This Way Up 2017- Ethics and Technology in VR

Screen Daily’s Tom Grater spoke to BAFTA Award-winning immersive media specialist Catherine Allen, following her keynote concerning ethics in VR.

Allen’s illuminating speech touched on key areas to consider when choosing to exhibit VR, as well as informing on the ethical challenges that VR creators face within the rapidly evolving industry.

As with cinema, VR can virtually transport users in to another realm. But the key difference is that with cinema, there is a very definite separation of space- there is the audience, and there is the screen.  VR experiences do not have such a definite separation. And this means that those who take part  can often have a deeper, more visceral response that can be harder to shake. People tend to remember a VR experience more clearly than when watching a film, because as humans, we remember things we did slightly more than we remember things we saw. And for creators (or ‘story-doers’, as Allen refers to them) it’s a gift- the opportunity to create an everlasting experience with a person who is then likely to tell others. It can also be used to treat phobias and PTSD, so has very real implications in terms of health and well-being.

Allen highlighted that as VR technology has evolved, more and more people are able to use it in the comfort of their own homes. With prices ranging in the thousands to less than £3 for Google cardboard glasses, it is becoming easier for people to enjoy and experience the technology, which on the surface, sounds like a good thing; it’s no longer something that is limited to early adopters or those who are privileged enough to be able to access VR events at festivals or other similar events.  But this raises questions  around what  creators should be thinking about when making stories that may be experienced within an environment that is less controlled. With VR in particular, context is key, and  there’s a concern that representation of characters and stories without due context can lead to a distortion of reality that remains once the headset is removed- particularity concerning when there is still a large male skew in terms of creators and users; the importance of representation is vital. However, things are improving, and guidelines are starting to  develop to safeguard users, with more research being done as VR increases in popularity.

Within a controlled environment, one recommendation from Allen for those who are considering VR as part of a festival or in a cinema is to ensure that there is a space afterwards for users to debrief, discuss, and unwind. VR can distort our sense of time and space, and this can be very disorientating.

A key takeaway from Allen’s speech  was that as a relativity new medium, those who create VR experiences have the benefit of being able to form these practices, and make them the status quo, and a lot of these practices do come from the cinema.  Allen posed the question, ‘what would Hollywood look like if it was created now? And it’s an important question,  particularly in the wake of the wave of allegations that are sweeping across the industry at this current time. What is apparent is that there here is a reassuring  sense of duty within the industry to  ensure that i is  inclusive, represents communities effectively and equally, and avoids harm.

Nia Childs

Keynotes: This Way Up 17

This Way Up  has come to the beautiful City of Hull, the City of Culture for 2017. Exhibitors from across the UK have gathered to learn and share knowledge about the concerns, challenges and developments that are currently facing the independent British cinema exhibition industry.

After a warm welcome address from Martin Green, CEO & Director of Hull City of Culture 2017, we heard from three keynote speakers who shed light on the key issues that are currently facing the British Film industry.

Moira Sinclair-Resilience
CEO of Paul Hamlyn Foundation 
Sinclair’s keynote focused primarily on resilience. At a time of great uncertainty, Sinclair highlighted the need for strength, camaraderie and change in this tough time for the exhibition industry. As the CEO of a funding body, she highlighted that a successful business model must include taking care of staff, investing in humans, and sharing a vision to serve communities.  Without a key sense of who your serving; artists, audiences and participants, then the purpose becomes muddled and lost. This is why, as Sinclair pointed out, organisations should not be looking to fit their vision around what funding bodies want; it is counter productive and loses a vital sense of purpose.  Resilience is vital, and everyone in the community can benefit from a willingness and desire to learn how to be better.

Jenny Sealey, MBE- Engaging D/deaf and disabled audiences
Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company
Jenny Searle MBE delivered a powerful keynote, confronting the dire need in the exhibition industry to engage D/deaf and disabled audiences.  Sealey highlighted the uncomfortable truth that, whilst diversity has moved along in recent times, D/deaf and disabled people are still very much being left in the dark; overlooked for work, and underrepresented in all areas of the arts. We still exist in a time where it is acceptable for able bodied actors to play disabled characters. Sealey’s solution is not radical; ask D/deaf and disabled people what they want. Work with and hire D/deaf and disabled people and engagement will increase.

