Saturday, 28 May 2011

ICO Cultural Exhibition Course, Day 5: The End

Yesterday was the final day in the ICO Cultural Exhibition Course and we finished with an overview of the marketplace and looking towards the future.

To this end, we had a panel discussion titled ‘The Way Forward for Cultural Cinema” with Eddie Berg (pictured), Artistic Director of the BFI, Ed Fletcher, from Soda Pictures, and Ian Christie, respected film historian and Vice-President of Europa Cinemas. It started with Ian’s presentation, which in true academic style, delivered no strong opinions, but asked a lot of questions; good questions. “Does film education translate into cinema admissions?” “Will alternative content spell the end of arthouse cinema?”

Ed Fletcher, never a man to withhold his opinions, presented the antithesis of Ian’s own talk with a strong rant about the difficult arthouse market, placing a lot of the blame for things at exhibitors door. He pointed to the change in ownership of many of the main exhibitors as an explanation for what he sees increasingly commercial programming. I found his talk quite condescending and arrogant, but a lot of that might have to do with his own personality.

Eddie Berg followed with a very different approach. He speaks in the way that people in very senior executive positions do, in small sentences that are loaded with meaning, a very logical (and some would say dry) and circular way that you really have to focus to get your head around. He talked about three different venues, the Bell Light box in Toronto, the Eye in Amsterdam and the American Museum of Moving Image in New York. He then explained the BFI’s own plans for a National Film Centre and the balance between the need for a monolithic center and the lack of regional film centers and even screens.

After our break we presented our fictional projects to the class, but I think fatigue had set in, especially as we were locked in the awful basement spaces all day with no air. The class looked a bit ragged and was aching for our final drinks, which followed in the studio space upstairs.

Overall, I think that given my master’s degree and my experience in Venice, I didn’t get as much out of this course as some of the others, but I met some fantastic people and witnessed some lively debates about the industry in the UK. I was also trying to gather as much info and contacts ahead of my new job in Stratford, which starts next week.

We need more, not less exhibitor training, so I hope that Skillset continue to support this important work in the future and there is a Cultural Exhibition Course in 2012.


  1. Rather than blaming exhibitors, my 'rant' was about working together across the cultural sector to achieve shared objectives for cultural cinema.
    And by the way, I didn't refer to the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse as a 'trendy wine bar', I was talking about the Cambridge Arts Cinema which if you go to Cambridge, you'll see is now a trendy wine bar!

  2. Thanks for the correction - I have now corrected it and apologies for the misunderstanding. I look forward to working together, it's just the way you spoke I didn't get the sense that that's what you were communicating.