#FaveFail from Anna Kime

When I worked on the former London’s Children’s Film Festival they had a practice of reading subtitles out loud from the front of the screen. I’d arranged a team of ‘readers’ but at the last minute one called in sick.

So, I read instead for a Turkish film at the Rio I hadn’t seen.

Before I started a Turkish lady with her family stood up and complained it was a terrible idea. As the reading had been announced we explained we’d go ahead. I did my best well aware I was garbling the characters’ names and completely miss-conveying the tone with an audible background of fury at my voiceover.

Fight or flight kicked in and I had to physically stop myself from running out of the screen. Afterwards I forced myself to wait by the door for everyone to leave. In a way this paid off as the lady’s partner said I did well to have a go and apologised for the tirade.

After substantial recovery time I learnt you can survive any embarrassment and I’m unlikely to have a comparable experience when speaking in public again. More pertinently I learnt about audience expectations – the lady was rightly furious because she’d brought her children to see a rarely available classic film that she cherished only for it to be carelessly mangled by me.

#FaveFail from Alison Kennedy

THIS WAY UP 17 OWNING AND EMBRACING FAILURE!

I managed to secure an interview at a top university as a trainee AV technician. I was told how amazing it was that I got to the interview stage by the prospective employer as there was something like a million applications (might be a slight exaggeration there…!). I was pretty pleased with myself and jaunted off to the interview with a spring in my step. The interview went fairly well. Until…

They asked me what a HDMI cable was and to describe what it’s for.

My.Mind.Went.Blank.

Tumbleweed blowing across my stupid empty head. It felt like the time that passed between the interviewers asking me the question and me displaying any kind of recognition on my face was about 20 years. I eventually pulled myself together and knew I had to say something. My response was ‘errr…it’s a cable for computers’. That’s it.

Needless to say, I did not get the job. The most annoying thing is that I DO KNOW WHAT A HDMI CABLE IS, I use one fairly frequently. I guess I just thought that they would never ask me something as simple as that.

The lesson learnt is: don’t forget the basics! And anyway, a few months later I went for an interview at the National Archives which inevitably led me to where I am today and I would not change a thing.

This Way Up 2017: What’s your story and how do you tell it?

Speakers: Hugh Odling-Smee, Sara Gunn-Smith, Aaron Guthrie, Andi Jarvis

Film Hub Northern Ireland presented  a case study using five small cinemas to demonstrate the ways in which cinemas can set their identity and engage their audiences. At the start of the event, audience members were asked to  write two sentences that described the identity of their venue or freelance work, as a means to demonstrate a starting point for thinking about how venues and community cinemas can market themselves by developing a sense of identity and gaining an understanding who their audience is.

Three case studies were discussed at length: the Black Moon Film Club, whose pitch began with a discussion around accessibility, as they wanted to be a film club for adults with learning disabilities. The second case was of Ballyclare Picturehouse, a small cinema in a rural community, who with the help of marketing training,  were able to use their rural identity in how they present themselves to their audience.

The last case that was discussed was that of the New Notions collective, a documentary screening group. They began with very small screenings, but eventually went on to put up an exhibition of original short films and archive footage about the Belfast shipyard and its workers and community, as well as live storytelling sessions. The New Notions screenings and events are free with a pay-as-you-can option, which Aaron Guthrie explained was actually beneficial to them because it invited audiences that could not afford to pay for a ticket to see, and it invited those who could pay to give however much money they could afford.

What became clear from the panelists was that with a limited budget,  marketing teams in community lead projects need to work with the communities they are trying to be effective. It is important to help build confidence in small film communities in their work, because, as Andi Jarvis highlighted, a lot of groups tend not to apply for funding for fear of not understanding the application process.  With the support these small cinemas received, they  were able to gain a clearer sense of identity and became more effective in engaging their audiences.

Mariana Duarte

This Way Up: Day One

The first day of This Way Up 17 was kick started with the theme of resilience. Resilience is vital when working in the cultural sector, and part of being resilient is coping with and implementing change. Whether it’s achieved through a review of pay practices in the workplace, an overhaul of  exhibition windows or a development of a code of ethics for emerging technologies, it is very much at the forefront of every exhibitor’s mind.

