On Saturday 15 November, as part of our Weekend of Film, we welcomed Andrew Elliot (Penrith Lonsdale Cinema), Jill Jones and Jane Sedgwick (Brampton Film Club) to discuss the world of independent cinema screening, the current film landscape, audience numbers and the future of cinema.
Making money from films is a tricky business, as both Brampton and Penrith know well. As well as charging for individual tickets, Brampton have an annual membership scheme which contributes to overall running costs, free tickets and subsidise trips out. They offer refreshments at screenings like tea and coffee, and ask for voluntary contributions. Andrew was surprised about this – he revealed that people buying food and drink is where cinemas make their money, as most venues only receive 10-20% of ticket sales with rest going to the film production and distribution companies.
We asked Andrew about the change in how films are screened, from projection reels to hard drives and now downloading from the internet. Andrew revealed that he trained as projectionist at the start of his career and actually managed to set a film on fire in his early days! He’s found that sound quality has dramatically improved with the move to digital but admits that he misses the unpredictability of watching a projected film – from the jumps and scratches on the picture to the missing bits where the projectionist hasn’t joined the reels together properly.
We discussed how the digital revolution has impacted on audience numbers and how people watch film. We all agreed that it’s great that viewers can watch incredible work cheaply and conveniently but this was no match for experiencing a film at the cinema. This is especially true at the moment, when film companies are bringing back spectacle to encourage people to part with their cash, through 3D and huge action experiences like the Marvel films and the recent Godzilla re-boot. Jane and Jill emphasised the social benefits of watching films together – sharing the experience, emotions and ups and downs of the production then discussing it afterwards.
Live event cinema seems to be the way forward for independent cinemas, particularly through schemes like the National Theatre Live and the new series of the New York Met Opera. These events are particularly popular at Penrith where audiences have an appetite for cultural experiences that are difficult to access in the North!
Andrew, Jane and Jill all expressed concerns about the future of independent cinema in light of uncertain audience numbers and the expense of screening films. The key message from both organisations was for people to support their local independent and get involved – donate, volunteer, spread the word and sustain your support, not just in times of crisis but as often as you can.
As part of our Weekend of Film we invited people involved with film locally to discuss some of the issues faed by the film industry in Cumbria.
On Sunday 16th November we were joined by Mark Costello & Tony Brown (Cumbria Council for Voluntary Services) , Lyndsey Walker (Wright Walker Production Ltd), Abi Welch (World Film Collective) and Andrew Elliot (Penrith Lonsdale Cinema).
The group met up to discuss both the process of film making, with particular reference low budget films and film funding, focusing on non-traditional methods such as crowd funding.
Creativity formed a large part of the group’s discussions on successful film making. The discussion focused on fostering creativity and how external factors can diminish it. Abi explained how budgetary concerns had led to her struggle creatively, forcing her to seek paid work at the same time as trying to edit her film, splitting her focus. While Mark and Tony both explained that the degree of creativity film makers were given often depended greatly on the remit of the film, who is funding the project and often how many different agencies were involved; all agreeing that generally that the more people involved in the process the less scope for creativity there often is.
These discussions lead the group on to discussing the importance of sharing and collaborating; developing a good team while making a film, being responsive to feedback and fostering good relationships with local volunteers. It was suggested that film makers in Cumbria could benefit greatly from opportunities to meet and work together. Abi highlighted an example in Edinburgh where this happens on a monthly basis. Opportunities to form contacts and make connections with others could be particularly useful when making low budget films the group agreed.
Having talked quite a bit about the pressures of budgets and funding the group then moved their discussions to film funding and crowd funding in particular.
Crowd funding we found out is a method of funding projects by raising money from large numbers of people. Most often done via the internet, people put up their ‘pitch,’ usually in the form of a video and encourage people to support their ideas.
Abi shared her first hand experience of funding her own film ‘Maisha’ a documentary project made with children in Tanzania. Having struggled to find funding in traditional ways she then successfully turned to crowd funding to get her project off the ground.
