This Way Up 2017

30th July 2018 10 Minute Read

Film Hub NI offers bursaries to those working in film exhibition who wish to develop their skills and network with peers. In 2017, we awarded Sarah Kelly, Finance Officer at QFT a bursary to attend.

I went to the ‘This Way Up’ Conference with no expectations having never attended one before. Being the Queen’s Film Theatre Finance Officer I think everyone assumed I would have no place at or interest in attending the UK’s annual film exhibition innovation conference! So I plucked up the courage and asked to go, thankfully the support from the Film Hub and QFT meant I was able to go and see what colleagues have been so excited about in previous years.  From talking to colleagues my initial hopes where to help the QFT diversify its income streams and develop a better understanding of the business model, our customers and future potential customers.

Arriving at Hull Truck Theatre after a busy morning travelling was exciting. After registration and receiving our This Way Up badges and tote bags, filled with info, we knew what to expect over the next 2 days. First up was the Welcome session where, the highlight for me, was listening to an engaging and passionate talk by keynote speaker Jenny Sealey. This focused on the importance of not only making our venues accessible for D/Deaf and disabled customers but on bringing work by D/Deaf and disabled artists/actors/directors to our screens.

Another very interesting session was Exploring European Innovation, a discussion between Tara Judah and Boglárka Nagy on the Importance of engaging young audiences and instilling in them the importance of the social communal cinema experience. With online streaming sites on the rise the importance of hooking future generations into watching films in a cinema is a challenge. A target for QFT is increasing our student attendance but now being able to understand the implications for our sector not achieving this, makes it more important. Integrating teenagers with our cinema and building an emotional attachment to the cinema experience should help future proof the industry. Another thought from this session was exploring the spaces in our venue that we have available and are currently underutilising.

The ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ session on security and safeguarding of cultural events was very relevant in light of the sexual harassment revelations. With my finance angle I found it interesting to consider whether organisations under pressure to cut costs do so at the expense of staff and customer safety. For example, only sending one person to meet a visiting Director instead of two people to cut costs could leave the staff member vulnerable. Hull City Council’s Helen spoke about the importance of working with local authorities and being aware of local initiatives to protect our customers and staff. One initiative ‘Ask Angela’ caught my interest and I was excited to return and tell our Front of House team of this campaign.

I attended various sessions and listened to the speakers and importantly the audience questions and discussions that followed. During the conference I met with peers in various roles in the industry (no other Finance Officers, although I’m hoping that will change in future years) all giving me a little more insight into the industry as a whole. The love of film and passion for the cinematic experience permeated the conference and left me excited to go home to the QFT and continue to ensure the legacy of communal cinema.

Attending ‘This Way Up’ has helped me see QFT’s place and importance in the broader cinema community and realise that many of our struggles are felt across the industry. QFT, an independent cultural cinema in NI, is performing well for its size, number of screens and capacity. This can be overlooked when measuring against targets and answering to various stakeholders. Attending the conference has reinforced the importance of supporting narrative alongside presenting figures to ensure the overall context is considered. The sector as a whole is facing new challenges and being part of the movement to overcome these needs to be fought together.

This Way Up 18 takes place in Liverpool on 5th and 6th December. All details are here. We'll be there! 

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