This Way Up Conference

Film Hub South East member Carmen, who is spearheading the Depot Cinema in Lewis, went to This Way Up in Manchester in December 2015 with a Travel and Training Bursary. Here are her thoughts on the event…

THIS WAY UP conference
2-3 December 2015
HOME cinema Manchester

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“THIS WAY UP is an excellent 2-day conference organised by Film Hub North and Film Hub Scotland aimed at all working in the film exhibition sector. Calling itself the ‘film exhibition innovation conference’, this year promised to enlighten, provoke and challenge, connect and share.
The idea originated from the need for the sector to explore how it can remain interesting to an audience that is continually confronted with better equipment (UHD TVs!) and films made by colonisers Amazon and Netflix. The hubs have managed to create a space where decision makers and programmers can brainstorm about new models and opportunities as well as discuss the changing environment. This environment started its dramatic change of course some years back when it opened it’s doors to live theatre and opera etc but equally film has found different platforms via pop-up screenings in all sorts of places, from museums to the outdoors.

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Anna Higgs, Executive Producer of successful films like Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, gave the first keynote speech and was pleading for a more lenient approach to theatrical windows. She underpinned by demonstrating the financial success of A Field in England that was distributed at the same on every platform and was still a box office hit. The attitude being that rather than fighting the audience wishes, to try and work with it.

I attended a panel discussion about gender equality in film – this time not addressing the lack of female filmmakers but the representation of women on film. The main topic of conversation was the Bechdel test* and whether it should become a standardised classification for films. The drawbacks of the test were highlighted, the main ones being that a positive rating does not tell you anything about the quality of the film nor that it is feminist or even that it conveys an understanding about women. Furthermore there are films were women play the lead role but because of the test’s reductive premise, don’t pass the test (Madame Bovary, Ex Machina). Equally there are examples where women play a minor role but still passes passes the test because of some ‘normal’ interaction with another woman (Steve Jobs).

So whether the Bechdel test is the answer is still very much up for discussion but it is important to have that discussion and I will certainly raise this when the Depot is up and running.

* This is first mentioned in a comic strip by US writer Alison Bechdel in which she asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. I learned about an interesting spin-off of this concept where a similar test asks the following question about a film: ‘are non-white people talking to each other about anything else but crime?’. Food for thought.”