The low-down on This Way Up
Audrey the vintage mobile cinema and some keen delegates
22nd February 2018
Three young people from the BFI Film Academy share their experience of the film exhibition innovation conference and its special guest, Audrey the vintage mobile cinema.
Back in November we took Audrey, the vintage mobile cinema, to Hull for This Way Up, the exhibition innovation conference.
Delegates included participants in the BFI Film Academy Residential: Film Programming, run by Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, and we asked three of them – Xeb, Katie and Sara – to report back on their experience.
The BFI Film Academy provides opportunities for talented and committed young people between the ages of 16-19 to develop new skills and build a career in the film industry, no matter where they live or what their background.
Applications for the next residential (in July 2018) open in April.
Xeb lives on the Isle of Wight. He’s studying English literature, fine art and film studies:
Travelling over 300 miles north meant my first film conference experience was going to have to be a worthwhile one: participating in This Way Up provided two days of networking with successful, inspirational and thought-provoking people. As a student of film – and an aspiring director – discussing the future of film offered priceless insight and encouragement from accomplished individuals such as Jenny Sealey MBE, artistic director of Graeae Theatre Company, and adventurer and author Alice Morrison.
As I’m sure many would agree, finding your path in life can be tough, full of dead ends, roundabouts and one-way roads, but in her keynote, Alice Morrison gave invaluable advice about how success can come from failure. Her tremendous descriptions of her many adventures opened my eyes to the world I want to improve, while sharing tales of self-conflict, overcoming setbacks and describing the victory of pushing your boundaries. Not only did she make me feel ambitious, but despite the scale of the earth and her achievements in comparison to mine, she made me feel significant. Everybody attending This Way Up was generous with advice and welcoming as human beings, creating an atmosphere of home within the film industry.
As the title suggests,This Way Up was a package, feeling like a gift, with the vintage mobile cinema, Audrey, as an extra treat. Audrey is a magnificently beautiful cinema, with a comfortable aura of authenticity, screening quality films. Returning for film after film, I was introduced to stunning projects from students and independent filmmakers alike, particularly the Astounding Animation, Flare Films and Random Acts programmes.
Looking at breaking down divisions in society and standing apart from the norm, String by Chris Pugh presents a world in which everyone’s life is set out for them, without choice over where you go or who you meet – a visual metaphor for the lives most people live. The complex meaning of the symbolic string immerses the viewer in a profound sense of hope.
Poles Apart, directed by Paloma Baeza, conveys the conflict in human nature, struggling over the fight between one’s own existence and the safety of another, showing two different types of bear with one very equal goal: to live. This stunning animation reflects the prejudices in society and the desperation for peace – the fantastic work put into this short film carries a message that This Way Up pushed to discuss: that the unity of different communities and technologies will develop not only our film scene, but society as we know it. Similarly, the simplistic This Is Colour by Josh Wildman encourages the audience to embrace love of all kinds and abolish hate of the different.
Katie is from Milton Keynes, where she is studying A-levels in creative writing, film studies, English literature and language, art and extended project qualification:
I tend to remember things in small segments: I collect my memories as striking sounds or smells or sights. Names and dates tend to elude me most of the time. I always compare my memories to small, isolated clips of film. My memories of the This Way Up film conference are no different. I remember the hotel we were staying in was green. The walls were the usual cream, the floor was most likely a dark shade of brown, but the sign outside blazed a tacky neon green. I loved it.
I remember the conference as surprisingly tasty coffee, as vast auditoriums and padded red chairs. I remember the speakers standing and smiling and gesturing as they talked about the importance of new technology alongside film. I remember five grown adults kneeling on the stage desperately clutching bananas as they played with said new technology. I can still hear the crowd’s warm murmuring laughter and the urgency in their voices as they asked their sharp questions about the industry they love so much.
One of my favourite attractions of the conference was parked about fifteen metres from the official building. Audrey, the vintage mobile cinema, was a bright burst of white against the sodden grey sky. About every forty-five minutes her doors would open and a group of us would plod up her steps to brave the padded, albeit chilly, seats for the advertised thirty-minute film experience.
After my first venture on to the bus I couldn’t wait till the next showing, although from then on I made sure to remember to don my coat and grab a cup of something steaming. Over the two days I managed to sneak out to Audrey three times, catching documentaries, an animation programme, and a compilation of short films from Random Acts. All the Busy Ings by Robyn Wilton was an experimental, artistic film, using sound and images rather than words and a direct plotline to create an interesting short. The movie used colour to intrigue without bearing forth an overwhelming moral or message, making it interesting to immerse in and just watch.
The animation Poles Apart by Paloma Baeza was also one of my favourites, as both an artist and someone concerned with the environment I thought it was a very powerful, funny yet dark movie. Both bears were endearing to watch, their mismatched friendship played out well, with both bringing out the best in each other despite the worst of situations. I was really moved by this piece, it made me quite upset to think about all the animals driven to desperation and starvation because of our carelessness.
Random Acts was my favourite programme. As a student, filmmaker and avid film watcher, I enjoyed being able to pry and see what my peers were out there creating. The movies were short yet poignant and all beautifully made. Especially String by Chris Pugh, depicting people who live their lives chasing a piece of red string. The movie used colour well, making the background grey and bleak, focusing on the string that people were trapped in and on visuals over dialogue.
Sara lives in Milton Keynes where she is studying art, film studies, product design and extended project qualification:
The vintage mobile cinema, Audrey, is what we have all been waiting for! The cleverly designed space allows for a fully working cinema to showcase round the world talent through film and it is like a home away from home. I have been intrigued by vintage cameras, projectors and recorders for the past couple of years and Audrey brings back the nostalgia of the vintage age at its finest.
This Way Up brought everyone together, the new and the old, to share with each other their experiences and learn from others so we can revitalise the industry and see a new opportunity from a different angle. We were invited to attend the conference as alumni of the BFI Film Academy, which I greatly recommend to anyone aged 16-19. It was an opportunity to get a real insight into where the film industry is heading and what could be done to increase the number of people getting involved, from watching a feature film at their local cinema to hosting an educational film club.
Two full days of packed lectures and films awaited us, every hour a new film programme was screened. As I was one of the youngest people at This Way Up, I was particularly interested in Random Acts – critically acclaimed short films made by young people.
One of the key points was discovering how the film industry is still able to boom even when competing with live streaming websites. One of the panels – Vaults and Voices – discussed how so many old film reels aren’t being put into archives. Most are sold as scrap, melted down to make women’s high heels. For example, there was only one of George Méliès films left until they began to search for others in private collections and old cinemas. Turns out there are more than 80 of his films, only found because people kept them, because they loved them. The mobile cinema offered an opportunity to revisit the past but see the future of film. People were brought together within its small space.