The group of Young Programmers who attended the final focus group of the weekend

My Weekend as a Young Programmer

I attended an Independent Cinema Office Screening Weekend and talked about how young people could get more engaged in films.

Fresh off the train home from my holiday in Switzerland, I checked my emails to find that Film Hub South East would be sending me to Leicester to talk to other young people about how the BFI could use their FAN funding to reach out to 16–30 year olds. I had a great time, which had nothing to do with my expenses being covered… okay maybe that was part of it.

The first day of the weekend was a bit of a long slog. I’d been kept up all night by prom-goers in my hotel, and the pipes in my room were screeching, so I was already tired to start with. This was exacerbated by the heavy subject-matter of the films I watched that day. Due to the press embargo, I can’t share my thoughts on these films, but I can say that I saw InSyriated, Loveless and God’s Own Country during the first day. I also had my first focus group, where we did awkward ice-breaker games to get to know each other and shared our thoughts on the films. It was great to hear other people’s ideas on getting people to the cinema, given that ticket prices have been increasing over the years. We talked about hosting events, talks and parties to give audiences more of a reason to watch independent films. I also attended a talk about how the FAN works and the reason for it. It seemed to me that the general opinion was that 16–30 is a wide age range, and a broad audience, so hopefully there will be a few more focus groups, which consider different variables like race, gender, and socioeconomic factors.

Left to right: Adam from Dundee Contemporary Arts, Saffron from Signal Film & Media, Alexandra from BFI Southbank and Sam (me) from the Gulbenkian Cinema, Canterbury.

Once I got back to the hotel, I asked to change room, and after a much better night’s sleep, I set off for the second day of screenings. This time we watched Daphne, Hotel Salvation and Patti Cake$. Just like the day before, we fed back about the films and talked about which films were most needed for the FAN funding, and which films we thought would sell the best. These things are usually quite hard to predict, but just judging by the trailers, I think most people could say that the second day’s films are more accessible from a marketing standpoint.

The final day was much shorter. The only film I watched was one I chose myself — An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power. I was amazed to see reviews saying this film was dull. I was absolutely gripped by Gore’s struggle to take the politics out of climate change and get it into people’s heads that the earth is suffering from carbon emissions. After that, we had our final focus group session, where we spoke to Into Film directly about how they could use films to engage with young people. It was a very insightful conversation, and seemed like they were very much interested in what we had to say as well.

This was a great experience, and I encourage any other young programmers, or cinema volunteers to get involved with these days so that they can get a better picture of what we went to see in films and how to convince our friends to come see them with us. I hope to be able to attend more screening days in the future, and look forward to seeing everyone I met there again!