This Way Up 2017 is taking place in Hull, the City of Culture. The conference sees film exhibitors from across the country come together to discuss the current issues facing the film exhibition industry in the UK. Over two days, panelists will be discussing a range of subjects that are at the forefront of the minds of those working in the independent film sector; namely the need for change, the importance of the safety and security of staff in all organisations, and the importance of seeing ethical practices being reinforced across all areas of the industry.
The day kicked off with three keynote speeches, delivered by Moira Sinclair, CEO of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director of the Graeae Theatre Company, and Simran Hans, writer and programmer.
CEO of Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Sinclair’s keynote focused primarily on resilience. At a time of great uncertainty, Sinclair highlighted the need for strength, camaraderie and change in this tough time for the exhibition industry. As the CEO of a funding body, she highlighted that a successful business model must include taking care of staff, investing in humans, and sharing a vision to serve communities. Without a key sense of who your serving; artists, audiences and participants, then the purpose becomes muddled and lost. This is why, as Sinclair pointed out, organisations should not be looking to fit their vision around what funding bodies want; it is counter productive and loses a vital sense of purpose. Resilience is vital, and everyone in the community can benefit from a willingness and desire to learn how to be better.
Jenny Sealey, MBE- Engaging D/deaf and disabled audiences
Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company
Jenny Searle MBE delivered a powerful keynote, confronting the dire need in the exhibition industry to engage D/deaf and disabled audiences. Sealey highlighted the uncomfortable truth that, whilst diversity has moved along in recent times, D/deaf and disabled people are still very much being left in the dark; overlooked for work, and underrepresented in all areas of the arts. We still exist in a time where it is acceptable for able bodied actors to play disabled characters. Sealey’s solution is not radical; ask D/deaf and disabled people what they want. Work with and hire D/deaf and disabled people and engagement will increase.
Simran Hans- Reviewing Ethical Practices in the Exhibition Industry
Writer and Film Programmer
Simran’s keynote honed in on the importance of organisations practicing what they preach. As we celebrate the diversity that is flourishing with the rise of independent film collectives, she questioned how much we can celebrate without gaining a full understanding of what this means; are these collectives being fairly compensated for their work? Are young programmers and new members of the film industry really benefiting from the work they’re being offered if they’re not being paid? And what will our industry look like if only those who can afford to work for free take part? Simran also touched on the more recent issues concerning the London living wage, and how ushers in cinemas are being treated; a seemingly endemic issue in the Capital. With diversity being co-opted by organisations who don’t follow ethical practices, Simran concluded with a call to arms, to dismantle the inequality faced within the industry.
All three keynotes, and the following discussion chaired by Gaylene Gould, Head of Cinemas and Events at the BFI, demonstrated that the audience, as well as the speakers, all feel the need for change.
The need for radical change permeated every session throughout the day. Whether this be through abandoning tired programming practices in order to serve community cinemas better, enforcing better working conditions for staff, or developing codes of ethics for new technologies that will serve as a litmus test for future generations, an animated audience and thoughtful speakers generated a real sense of community within the auditorium.
What’s clear is that there is a real sense of community and togetherness within the film industry, with everyone fighting for the same cause. What’s important now is acting on those needed changes to create a better industry for everyone.