Our roving reporter on disability issues, Michael McEwan, speaks to Jodie Wilkinson, the Public Engagement Coordinator of Access Film Club which is hosted at Glasgow Film Theatre. She speaks about the purpose and aims of the club and the types of films screened.
MM - Michael McEwan
JW - Jodie Wilkinson
MM Now on Iriss fm we're going to hear about a new project called Access Film Club, and we're joined on Iriss fm by Jodie Wilkinson, the Public Engagement Officer, so thanks for joining us. So, can you tell us a bit about the Access Film Club?
JW Yeah, of course. Access Film Club is a monthly Autism-friendly screening that happens at Glasgow Film Theatre, and we began the journey in November 2014, and at the time we were working with a fantastic organisation called Scottish Autism, who helped us develop the film club into what we see today, and then last year we said goodbye to Scottish Autism and we continued working with the National Autistic Society Scotland, which has enabled us to continue running the monthly screenings. So, Access Film Club is a film club that is designed for people with Autism and also people with additional support needs, although we have an audience ethos that everyone is welcome, and the film club happens on the second Tuesday of every month and we have a fantastic team of people working on the event. So there's myself as Public Engagement Coordinator, and then we also have 2 Autistic volunteers from the National Autistic Society Scotland who are present at all the events, and they are on hand to answer any questions, offer us some guidance on anything that's kind of Autism interest. So there's a lot that I have learned from working with those volunteers and everything is going really well. We have a film screening and then we always have an introduction at the beginning of the film, and then we have a post-film discussion at the end which just enables people to ask questions and sometimes we'll also have a guest speaker that comes in to talk either about the film or maybe about a theme that comes from the film. Another part of the programme is that we also have our special events structure, so that happens quarterly and that means that we have the ability to put on a film that maybe we could invite and actor from the film or the director from the film, and we definitely see those events as a way to enable an audience to learn from the film itself and all the guests as well, and to be able to understand how important it is to be educated about Autism and also to meet other people who live with Autism, because one of the big things about Access Film Club is that we don't want the event to homogenise people and so only people with Autism will come along, we really want to make sure that the audience is mixed so that everyone has the opportunity to socialise in a safe and welcoming environment. The format of the film club as I say, is on the second Tuesday of the month. When people come into the venue we have staff who have received Autism awareness training, we have a relaxing space in the venue for anyone that needs to take a seat out of the cinema. They'll come into Cinema 3, which is our smallest auditorium • 60 seats • which was chosen by our audiences as feeling kind of the most safe and comfortable. The lighting is kept on at a low level throughout the entire screening, the sound is slightly lower, and we don't show any ads or trailers. So when you see the event publicised, the event start time at 6 o'clock is when the film will actually start, and we usually for comfort for people have a 2-hour long event - so from 6 until 8 o'clock. As I say, the events are designed for people who are 15 plus, and what we find really important is that the films are tailored to provide, alongside the kind of Glasgow Film Theatre ethos actually, to provide points of provocation and discussion. So we don't show just one kind of film, we'll work on a theme for every 3 months and we will show films that might run from more of a documentary style to, for example, recently we screened "The Final Girls" which is kind of like a cult horror film, and that was received really, really well. We'll show kind of more cult classics, in terms of like films from the 1980's and films that people just want to see again. We'll do obviously, you know, kind of a festive special at Christmas, so there's a whole raft of different kinds of films that as an independent cinema we can access, and we feel it's really important that we don't just select one style of film. So people have come along to see "The Eagle Huntress', which is a fantastic beautiful documentary narrated by Daisy Ridley, following the young Mongolian eagle huntress who's - I think she's 13 years old - to seeing "My Life as a Courgette", a fantastic animation film that's got kind of like a very important kind of message as part of it. We have screened - oh god, there's just so many different kinds of films! So there's never going to be kind of just one style. So I would say to anyone who's interested, have a look at the programme and have a look on the website to see what we have screened, because there's always going to be something new that comes up.
MM So, why do you think this is important to have the Access Film Club?
