I thought I’d leave a week until I blogged about last Monday’s ‘Cinematic Backwater‘ debate which kicked off the excellent Fazeley Digital Festival. I thought maybe I’d calm down in the interim, that the underlying issue of ‘does it matter that Norwich get cool films before Birmingham?’ would vex me less.
Suffice to say I’m still vexed. And I’m even a bit more vexed because having now aired the topic in public I could see that I wasn’t alone in feeling frustrated at the current state of film exhibition in the city. For those new to me moaning about this take a read of the original post that resulted in this event being created. I was joined by a fantastic panel: Roger Shannon – Film Producer & academic; Ian Francis – film festival curator; Rachel Carter, Film Producer and co-founder of Fullrange Media.
All agreed that yes, it did matter that some films tend to only get to Birmingham on their second-run. Not all in the audience agreed but in general the discussion covered:
- the dominance of film programming by the few to the detriment of the many;
- questioned whose role audience development is in the region;
- pondered the cultural priorities of a city where Digbeth can have three modern art galleries but no cinemas;
- debated the link between a thriving culture of exhibiting the weird/leftfield/arty/independent and the impact that might have on the films that we produce out of the region.
Roger brought with him a whole bag full of consultants’ reports from the past 20 years that in one way or another touched on the issue of whether Birmingham needs a new arts cinema. He drew our attention in particular to a recent report by Tom Fleming ‘Mixed Art-form and Media Venues in the Digital Age’ (link to PDF).
There was some reference to the Arts Lab/Triangle era and there was much nodding at the suggestion that what we need now is perhaps the best of that (its radical edge for a start) combined with the dynamic and vibrant social media scene that’s currently setting the city apart. That’s perhaps where this discussion should go next.
For me though it still comes back to competitiveness. Those in the city with access to resources and the power to influence decisions need to understand that when Norwich are getting interesting films ahead of us then the time for action is now.