Black Country Touring’s Community Cinema

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The Community Cinema project came about when Black Country Touring (BCT) recognised the potential for community cinema in the area following successful pilot screenings in August 2016 with Flatpack Film.

BCT has an existing successful model of working with community promoters and venues to put on high-quality arts, theatre and dance events for people in the area. Next, all they needed was someone to come on board and run it: Introducing Olivia…

Tell us about your role with the Community Cinema project.
My role is to help people interested in running or having a community cinema in their area to get that off the ground. There is a lot more to screening films, in terms of legalities, marketing, programming and logistics, than people sometimes initially think and it can be quite a daunting and off-putting position to be in. I am here to help make this process smoother and a less intimidating prospect. Film is a collaborative art form from the very beginning all the way through to exhibition and chatting with friends and family in your living room or on the cinema car park after watching a film. Screening films requires dealing with and talking to lots of different people and I can help screening films go from being an idea to a reality and hopefully sustainable activity into the future. We also have a mobile kit which is handy.

You’ve been helping community groups put on film events – can you tell us who you have been working with and the different kind of projects?
I’ve met, chatted and worked with a whole load of people who have all been helpful in different ways. CAP Community Centre in Smethwick is a really vibrant place that BCT have worked with for really interesting touring theatre. They hosted ours (and their) first community screening for the younger goers of the centre during Easter Holidays and chose to screen The Jungle Book. I’ve also worked with Finchfield and Castlecroft Community Association in Wolverhampton to organise and arrange their successful outdoor screening of La La Land. This involved bringing another community cinema person onboard in the form of Films in a Flash who provided the technical expertise and equipment. During August we kicked off Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery’s cinema season with Summer Holiday and Sing – it was fantastic to see that film brought local people into the museum who had never been there before. We also put on screenings at Light House Media Centre, Wolverhampton and Forest Arts Centre in Walsall as part of the Alchemy Festival celebrating South Asian arts and culture. Both are wonderful cinemas that everybody should check out. Light House has a fantastic programme of films and events for all different tastes. Flatpack Film Festival has been a wonderful support and have lots of exciting things coming up. 

How long will the project last and what plans do you have for the rest of the project?
Just today I have had two enquiries – one from a church in Stourbridge and another from somebody who is already well into setting up their community cinema but needs a little extra support and advice. It’s encouraging to see the amount of interest in the benefit film can bring to audiences and communities and I am really keen to work on the accessibility of film for people – we have interest from a deaf group which has been really interesting to look into help with programming for.

What do you hope will be the outcome of the Community Cinema?
I hope that there’s a wide variety of filmgoers watching a whole range of films in different venues with different people and really developing the appetite for film and storytelling in the area. It would be great to build a community of Black Country Community Cinema exhibitors and promoters who could support each other, become sustainable and to recognise the social value that film exhibition can bring to a community and also to the well-being of individuals. This would also help to support the fantastic cinemas on our doorstep – including Light House and Forest Arts – and to nurture film exhibition for the future.
Nobody is excluded from the project. Part of the great thing about community cinema is that it is completely adaptable to audience and space. The audience is key to programming and crucial to the experience and we encourage them to let us know what they thought of the film and experience and also to make suggestions for the future. Community cinemas almost always run entirely on a voluntary basis so if you are interested in film exhibition in any way, or have skills you can offer to screen events, or would like to develop, I’d love to hear from you.

EVENTS COMING UP
3rd November
CAP Community Centre in Smethwick
Britain on Film: Black Britain
As part of a belated celebration of Black History Month

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