JW I think it's vitally important that Access Film Club exists because there should never be a lack of choice for people, and especially film being such a brilliant medium to communicate to people, but also a way of coming to the cinema rather than just sitting at home, coming out and socialising with people is a really important part of the film club. We've found over the years that people more and more come back again and again. I think actually some of our regulars have literally been to every single event that we've ever ran, which is quite impressive, and I think that it's important for a venue like the GFT, as a local cinema in the middle of Glasgow, as a charity, and as an educational institution, to - I don't mean this in a kind of negative way - but it's not like we're providing for in the sense that like, you know, we have the power, but I think it's important that we acknowledge that our audiences are very diverse, and we acknowledge that people deserve choice. So for us it just makes perfect sense, and it's kind of just so easy because once you realise that you just need to talk to people and ask them what they want and meet with the people that can help you understand how to make that happen, bring on board great training providers, make sure that your staff and volunteers are confident, then really you're kind of benefitting everyone and we've actually found that from the film club, a more relaxed environment with the lights being slightly brighter and the sound being slightly lower, actually suits a whole raft of people. So, as much as we tailor this and obviously promote it as an Autism-friendly club, it very much is a relaxed environment for anyone that enjoys a more low-sensory environment, and that for me is one of the biggest strengths of the programme because it doesn't exclude anyone, and that is I think more and more now as we build communities and as we should be looking to build communities more and more, I think Access Film Club is a really great example of how a positive community can be created.
MM The Access Film Club doesn't happen all over Scotland, it's specifically for Glasgow?
JW Yeah, absolutely yeah. We're really proud that it happens in Glasgow. Obviously it would be fantastic to be able to know of other clubs that are happening, and also for us to be able to work and share knowledge. We're very big on that at Glasgow Film Theatre, but at the moment yeah, the Access Film Club sits in Glasgow Film Theatre.
MM So what happens at this event? I think you told us that earlier but if you want to stand yeah?
JW Yeah absolutely. So what happens is that people can book online. We've got a really nice new website where people can see Access Film Club and a description of what happens at the event, so that people from the comfort of their own home can just see what goes on. When you come into the venue, you collect your ticket at Box Office and then you can go and grab a drink if you want to in the down or upstairs bar, and then you can come into Access Film Club which always happens in Cinema 3, which is our as I say, our newest and kind of very comfy cinema. Then you will be greeted by myself and I'll always do an introduction just to kick the film off, let people know how long the film will last, and if we have any guests also introduce them, and also introduce the audience to our 2 volunteers Russ and Damien, who work with us from the National Autistic Society Scotland. Then we'll kick off with the film, as I say no ads or trailers, and then at the end of the film if anybody wants to offer any responses or questions we have just a very informal chat. We have lots of literature outside the cinema as well if anybody specifically has come along with a question who wants to find out where they can be signposted to services, but also I think it's important that people are just given a bit of time just to sit and to kind of mull over the film, and also just to have a chance to chat if they want to, but people are also more than welcome to leave as well. Yeah, and then as I say, the film content is very, very diverse and we will programme in relation to any film choices people offer. So they may say "I really wish that I could see this film back at the cinema again" and if we can get the rights to it and we can show it then we will do that, but aside from that also we work on programming by theme, so we'll receive a theme from the National Autistic Society Scotland and then we'll programme every 3 months with that theme in mind, which feels like a really nice relationship. It was also really brilliant for us in February of this year to receive the Autism-friendly award, which enabled us to become the first cinema in the UK to receive that award, and that was through the National Autistic Society. So that was a really great kind of stamp of approval for us. It just means that we can be much clearer with our audiences about our intention and our philosophy, and hopefully it means that audiences will come in not just for Access Film Club but also to other events in the GFT program.
MM What takes place, as in what kind of films, like how do you choose the films and stuff like that?
