime hours.

For the new millennium she moved North to Manchester and onto the internet and started to break out into mini adventures squeezed into the holidays: the Snowdon Challenge, crossing Costa Rica coast to coast, Kilimanjaro, ice climbing in the Andes, climbing the Ruwenzoris….

As CEO of Vision+ Media, she grew the company from a funding base of £830,000 to £10 million per annum and was lucky enough to be in post for region-changing events like the BBC move to Salford and Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. After 9 years of fighting for the sector, she was defeated by a Tory government and their quango cuts, so she cast off her pinstripes and donned lycra.

It was a turning point as she entered the Tour D’Afrique and raced her bike from Cairo to Cape Town. Surviving close encounters with charging wild elephants and very nasty toilets, her first book came out of the experience: Dodging Elephants.

Bitten by the adventure bug, she entered the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth, 6 marathons across the Sahara in 6 days carrying all your own food and equipment.

She loved Morocco so much she stayed and committed to her dream of becoming a full-time Adventurer. Then in 2016, she and Tern TV made Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure, a series for BBC2. It was a dream come true for her. Her quest for the “furtherest place on earth” was an epic journey along the ancient salt roads, over the snow-covered Atlas mountains and across the Saharan sands. She mined for gold, risked death in a donkey cart and spent hours up to her thighs in pigeon shit. She also wrote her second book.