Long Crendon Film Club in Buckinghamshire was the first Cinema For All Member to hold a screening as part of the BFI Love season that ran from October to December 2015. Major Seasons Booking Assistant Mark Riddington spoke to Peter Wolfes about how the club set up, and how they participated in the national celebration of love on screen.
As a relatively young film club, what was has been your experience been like in the first few years?
Now in our fourth season it has been a steep but exciting learning curve setting up the film club.
Like any volunteer project you need a crew and like so many projects we have a small committed team but recruiting more people is a problem. Luckily as a BAFTA member the programming side is familiar to me. With a season of thirty films it is a challenge to schedule a broad range of films and keep ‘bums on seats’. We luckily received a £5k local grant that gave us a great start financing a fixed installation with a HD projector, electric screen and sound system. As we have grown, part of our profit has gone to upgrading for a new sound system. The venue now feels like a mini-Picturehouse.
As part of our local community library, now run as a charity, our aim was to bring cinema to our community and raise money toward the upkeep of the library. Annually we plough back £4k from our profits which is a real achievement.
What is the appetite for film like in Long Crendon?
At first I thought we would get an overall appreciative ‘film society’ audience. Life is not like that. Not everybody knows what films are on release and the overall taste factor varies enormously. I would say we have built trust in our programming over the years and our audience is now more willing to see films they would not normally go and see like Ida and Whiplash. Like many films clubs our audience profile leans to the over-50s although we are slowly attracting a younger audience. We did get a couple of youngsters for Mad Max:Fury Road.
How do you feel the BFI LOVE Season has benefited Long Crendon Film Club?
Being part of BFI LOVE proved a small rural film club can be part of a nationwide event. The fact we were the first club to screen a film in the event received a round of applause from our audience. The extra administration was worth the effort particularly as the event was supported with £150 towards the screening. We screened A Matter of Life and Death and made it more of an evening by having a speaker introduce the film and talk about the context of making the film in 1946. The event was very well attended – we were at 80% capacity. The audience filled out a questionnaire which was great data for us to look at, and helped us understand more about their appreciation of the film, likes and dislikes.
How do you approach programming?
We definitely take advantage of screening films that are out of the ordinary. So many great independent titles have such a short cinema release that they barely raise awareness. Around twenty new films are released weekly! We cherry pick the best and it’s almost like they are being shown for the first time. It is a question of trust between programmer and audience. It took a while to get there with a few disasters along the way – Mr Baker and Behind the Candelabra come to mind. Outweighed now by success with films like Ida, The Rocket, Whiplash and Nebraska. The general comment is “I would not have seen, or known about that film, but it was really good!”
Would you recommend taking part in a BFI Major Season to other film societies and communities cinemas?
Go for it! The feeling of being part of BFI LOVE is worth the extra admin, and your screening is supported by the BFI, so it’s win-win.
What sort of Major Season would you like to see in the future?
Another BFI season would be much appreciated….. British Cinema would be my choice of subject.