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Opening Our Doors

On Thursday 17 January, Film Hub Scotland and Toki and Yasmine from FAN Inclusive Cinema hosted Opening Our Doors at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. An invited group of Scottish exhibitors, including our Amplify cohort, spent a day of discussion, talks and activity focused on sustainable and meaningful ways to create diverse, inclusive cinema spaces.

Myriam Mouflih, programmer at Africa in Motion (AIM), board member of Glasgow Film and a committee member of Transmission Gallery, started the day with a fitting quote from Creative Scotland’s Equality Matters Screen EDI Review (2017): 

“Film has the potential to be the most representative and diverse art form of our time - 
it not only reflects changing attitudes people and places, it allows us to revisit the past, anticipate the future and engage with cultures beyond our own communities.”

Myriam reflected on the BFI’s Inclusion Principles and how AIM responds to these challenges via non-hierarchical, participatory programming, hiring and training interns from non-film backgrounds, and working directly with local communities and People of Colour (read more about these here). Myriam emphasised how important it is to engage with people from the groups you’re aiming your programme/festival at; this can be as simple as a focus group or a work experience scheme. Myriam also addressed issues of regular funding and sustainability - many festivals run on a tiny staff year-round with limited time and money, so funders and bigger organisations should think about what they can do to take on some of this load, offering training, support, and screening spaces to smaller groups and festivals. 

Next Umulkhayr Mohamed, a graduate of the ICO’s FEDS programme and Project Assistant for Anim18, challenged the group to consider their Unconscious Bias and White Privilege, and how it influences their work. We should look around at our organisations, boards and audiences and see if they truly reflect the world around us. How many POC work with you? What positions do they hold, and do they contribute to programming and marketing decisions? Do you celebrate cultural holidays other than Christmas, and does your programming reflect the diversity of your local community. 

If your community isn’t very diverse, don’t shy away from creating a culturally programme - this is key to broadening horizons and challenging perceptions, as well as forging links to the rest of the world. Um also highlighted that the burden of non-racist programming and practice should not fall to POC, but rather to institutions and those responsible for programming and hiring decision-making, who should be committed to actively opposing Unconscious Bias across all levels of the organisation.

Film marketing specialist Jo Taylor has produced grassroots film campaigns for films including Moonlight, I, Daniel Blake and Patti Cake$, and shared some of her previous work and easy tips to create a buzz around film programmes. She emphasised the importance of partners when promoting a film/cinema - who can you work with in your area? Who already has a following that could bring new people to your event? To engage a young, diverse audience for Moonlight, Jo commissioned spoken word artists to respond to the film (at HOME Manchester), a live graffiti piece (in Birmingham’s Custard Factory) and produced ‘vox pops’ of audience reactions - these are easy to produce and share, even with an iPhone! She also encouraged creative thinking when it comes to event planning - does a younger audience necessarily buy a ticket because of a Q&A or introduction, or is a bar event or music more suited. It’s vital to tap into what audiences will respond to emotionally, and what makes your programme or venue unique.

SQIFF’s Helen Wright led a discussion on simple strategies to welcome LGBTQ+ people into our cinemas and festivals. SQIFF offers a travel fund for those who might struggle to attend and sliding scale pricing, an honesty-based ticketing system devised by Leeds Queer Film Festival now being used by festivals and cinemas across the UK. Gender neutral toilets and accessible, safe screening locations create a welcoming space for those who might not feel comfortable in traditional cinema spaces, and prioritise comfort and openness over rigid rules. Helen also noted that as a festival programmer using sliding scale pricing, opening a dialogue with distributors can lead to reduced fees and better terms.

The group then noted down their personal learnings and goals based on the day’s discussions. Watch this space to see how these were put into action!

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