ICO Cultural Exhibition Course, Day 1


Today was the beginning of the Independent Cinema Office’s Cultural Exhibition Course, held at the BFI Southbank. It runs till Friday, and I’ll be tweeting (via @splendorcinema) and blogging about it.

After a basic outline of the ins and outs of exhibition and distribution from the ICO’s David Sin (who was best when he went off script and told us the implications of the European Court case of pub landlady versus Sky), we had an interesting talk from Julie Pierce, Head of Programme Planning for the BFI.

As a massive fan of the BFI’s retrospectives and seasons, it was fascinating to hear how they put the programme together, with some of the seasons (like Godard) taking up to two years to research and book. They have 9 programmers for 4 screens, which is a luxurious amount of staff, and which allows them to put on such magnificent films.

Then we had an amusing presentation from Richard Boyd, Technical Manager at the BFI, who again, amazed us with the ridiculous amount of resources this venerable institution (rightly) has: £200,000 spent recently on two film projectors, and weekly testing of all equipment. Interesting to hear that the BFI Southbank has the only public license in the UK to screen nitrate film, a very flammable (and familiar to anyone who’s seen Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) and dangerous substance that hasn’t been used in film prints for 60 years.

After some lunch, former Dukes programmer and friend Jason Wood (now head of programming at Curzon) joined Tracey Hyde from Saffron Screen for a panel on programming. Jason is always a funny, engaging speaker, and he knows his stuff. He outlines some of the ambitious plans Curzon has in store: putting other distributor’s films on their On Demand service, programming the Cornerhouse in Manchester, opening new Curzon sites in University towns across the UK, and also their recent acquisitions in Cannes: Artificial Eye (Curzon’s sister company) will be distributing the Von Trier, the Dardennes, the Kaurismaki, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. That’s an impressive lineup.

Some of Jason’s pearls of wisdom for the day: “There’s a danger that cinema will become alternative content”. And “A Judi Dench film means an onslaught of comfortable shoes” and when talking about the danger of losing young audiences to On Demand: “ There’s no audience to be lost, cause they’re not there”.

We finished the day with an interesting panel on non-theatrical exhibition, which included the Flatpack Festival, the ‘open-source’ Star and Shadow venue in Newcastle and the Slough Film Society (which is apparently filled with Communists!).

Next, on Cultural Exhibition: Audience Development. Cutural Diversity, Programming for children and the distributor’s perspective!