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FHS Support: Matchbox Cineclub

We're delighted to be supporting the work of Matchbox Cineclub, the Glasgow-based purveyors of weird, wonderful and underseen cinema, as well as viral sensations Cagearama and Keanucon. Forthcoming plans include the return of Weird Weekend, a celebration of the strangest celluloid gems from years past, and Scalarama - the nationwide festival of screenings that anyone can be a part of. We spoke to programmer and producer Sean Welsh about his plans for the coming year. 

Tell us about Matchbox Cineclub and what you do.

Matchbox is an independent exhibitor, specialising in screenings and film events that you hopefully won’t find anywhere else. We generally focus on the orphans, outcasts and outliers of cinema - films not on DVD/Blu Ray, VoD/streaming, or in cinemas. There are plenty of exceptions, but that’s what we aim for, and we always make sure our events have something special about them that makes them worthwhile.

We’ve also started producing festival events - Cage-a-rama (Scotland’s first Nicolas Cage film festival), Weird Weekend (strange and unseen cinema from around the world) and KeanuCon, what we’re told is the world’s first Keanu Reeves film festival. We’ve collaborated with Glasgow Film Festival, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Document Film Festival, Africa In Motion Film Festival, Pity Party Film Club, She’s En Scene Community Cinema, Venom Mob Film Club, Backseat Bingo, Sad Girl Cinema, Remakesploitation Film Club, SQIFF and Edinburgh International Film Festival. It all falls broadly under the banner of cult film.

I also coordinate Scalarama in Scotland, focussing on Glasgow/West (the other coordinators are Amanda Rodgers in Edinburgh/East and Neil Hepburn in the Highlands and Islands). Matchbox Cineclub administers funding provided by Film Hub Scotland for Scalarama activity in Scotland.

How Film Hub Scotland funding has helped you to reach new audiences and continue your work?

Film Hub has supported us to take part in the ICO’s REACH course in 2017-18, to attend ICO’s 2018 Young Audiences Screening Day and, through Pitch Pots, to market the inaugural Weird Weekend and enhance Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged with a live event (Tara Judah and Ti Singh’s Going Full Cage). Film Hub’s support has also helped us engage in a number of co-screenings this year, intended to boost and enhance new film activity in Glasgow.

So far we’ve teamed with the brand-new Venom Mob Film Club and the resurgent Backseat Bingo. Later in the year, we’ll collaborate with Sad Girl Cinema and we’re also planning to run an open call for another new collaborator to pitch a co-screening to us.

How did Scalarama start in Scotland? What have been your highlights so far?

Scalarama in Scotland has been growing for a number of years now, to the point we have 60+ events across the country every September. Scalarama was originally inspired by the eclectic programming and inclusivity of the Scala Cinema in London. Which is to say, it’s a broad church that takes a love for watching films with other people as its common ground. Some take the opportunity to pay homage to the more eccentric, transgressive, art-house or cult-y programming of the Scala, but you’ll also find documentary, children’s films, romance, mainstream Hollywood and moving image work across the calendar. Events take place in a wide range of venues, from brick and mortar cinemas to roaming yurts, from multi-arts venues to pub back rooms. 

Over the last few years, highlights have included: Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy, an extremely rare outing for a five-hour montage of pop culture ephemera, screened by Matchbox Cineclub in Glasgow’s The Old Hairdressers; a packed Hedwig and the Angry Inch with live, transgressive drag acts, all programmed by Pity Party Film Club; a series of ultra-widescreen Cinerama presentations situated in the bay window of a tenement living room as part of the Radical Home Cinema series; a screening of Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens, with live punk music courtesy of Reel Girl Film Club; a programme of brand-new Borscht Collective shorts in Glasgow’s Rum Shack presented by Glasgow Short Film Festival; and much, much more.

How can people get involved in Scalarama this year?

All you need to take part is 1) a film-related event that 2) happens in September which is 3) registered at scalarama.com. Anyone already screening films can opt-in to the Scalarama calendar and get the benefit of the licence discounts and the group marketing, which is Scotland and UK wide, print and online. Past participants have included festivals like SQIFF, GSFF, Take One Action and Document, as well as indie exhibitors like Matchbox Cineclub, Pity Party Film Club and VHS Trash Fest. And there’s always brand-new exhibitors who start up for the Scalarama season every year.

However, in Glasgow and Edinburgh we also run monthly meetings for people who want to be more engaged with Scalarama as a group event - no matter what their level of experience. These are open to all and all are welcome. This year, with Film Hub’s support, I’ve invited two expert speakers to every meeting in Glasgow up until the print deadline in July to present on different aspects of film exhibition. The idea is that complete beginners can learn from scratch how to screen films (everything from licensing to social media), those with a little experience can get/share advice and everyone, particularly the most experienced, is encouraged to share knowledge and resources. The aim is to encourage a collegial and cooperative sector, with all exhibitors also supporting each other’s activities throughout the year.

Anyone interested can get in touch with us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ScalaramaGlasgow/) or via email: scaledoniaglasgow@gmail.com!

Do you have any top tips for how programmers can make their film clubs and screenings accessible to young audiences?

Matchbox Cineclub’s door is always open to anyone looking for support or advice, and it’s always free to beginners. One of the most basic things is word of mouth. Your first audience will be mostly be people you know or you might take for granted and if you deliver something worthwhile, that circle will grow quickly enough. That principle, I think, holds for film clubs, cinemas and film festivals. And it follows that, if you want younger audiences, you need younger programmers, and by that I mean young people practically and sincerely engaged (and supported to progress) within your organisation.

Cost is also a huge factor, so make your tickets as cheap as possible (although do budget properly so you know you can cover costs and keep going) or, better yet, use the sliding scale ticketing model so that everyone is encouraged to pay what they can afford, from nothing upwards. Guidance is key to that model, so that it’s easy for people to figure out what they should pay, rather than just saying “pay what you can”. We try to engage personally with our audience at events and online, and on a level pegging, to make sure they feel welcome and involved. And we continue to work to
improve general accessibility at all our events, including introducing captions/descriptive subtitling for all screenings.

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