JW Yeah, as I say, so we work from a theme basis, so for example New Beginnings was a theme that we had to kind of kick off our partnership with the National Autistic Society Scotland, and that was a really nice way for us to be able to then look at the films that we have that are available. In terms of us being an independent cinema, we still programme like any other cinema has to, you know, you're waiting for films to be released, but sometimes we also think that the theme might fit a film that's already been shown and could be a mixture of "The Eagle Huntress", which is a fantastic documentary from Mongolia. We've showed "My Life as a Courgette" which is a beautiful animation film. We've gone from animations to documentaries to comedies to drama to horrors. We screened "The Final Girls" last month in September which was really, really fab, and actually we've got coming up tonight actually, we've got a screening of "The Boy and The Beast", which is a Japanese animation film, and that's going to be hosted by Andrew Partridge who is the Director of Scotland Loves Anime season that we run at GFT, so it'll be great for audiences to get a chance to meet him and hear about the programme coming up.
MM So what's the feedback been like from the audience? Do you have the same kind of people that comes to all the different events? I know you said early on you have one person - is that right - coming to all the different things?
JW Yeah, there are a couple, 2 people who definitely I'm pretty sure they've come to every single one, which is amazing and brilliant, but it's a good question. I think that we have a big mixture of people. The beauty of the club is that people know about us and are regulars and we've got a really great relationship with Dates-n-Mates, so they come every single month and pre-book seats with us, so that's really fantastic to kind of, for them to have the trust in us that they want to come along. We would have, I would say, a cohort of regulars, which includes Dates-n-Mates, and then we'll have kind of a mixture. We'll have people who just see the film in the brochure or obviously see it promoted and just want to come along to see the film, and when they get here they realise it's Access Film Club, and you always see looks of kind of happy acknowledgement, a feeling of like "oh, that's really brilliant that this is happening", and then we'll have people who literally want to come because it is an Access Film Club and they've never been before, but thankfully they've seen the videos online, they've read about it and they've realised that this could be a social event for them. The feedback never fails to educate me and surprise me because you'll have some films where you think to yourself, you know, and I'm always very honest with our programming, you know, we'll say, you know, for the first time we're going to screen a horror, you know, for example, and you're kind of sitting in the auditorium hoping that people are enjoying it and hearing noises thinking "oh no, I wonder if this was a bad choice', and then at the end the feedback is just totally brilliant and it just always never fails to kind of amaze me really that, you know, like every audience as I say, people deserve to have an experience that is provoking for them, and I think that we've been able to achieve a very powerful film programme, looking back, you know, say over 12 months, you'd never find a pattern, which I think is important. The programme is really responsive to an audience. If they come along and say "we'd love to see this film', we may not be able to say "right, next month we'll do it", but it'll definitely be a part of the plan, so you know, for the next 12 months. So we're really, we really want to involve our audiences with the programme and we always make sure that in listening to our audiences that the post-film chat is also a bit of a kind of a way for us to find out the feedback as well, it doesn't just sit as a kind of social chat, it's a kind of targeted way for us to say quite honestly "did you enjoy the event, did you enjoy the film", because then - thankfully we've never had any horrific experiences, it's always been quite positive - but it means if people do want to chat with us, they've got that time face to face to let us know.
MM So you were telling us about if people go to the Access Club they would have to go to the Box Office to get your ticket, can you just kind of like turn up on the night and buy your ticket or do you have to pre-book and how much is the tickets?
JW Yep, great questions! So, by and large, people will obviously choose to book over the phone or they'll go online or they'll pick up from the Box Office. For an Access Film Club event, unless it's probably like a big new release film or more of a cult classic, it's very rare that we would sell out pre the night in the sense that you could still probably pick up a few tickets on the night. If people want to reserve tickets they're more than welcome to do that either over the phone or coming to Box Office, and as I say, Dates-n-Mates do reserve with us as well. Tickets are £5.50, and that's really important for us that we make sure that they are reduced from our standard price ticket, to make sure that it's more accessible. We also accept the CEA Card, which means that someone coming along can bring a supporter with them for free if they obviously have the card and can show that, and we find that actually by and large for a lot of the events, we do get some really good walk-ups. So sometimes we can think "oh goodness, maybe the numbers aren't going to be so great", and then suddenly we'll just get this whole raft of people that walk up, so yeah, there's loads of choices there.