tct 10: cine yorkshireBack
Part of Hollywood’s appeal has always been its distant glamour. Escape for two hours into the lives of the characters on screen; then escape for hours more by imagining yourself into the L.A. lives of the actors who put them there.
At some point, though, that distance became too great. To glimpse Hollywood, you need to be able to glimpse a cinema, and as neighbourhood picture houses have closed over the last thirty years, it has become harder and harder to find a projector, a screen and a dream if you don’t have a city at the end of the lane.
“North Yorkshire was identified as the largest geographical area in the county, with the fewest cinema screens,” says Rachel McWatt, project manager for Cine Yorkshire. As one of three national pilot projects – and the only one to have survived beyond pilot status – Cine Yorkshire has presented 1,750 screenings to 70,000 people in more than eighty venues across North, East and West Yorkshire, with excursions into Cumbria and Lancashire too.
“We work closely with the local communities, and that’s behind the success,” says Rachel. “We’ve got five cinema kits stored around the region, and we empower venues such as village halls, community halls and town halls to present their own cinema screenings. It’s a high-spec kit, with HD projection, Blu-Ray players, pop-up screens and a sound system, so it’s as close to the real cinema experience as you can get in your local village hall.”
Of course people can always watch films on TV. But the success of Cine Yorkshire shows there is still something that little bit different about sharing the film experience with others. “A lot of the venues we work with make a real event of it,” says Rachel. “They’ll have silver screenings with lunch afterwards, and for some it’s become a social event with a cinema screening rather than the other way round.
“When the project first started there was a screening of Slumdog Millionaire at Ammerdale Hall in Arncliffe, and the whole village turned out, and everyone stayed afterwards for a communal Indian meal. There was a lady there who had tourette’s who hadn’t been to a cinema screening in twenty years because she didn’t feel that she could go into a cinema, but because she knew her local community and they knew her, she felt she was able to take part and enjoy the experience.”
Curating the film choices – “I don’t watch them all! But I try and watch as many films as I can. I probably watch about five films a week, and put together a film menu of around 75 titles” – means Cine Yorkshire can offer films that might otherwise be missed, putting an emphasis on home-grown British and specialised films, along with archive material from the Yorkshire Film Archive and big hits from the multiplexes. That adventurous approach to what Rachel calls “guided programming” – the final choice lies with each community – means Cine Yorkshire has been able to easily adapt beyond its core mission.
“We’ve started taking Cine Yorkshire to music festivals in North Yorkshire such as Beacons and Deershed, and making those screenings into special events. We showed Nosferatu with live piano at Deershed, and at Beacons last year we managed to get two of the most revered contemporary British directors to come along with us. We had Clio Barnard, whose new film Selfish Giant has been nominated for a BAFTA; her previous film The Arbor is a fantastic ground-breaking docu-drama about Andrea Dunbar, the playwright and screenwriter who wrote Rita, Sue and Bob Too, so we showed both films and had Clio there to speak about them.
“We were also very, very lucky to have Shane Meadows come to talk about his film Made of Stone, one of the most anticipated music documentaries of the last five years; he really enjoyed it, and I know Beacons have promised to send him some music to potentially use in future films, so that was an exciting bit of cross-pollination between film and music.
“The most popular film of the weekend was Sightseers, and we had over 100 people queuing outside to see it and hear stars and writers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram speak about it. We’re excited about going back in 2014 to try and top that programme.”
Cine Yorkshire will also be an integral part of the Yorkshire Festival building up to July’s Tour de France Grand Départ; working with Sheffield’s Doc/Fest, the Tour de Cinema will screen thirty films in thirty unusual locations, from outdoor spots like Malham Cove and Fountains Abbey, to a world premiere at Bradford Cathedral of Daisy Asquith’s Velorama, that uses footage from the BFI archive to show a century of the bicycle on film – and that will also be part of Bradford Film Festival.
“It’s just great to be able to work with such a range of partners,” says Rachel. “We help them by providing a network to plug into, and partners like Doc/Fest are a great mechanism for us to access content we might not otherwise have been able to.”
Cine Yorkshire doesn’t just give back to rural communities that distant glimpse of Hollywood’s allure; it places them right at the heart of cinema, in a way people with more regular access to the flicks might envy.
“I love just getting great films out there, that people wouldn’t have the chance to see otherwise, and going to something like one of the social screenings and seeing how those have such an impact on people is great. Getting the venues and the communities as involved as much as possible is the key; if you empower people to make their own choices and do something for themselves, it’s much more likely to be a success.”
Originally published in The City Talking Leeds: Issue 10