Mark Morgan, Film Festival Director at The Academy of Death Racers contacted us before ICO Autumn Screening Days in Phoenix Cinema, Leicester about attending. As a newcomer to film exhibition we felt that a bursary would help Mark to attend the ICO Autumn Screening Days, increase their networking opportunities and nurture their film tastes.

Mark Morgan reports that with a diverse range of countries and cultures represented throughout the weekend of ICO Autumn Screening Days the programme presented many opportunities to plan future screenings to their international audiences.

Article written by Mark Morgan 

As a relative newcomer to cinema exhibition, the opportunity to attend the ICO Autumn Screening Days has been invaluable for my professional development. The Academy of Death Racers has mostly worked so far on online film festival screenings, where we are able to host short films independently, but haven’t been able to meet many other exhibitors, programmers and film collectives with whom we could collaborate. This has also restricted us to organising short film exhibitions rather than features. With support from a Film Hub Midlands bursary, I was able to represent the Academy of Death Racers at Leicester Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre for a weekend of films, networking and coffee, hoping to expand our capacity and make some new friends along the way. 

With our special interest in promoting exhibitions of international cinema to a wider audience, the programme immediately presented a huge opportunity to plan future exhibitions. With dozens of countries represented over the course of the weekend, from traditional French costume dramas to somewhat less accessible Romanian experimental pieces, there was a fascinating range of insights into other cultures. We are already in discussion with local community groups to plan representative programmes reflective of the diverse demographic in the East Midlands, and a number of these films would be ideal candidates to screen. 

Throughout the days, and especially during the reception on Saturday evening, there were opportunities to sit down with like-minded cinephiles and discuss ways to collaborate. I met a range of people who work in the Midlands, from film festival coordinators in Mansfield to independent exhibitors and cinema owners in Nottingham. We were able to talk about our current projects and aspirations for the future, plan support for each other and share contact information. There were also staff available from institutions like CinemaNext and Film Bank Media to connect with to learn more about their operations and make some contacts.

Quite apart from the potential for professional development, the weekend was simply a delightful experience. The ICO and Phoenix staff were universally friendly and informative, the venue was a shining example of British independent cinema, and the sheer variety of quality filmmaking on display is inspirational. Challenges to the documentary format like Four Daughters, surprising use of animation like Robot Dreams and truly avant garde work like Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World prove that there are still unique, thought-provoking films to engage audiences in modern cinema. I look forward to planning some of them into a programme soon, and hope to be back for the next event to discover more!

If you are inspired to attend a film festival you think will help with your own programming after reading Mark's report of ICO Autumn Screening Days at Phoenix you can find all you need to know about applying for a bursary here