Simran Hans- Reviewing Ethical Practices in the Exhibition Industry
Writer and Film Programmer
Simran’s keynote honed in on the importance of organisations practicing what they preach. As we celebrate the diversity that is flourishing with the rise of independent film collectives, she questioned how much we can celebrate without gaining a full understanding of what this means; are these collectives being fairly compensated for their work? Are young programmers and new members of the film industry really benefiting from the work they’re being offered if they’re not being paid? And what will our industry look like if only those who can afford to work for free take part?  Simran also touched on the more recent issues concerning the London living wage, and how ushers in cinemas are being treated; a seemingly endemic issue in the Capital. With diversity being co-opted by organisations who don’t follow ethical practices, Simran concluded with a call to arms, to dismantle the inequality faced within the industry.

The keynotes were followed by a discussion with the speakers, lead by Gaylene Gould, Head of Cinemas and Events at the BFI. What came out of the discussion is a need for a reinvention of the culture and the way in which organisations operate.  We are starting to see a refusal to accept the current power structures in place and the results of those, and a need for a radical change seems to be very much at the forefront of everybody’s minds.

Nia Childs

#FaveFail from Mandy Berry of Cinegi


In 2011 my business partner and I embarked on a hugely ambitious project called Smart Entertainment/Interesting Stuff with a vision to create wider access to more content. We planned to develop and launch an offline platform and player for the public exhibition and home consumption of film with content and partners from 4 territories and to develop new audience engagement and business models.

We went to technical developers that we knew and who were very well respected internationally in the world of TV broadcast and we had an international key team member who brought a great understanding of how distribution and finance worked in the world of film.

The project, however, was unwieldy, the technical partner didn’t deploy sufficient resource and we were on a massive learning curve. The year ended without a viable product, tons of admin in managing partners and complex funding and a falling out with our international partner that resulted in financial loss for us. It could have been a disaster but it wasn’t.

The positives were that we had tested our ideas, we had developed a set of legal and commercial frameworks and processes and we had learned more than we could ever have imagined. We learned that to go forwards we had to focus on the core proposition that was special – the fully digital secure distribution of filmed media over the public internet as download enabling anywhere to be a ‘cinema’ and forget all the other bits like VoD. We were able to work with a couple of the individuals involved in the tech team who had gone on to set up their own businesses and understood what we wanted to achieve.

We had met lots of other people who could help us on our journey, we learned not to give up and in short, we realised that we had developed a proof of concept for a digital distribution service that came to be the basis for building Cinegi, the service that we now run today.

#FaveFail from Toki Allison


My default setting consists of a deep-seated dislike of failure, ever since I fell over during my first sports day and came last in the race. So, honestly, this is tough for me to recount, let alone admit openly! But, pushed to be honest, I would say poor communication is the root of all my major fails.

The one that most impacted me and those around me was when I had arranged for live AV sets to be staged on the main stage of a music festival. Getting agreement from artists and their managers wasn’t a problem, but getting my AV rigging team onto the stage was. Various conversations with the PA company, stage team came to a loose agreement to do the visuals, but when my team got onto the stage to rig in between two acts (one of them doing a devilishly dangerous dance off the lighting rig to get a section of screen in place) I was forcefully asked to cancel the attempts. The rig wasn’t going to work, it was all taking too long, it wasn’t looking like a safe operation, and the changeover time wasn’t going to allow for it. Disappointingly the artists didn’t get the visuals we’d promised, the VJs didn’t get to deliver and I learnt how to handle failure to deliver in the truest sense. Actually, everyone was very forgiving, but my frustration with myself was hard-lost. And we were really lucky no-one got hurt.

Lesson learned: Plan these things way ahead. Book in a time to go through plans in detail and get proper agreement from ALL those concerned about timings for installation and a commitment from other impacted parties to deliver on time and with full adherence to health & safety requirements!

30 Seconds with… Simran Hans


Simran Hans


Writer and Critic

Three words to describe your feelings about film:

Can’t quit it.

What inspires you daily?

My friends.

What’s the most challenging thing about being in the film right now?

Endemic racism and misogyny.

And, the biggest opportunity?

