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Working together at Cinema For All's national conference

We offered Sue Scott, Cinema Manager of Dunlop Community Cinema, a bursary to attend Cinema For All‘s National Conference for Community Cinemas in September 2014. This was her experience…

The weekend offered a great opportunity to explore new ideas around involving your audience, marketing, and film programming.

Running a community cinema requires much energy and time, but the venture also offers many rewards, not the least of which was the chance to attend my first ever Cinema for All National Conference for Community Cinemas. The conference was at the Showroom Workstation in Sheffield, which was an excellent venue, being extremely close to the station, spacious, supplying good food, and a variety of rooms and screens available for use.

The theme for the two days was ‘working together’, and first off we were welcomed with an inspiring, funny and enthusiastic key note speech from Katherine Sellar (Cinema for All chair). The first session covered programming, and Carmen Slijpen of Lewes Junior Film Club described the extremely varied and creative children’s screenings that they host, which must stay in the children’s memories for ever. I was intrigued that they show a variety of old and new films (but no ‘blockbusters’), and even foreign films, for which they supply an actor to read out the subtitles. They work alongside a range of different groups, for instance, the secondary school and the local circus, and they include young people in the programming team. Joan Parsons (Sheffield Showroom) and Ryan Finnigan (Sheffield’s The Five and Dime Picture Show) talked about the different people with whom they have collaborated, and also the importance of being clear regarding boundaries, and responsibilities, when collaborating.

Next up was a session on marketing and publicity, with Sam Meech (Screening Film website) and Rob Manley (Newcastle Community Cinema in Northern Ireland). Sam talked about hosting screenings in unusual pop-up venues (eg disused shops), being creative with marketing materials (eg producing a calendar), using MailChimp to create enewsletters and blogging. He also introduced Screening Film, the new website he has set up which allows exhibitors to share details of their screenings.

Rob gave detailed information about the various marketing tools they have employed: social media; ‘cross-pollination’ – collaborating with other organisations so that the cinema is mentioned in their marketing materials; offering free tickets via www.testdrivetheartsni.org (a Northern Irish audience development initiative); and ‘guerrilla’ marketing e.g. printing their logo on a car, planting chocolate bars containing ‘golden tickets’ in local shops.

Both talks were a mine of useful information, which it will take me some time to work my way through!

I followed this session by viewing Polish film Crows, which is featured in the current ‘Cinema of Childhood’ season. It was a well-acted and powerful film, but ultimately rather bleak and depressing, and not one I would show in our local cinema.

Philomena was nominated ‘Best Film Society Film’, and Steve Coogan gave us a thumbs up via a pre-recorded video!

The formal proceedings were then completed by the Film Society of the Year awards, with the awards being presented by Danny Leigh (BBC’s Film 2014). Philomena was nominated ‘Best Film Society Film’, and Steve Coogan gave us a thumbs up via a pre-recorded video! Some well-deserved drinks and dancing finished off an excellent first day’s session. I sadly have no incriminating photos from that session.

Day two commenced with the ‘Building a Network’ seminar, with speakers Woody (Minicine), Melanie Pearson (Magic Lantern Film Club) and Brian Clay (Cinema for All South West). There were once again many interesting ideas regarding ‘event’ screenings e.g. Minicine linking an art show with a film, Magic Lantern showing Creature from the Black Lagoon outside, by the water. It was also very useful to hear about Moviola, a group based in the South West who offer a licencing service to cinemas.

The conference finished with a selection of short films, some Buster Keaton films, and the final film of the weekend Me, Myself and Mum, which was a typically quirky French film, funny and touching – this is one I would recommend!

The weekend offered a great opportunity to explore new ideas around involving your audience, marketing, and film programming (or ‘curating’, a new term I learnt this weekend). Specifically I plan to look into using the Moviola and Screening Film resources, offer additional activities alongside a screening, develop new marketing ideas (such as the use of a calendar) and screen short films ahead of some features. It has become apparent that there is a lot more to showing films than I first thought!

27 September 2014

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