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Film Hub London Members talk techniques and trends from This Way Up

Date posted: 22.12.2015

With the help of Film Hub London, two London-based exhibitors attended This Way Up - a two-day film exhibition innovation conference run by Film Hubs NWC, North and Scotland of the BFI Film Audience Network.

We spoke to Film Hub London Members Adriana Bielkova (Velvet4Film) and Katie Brandwood (Stanley's Film Club) to find out what they learned from the experience.

Why they attended

Both our attendees were clear about what they wanted to get out of the conference.  Adriana was ready to "talk, listen and discuss films, for 48 hours straight," while Katie says that she was hoping "to be inspired." Having only set up Stanley's Film Club in South London relatively recently, she is "looking for ways to engage with the community, build a regular audience and maintain a broad and relevant film programme."

The programme

Adriana and Katie both experienced some genuinely eye-opening moments during the conference as a result of listening to panel discussions and interactive workshops.

Adriana was particularly struck by keynote speaker Anna Higgs' comment that in film exhibition, "we're not in a 'if you built it, they will come' market anymore." This, Adriana admits, was initially a novel idea. "As someone who screens 'obscure' films from central Europe, it is easy to feel that my events are filling a gap in the exhibition sector and therefore feel entitled to audiences. But of course it doesn't work like that. Therefore, it is crucial to be critically thinking about who your audiences are. The questions are endless and you may not have the answers right away. However, asking is better than doing nothing."

"Phrases such as 'thinking out of the box' and 'putting yourself in their shoes' were used repeatedly throughout the conference," Adriana continues. "They highlighted the need to reverse the way film exhibitors think about audiences." She tells us that this was brilliantly summed up by another attendee: "It's not audiences who are hard to reach, it's us!".

Similarly, Katie refers to several 'light bulb' moments throughout the conference, such as learning that only 3% of the UK's population attend the cinema on a weekly basis and could be considered 'film buffs'. Exhibitors, she says, should therefore "not assume prior knowledge of a film of genre, as this will alienate the majority of cinema-goers."

Katie reports that F-Rated (a panel discussion on gender balance in film programmes), Not For The Likes of You? (an interactive session focused on how to engage 'hard to reach' audiences) and Copy with Confidence (a workshop on writing effective marketing copy to engage potential audiences) were the discussions that she felt would be immediately useful to her work.

Overall experiences

As a result of attending the conference, Katie noted three positive steps that she'll take in her work as an exhibitor: "1) To address gender balance in my programming. 2) To use the given advice to target 'hard to reach' communities. 3) To re-assess my marketing copy and materials, and make sure I am communicating with my audiences in 'their language'."

Adriana sums up her experience at the conference with the following: "I hope that This Way Up continues in force for years to come and truly challenges the exhibition sector. The level of honesty during the panels and workshops was refreshing. It's all too easy to talk about what we do so well but the only way to move up is to tell the sometimes uncomfortable truth. But if that uncomfortable truth prompts you to action, it's all that matters."

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