The group then discussed the success of bigger budget films such as ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Enemy of Man’ who had turned to crowd funding rather than traditional Hollywood producers, keeping their creative freedom in the process and in effect guaranteeing themselves an audience of excited backers when the film was released.
See the trailer for Abi’s upcoming film ‘Maisha’ here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFaoxdawiWA
Lyndsey explained that crowd funding is a proactive and interactive way of getting funding, yet it needs a lot of hard work to get people interested and then to keep them updated. A good story or hook is vital, Abi explained, something to capture people’s imaginations. Many people offer rewards for donations ranging from a simple thank you to personal videos from the film’s stars or tickets to the premier. But success is in no way guaranteed pointed out and many pitches fail to reach their fundraising goals, the group agreed that it is in no way a quick fix to film funding.
Overall the group felt that crowd funding has and exciting and important role to play in the future of film funding, in particular for first timer directors and people who have struggled to get traditional funding elsewhere, that it is a forum for passionate and creative people to promote their ideas and hopefully achieve success.
This weekend we hosted a fantastic new event here at Tullie House, over 400 people came along to our Weekend of Film events. We had 14 film screenings and lots of other activities going on around the museum, here’s a run down of some of the highlights.
The weekend got off to a great start with a screening of LEAVE TO REMAIN with a Q&A with the film’s producer Kate Cook and one of the cast members of the film, Ebrahim Esmail. Leave to Remain explores the hidden world of the UK asylum seeker, with an affecting and sometimes hard to bear script that was written following workshops with teenage asylum seekers, like Ebrahim. Kate answered questions from the audience about how the film was made and the difficulties of getting independent films shown in cinemas. The audience also posed some questions to Ebrahim, a young Iraqi Kurd who was forced to leave Iraq at the age of 15. Whilst filming Leave to Remain Ebrahim was going through the process of getting his own indefinate leave to remain. Thank you so much to Kate and Ebrahim for coming along and making it a very special start to the weekend!
The Weekend of Film got into full swing on Saturday, with screenings in our Lecture Theatre all day, and once the galleries had closed for the day we set up our Border Gallery cinema!
This made a brilliant venue for 5 screenings over the weekend!
Saturday night’s headline screening was the brilliantly funny DOWNHILL, a very British comedy following 4 middle aged men on the Coast to Coast walk through Cumbria and Yorkshire – before the screening Sycamore Sykes provided a great soundtrack in the Film Lounge. We were joined after the film by the director, writer and one of the cast members for a Q&A. Our audience loved the film and had lots of great questions for the guys, including asking about the possibility of a sequel, so watch this space for future screenings of DOWNHILL 2 – although if it happens they may be heading for sunnier shores than ours! 🙂
On Sunday the screenings continued, and we were also joined by animator Robin Webb who shared some of the secrets of stop motion animation with our visitors. Getting them to create characters out of clay and animate them, creating some great clips!
On Sunday night the weekend was brought to an end with a brilliant event to celebrate a simultaneous screening of the hotly anticipated, sell out NORTHERN SOUL! Whilst I was busy with the serious business of conducting A QUIZ CALLED WANDA, our very first film quiz, my colleagues were rushing round, transforming our restaurant into SCREEN 3!
Then the music started and we welcomed more than 130 Northern Soul fans to our Film Lounge for two screenings of the film, followed by a Q&A with the star of the film, Elliot James Langridge – who stayed on afterwards to pose for some pictures with his newest fans!
We host the Weekend of Film, and our Monday Alternative film nights, to bring Carlisle audiences the best of independent, foreign language and documentary films – offering them an alternative to mainstream cinema. Its great to be involved in events like this, and we’re so proud that our film events have been recognised by the BFI Film Audience Network, who supported the event through the Film Hub North.
Now we’re looking forward to next year – to make the event even bigger and better!