The chance to create new canons.

What was the last film you saw?

A Bad Moms Christmas (2017, John Lucas & Scott Moore.

Video on Demand: forces filmmakers to think differently or ruining the cinematic experience?

A good way of widening access that will never replace the sacred space of the cinema.

Positive discrimination: essential for the film sector or the wrong approach to equality?

A start.

Choose your own adventure films: an exciting development or will destroy the shared cinematic experience?

Also known as “video games.”

VR in film: enhances the experience for the viewer or negatively impacts traditional storytelling?

Just another type of storytelling.

Director / Talent Q&As: insufferably boring or a great way to engage and develop audiences?

Added value when the talent is wielded by a skilled host.

What are you looking forward to most about TWU 2017?

Being grilled by Gaylene Gould!

What part of the TWU 2017 debate are you most interested in and why?

I’m very interested to hear about how various exhibitors are defining ‘Ethics & Resilience’ and how (if indeed they are) they’re factoring those themes into their practice.

Where can people find you online?

I’m @heavier_things on Twitter.

Simran is one of the three keynote speakers at THIS WAY UP 17.

In her session, Simran will consider how sector structures and value systems are being interrogated by wider societal changes. What kind of labour props up the UK film exhibition industry? Are groups and networks formed through programming pursuits running at odds with this?

One to One Sessions

One to One Sessions at Royal Hotel, Hull

Tuesday and Wednesday by prearrangement

John Letham, Considered Thinking

Join John for a fast-paced, bespoke coaching session, during which he will work with you to define the barriers that may be preventing you from progressing, and develop an action plan to help you move forward. John’s approach will be supportive, yet challenging.

Greg Walker, Director Pilot Light TV Festival

Greg Walker, festival director for Pilot Light TV Festival in Manchester will
be available for one to one sessions giving advice on the eclectic world of TV clearances for theatrical exhibition. With this process being very different case by case, Greg will hear what ideas you have and guide you down the right path to screening small screen content on your big screen.

Toki Allison, BFI FAN Access Officer

Toki works with all the UK Film Hubs to support a more inclusive approach to building audiences. Toki is available to talk during one to one sessions if
you have queries or interests around providing screenings for more diverse groups. Including; those with disabilities, both visible and invisible, BAME and LGBT people, or anyone who may feel part of a minority group. Toki is currently looking at projects for 2018 such as; intergenerational screenings, expansion of diverse film club models, representations of diversity on screen and awareness raising campaigns.

Book via delegate registration form, which you will find in your email Inbox from the THIS WAY UP team.

30 seconds with… Moira Sinclair


Moira Sinclair


Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Three words to describe your feelings about culture

Life-enhancing, mind-blowing, powerful

What inspires you daily?

The resilience and creativity of people and communities in difficult circumstances

What’s the most challenging thing about being in the culture right now?

It sometimes feels too exclusive and it sometimes feels too hard to find the way to change that

And, the biggest opportunity?

People’s need to connect is real and film and culture can play a special role in enabling that connection

What was the last film you saw?

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015), Liz Garbus

Video on Demand…

Forces filmmakers to think differently

Positive discrimination is…

Essential. A diversity of voices in filmmaking, creating, storytelling and performing seems to me to be essential for the future health of the sector – we need help to make sure that happens

Choose your own adventure films are…

Going to become an exciting development (but I don’t think we’re there yet), but it certainly won’t destroy the shared cinematic experience

VR in film…

I’m just starting to see its potential, but there’s a long way to go to ensure it is genuinely experience-enhancing rather than technologically-distracting

Director / Talent Q&As…

Are a great way to give engage and develop audiences. If done well, it’s a huge treat and privilege to hear direct from those involved in creating stories – which we cynics would do well to remember

What are you looking forward to most about TWU 2017?

Meeting a group of people I don’t usually get the chance to speak to and to understand better what they do and what makes them tick

What part of the TWU 2017 debate are you most interested in and why?

I should say resilience as I think that’s essential in this day and age and it’s what I’ll talk about. But that’s very connected to the Power of Culture. Culture has the power to tell astonishing stories, to connect people, to put you in other people’s shoes, to change the way we see the world.

Where can people find you on Twitter?