The audience in the sessions I attended were particularity interactive, and what is obvious is that those working on the ground in the industry are desperate for action. It is not enough just to discuss the issues we’re facing as an industry, there needs to be changes implemented, and quickly. There were solutions being offered publicly in the auditorium, and among ourselves between breaks. What is clear is the real sense of community within the industry, with everyone wanting to help each other, but feeling strangled by the structures in place that may work well for big cities like London, but do nothing to help cinemas and community lead projects in smaller cities and rural areas.

Diversity has been discussed at length in the film industry for some time now, and today was a day to take stock and reflect on whether it’s really being achieved. Is diversity really being achieved, when as Jenny Sealey’s rousing keynote rightly pointed out,  disabled people are still regularly being played by able bodied actors? Is diversity really being achieved, if it’s merely being co-opted by corporations with poor ethical practices to push ticket sales,  as Simran Hans remarked in her keynote? Do we need to start thinking about programming diversity, when currently,  smaller community projects are denied funding because they can’t meet tick boxing requirements, a problem that was pointed out by Louise Carney of Heartland Film Society in Scotland?

Despite the challenges however, one thing that remained was the sense of togetherness. Cinema is not for the individual, it is for everyone. A standout moment came from Moira .Sinclair, CEO of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. As the CEO of a funding body, Sinclair has a breadth of knowledge across a wide range of organisations and the ways in which they operate. And what was made clear was this- if, as an organisation, you don’t have serving your community, through love as well as duty, at the very heart of what you do, then you are far more likely to come unstuck. And this attitude needs to permeate throughout the organisation, which cannot be achieved without treating each member of the team fairly, and kindly.

Nia Childs

How can we make our cinemas Deaf friendly?

Duncan Carson from the Independent Cinema Office spoke to David Ellington of VS1 Productions about how to best make cinemas accessible and engaging for D/deaf audiences.

David  (interpreted by Jess Veal) began by giving background information on how D/deaf people communicate, explaining British Sign Language (BSL), Sign Supported English (SSE), and oralism; and the difference between “Deaf” and “deaf,” which is significant in how exhibitors and distributors might want to engage with these communities, as well as  difference between captions, subtitles, descriptive subtitles and audio description. David explained how for D/deaf audiences, descriptive subtitles are preferred. The presence of descriptive subtitles makes the film entirely accessible for D/deaf audiences, as they would be experiencing a complete version of the film, not different from what hearing audiences would be watching.

The audience heard more about  Deaf Conversations About Cinema programme in Bristol, a monthly screening of mainstream films which are entirely accessible to D/deaf audiences, with BSL introductions and DS throughout the film, with post screening discussions, all in BSL. This is a clear demonstration that there is an appetite for BSL & DS screenings, which can be easily implemented. 

For the benefit of cinemas, David summarised the key factors that can make screenings feel less accessible, with captions and subitles and the variations of these being key In the case of foreign language films for example, films may already have subtitles, however they won’t be descriptive subtitles, so a lot of the nuance of diegetic sounds and dialogue will be overlooked. In order for this change to happen though, this needs to come from distributors.

Through research between the ICO and Film Audience Network, Duncan then summarised how best to engage deaf audiences. He explained the benefits of getting get a good D/deaf friendly programme and marketing  it well, as well as reaching out to members of the Deaf community and working alongside them to work out how to make accessible provisions for the audiences. Attendees were shown a video of BSL that ushers and front of house staff could use to speak to customers (such as “welcome” and “ticket please”) and were given a short tutorial on BSL to try it out. Improved screening times and set weekly or monthly slots for DS films are also ways to make advances towards a more D/deaf accessible venue.

Mariana Duarte  

 

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

THIS WAY UP 17 OWNING AND EMBRACING FAILURE!

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

THIS WAY UP 17 OWNING AND EMBRACING FAILURE!

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

Name

Simran Hans

Profession

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?