The second instalment of Anna Kime's blog from Art House Convergence 2015.
Tuesday 20th January
'The bar is so low it is a joke' - Ellen Tejle on The Bechdel
A brave start - speed networking before 9am. What I learnt:
you need a facilitator, it is distinctly un-British, but a great way to hone
your pitch and everyone had heard of Sheffield thanks to Doc/Fest. This was
actually an energising start to the day and a good opportunity to plug our
roundtable on Wednesday.
I'm very envious of the AHC2015 app - with three parallel sessions running
the majority of the time, the ability to create your own itinerary is most
helpful, you can also set reminders so you don't miss cocktail hour. Are there
any developers out there keen to take this on for #TWU15 I wonder?
Now we have the official opening, I have to admit - it’s
been a little confusing - having a day with Salt Lake City Film Society and an
opening party before any formal welcome which we now get three-fold.
Russ Collins who has been involved in AHC since its
inception begins. The AHC mission is to increase the quantity and quality of
arthouse cinema and to promote the culture and value of cinema in a community
setting and the rich and diverse nature of the cinema market. This feels very
similar to our own BFI FAN Reach/Breath/Depth objectives. He goes on to
describe their support for artistic expression, freedom of speech and social
justice. Whilst I doubt independent cinemas in the UK would challenge this it
is a point of difference that AHC take direct ownership of these values.
Keynotes by Stephanie Silverman (Managing Director, Belcourt
Theatre, Nashville) and Jody Arlington (Acting Director, IFP Festival Forum)
follow. Stephanie invites delegates to 'agressively refute the myth of the
dying arthouse' and to celebrate 'the uniqueness of you' maintaining AHC's
One reason for the excitment and energy in the room is AHC's
recent involvement in the campaign for cinemas to show The Interview. This successful intervention is cited
frequently as an example of the influence the arthouse or 'non-profit' sector
can bring to bear.
Sally and I have divided and conquered the AHC schedule so
head over to her blog for other sessions and better jokes.
I start with Avenue ISR
Presents the National Audience Survey. Sherwood Smith (Founder/Managing
Director) is particularly deft at presenting the trends and patterns from
20,000 respondents at over 30 art house cinemas. I like the motivations chosen
to describe why a respondent visits their respective cinema: 'sparks my
curiosity, makes life enjoyable, makes me a more well-rounded person, makes me
more tolerant of other points of view'. The confident summary was a direct link
between proximity to art house cinemas and overall quality of life - what more
could we want?!
In Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for
the 21st Century, Gene Carr is equally energetic. Taken from his book Gene takes us through approaches to CRM, email
marketing, website design and social media which are so logical I was
embarrassed not to be doing them already. My favourites were: never use the
'send to everyone on my list' button and to identify who your really engaged
audiences are (repeat attendees or those consistently opening your emails) and
have special offers for them.
AHC is peppered with impressive keynotes. After lunch we
hear from film critic Anne Thompson. Indiewire covered her session here and I highly recommend her blog
for ongoing industry insights.
Next up is No Sexism Please - We're Swedish. I was really
thrilled to meet Ellen Tejle having been an admirer of her invention - The
Bechdel Test for some time. This simple certification
highlights the endemic gender inequality in the films we watch. To be awarded
the A rating a film must feature two named women who have a conversation about
something other than men. As Ellen says ‘the bar is so low it is a joke’ which
given how few films pass rather underlines her point. Ellen has gained
international news coverage for this initiative and I can see how it could be
employed effectively in the UK – perhaps the BFI could take it into account
when funding films?
Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director
gave a timely closing keynote, again, inspired by the recent events around The
Interview. Her speech is covered in Filmmaker Magazine here.
She made a good point that interest in the film’s VOD
performance had been raised and went on to announce that Sundance are working
on a framework to gather and report this information – watch this space.