Moira is the Chief Executive of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, find out more about the work of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation at:

30 seconds with…Hugh Odling-Smee


Hugh Odling-Smee


Film Hub NI Project Manager

Three words to describe your feelings about film

Other people’s stories.

What inspires you daily

Colleagues, ideas and audiences. And a lot of poetry and nicotine.

What’s the most challenging thing about being in the film right now

The wide backdrop to our work which we have taken for granted for the last 30 years – Europe, internationalism – is changing, the idea that others stories are as important as our own is narrowing to a more limited view of what it means to be a citizen, a whole person.

And, the biggest opportunity?

Luckily, there is a push against this by many in our industry, and the opportunity lies in continuing to see cultural spaces as places where ideas, open-mindedness and dialogue can prevail and be celebrated.

What was the last film you saw

Bad Day for the Cut (2017), Chris Baugh. ‘Farmer-noir’ from County Tyrone.

Video on Demand: forces filmmakers to think differently or ruining the cinematic experience?

I suppose that is up to how cinemas respond. Video was meant to kill cinema in the 80s, but all it did was change it. People value the collective as much as they value their sofas.

Positive discrimination: essential for the film sector or the wrong approach to gender equality?

Essential. Everyone knows the barriers, age, race, economics, so we should take action to bring them down.

Choose your own adventure films: an exciting development or will destroy the shared cinematic experience?

An exciting development. It’ll always be just a part of the overall offer, so I don’t think people should be threatened.

VR in film: enhances the experience for the viewer or negatively impacts traditional storytelling?

It is probably witchcraft.

Director / Talent Q&As: insufferably boring or a great way to engage and develop audiences?

Audiences seem to like them according to the figures, so I think talent is a good way to engage people. People like asking why.

What are you looking forward to most about TWU 2017?

Hearing about new and interesting ways to develop film exhibition in Northern Ireland, spending time in Hull and catching up with friends.

What part of the TWU 2017 debate are you most interested in and why?

‘Places and spaces’ in light of the changing world we’re living in.

Where can people find you onLINE?

@smeeho7 – apologies in advance for all the NI politics tweets.

Also at;

@FilmHubNI Twitter



Bonus Question: A UK Film Festival dedicated entirely to cat videos, yes or no?

Yes, but only if we get cats to programme it.

30 seconds with… Gary Thomas

It’s two weeks until this way up 2017 and gary thomas from our partners, british council, tells us his views on some things in just 30 seconds…


Gary Thomas


Film Programme Manager, British Council

Three words to describe your feelings about film and culture

Essential. Essential. Essential.

What inspires you daily

My colleagues. No. Really. And the power of film to challenge and engage.

What’s the most challenging thing about being in the film and culture right now

Maintaining relevance.

And, the biggest opportunity

Impact through relevance.

What was the last film you saw

Alan Warburton’s Goodbye Uncanny Valley on Vimeo. It’s a brilliant – as one of the Vimeo comments says – “full on state of the VFX union”.

Video on Demand: forces filmmakers to think differently or ruining the cinematic experience?

It’s possible to enjoy watching films in a cinema and on other screens.

Positive discrimination: essential for the film sector or the wrong approach to gender equality?

On screen, it seems fundamental to me that members of a society should expect to see themselves reflected in the stories that society’s culture tells. A story telling art form that can’t do that should be ashamed of itself. And the same goes for a culture where only some sections of the population has access to or control of the stories being told.

Choose your own adventure films: an exciting development or will destroy the shared cinematic experience

Kill. Me. Now.

VR in film: enhances the experience for the viewer or negatively impacts traditional storytelling?

Well, I think there’s VR film, and there’s film film. They’re different experiences. A bunch of people simultaneously experiencing VR in the same space is all to silent disco for me.


Vintage Mobile Cinema at This Way UpWhat are you looking forward to most about TWU 2017?

I am fit to bust that we’ve brought the Vintage Mobile Cinema bus to Hull and thrilled we’re showing some great shorts.

Read more about the Vintage Mobile Cinema schedule by clicking here.

What part of the TWU 2017 debate are you most interested in and why?

Global Community. I work for the British Council, but that’s what I’d say anyway.

Where can people find you on twitter?


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