Last year Chloe Cusition, Cinema Programme Assistant at Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, approached us about attending BFI London Film Festival. We supported Chloe's essential visit with a bursary.

Chloe reports that going to film festival events like these helps venues to prepare for when films go onto general release and renews a sense of passion and connection to the industry.

Report written by Chloe Cusition

In October 2023 I attended London Film Festival for 6 days, supported by Film Hub Midlands. As the only major film festival our organisation attends, this provides an invaluable opportunity to connect with industry experts across the sector and of course to immerse oneself in upcoming releases. LFF falls at a crucial time for our venue heading in to our busiest time of year. The ability to see a wealth of films ahead of their release allows us to brief our marketing team on how to position titles, generates excitement in the building during the run up to release and inspires programming around these films.

I was able to see high profile titles such as One Life, The Zone of Interest, The Holdovers and Maestro - a typical selection of top-quality, broad appeal films that instil confidence in independent venues heading towards the awards corridor. It was particularly helpful to see Netflix titles Maestro and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget on the big screen, as there is a certain amount of trepidation around streamer cinema releases and whether these films are made for the cinema or the living room. I’m pleased to say in both cases I believe the big screen is their true home and this showed in our admission figures when we screened them.

My favourite part of any film festival or preview opportunity is taking a chance on a title I have no prior knowledge of and going in completely cold. A highlight was amusing lo-fi indie Haar, which I found charming and thought may work for us given our huge local filmmaking community that regularly attend Phoenix, so will be keeping my eyes peeled for a release. Another so far date-less top pick was wacky and wonderful The Sweet East, which I’m enthusiastically keeping in mind as we head towards screening Priscilla, also featuring Jacob Elordi. These are the sorts of films that for me make attending a festival so special, like a trump card you can pull out of the release schedule when it appears having seen it, considered it, and spoken about it with fellow attendees and peers, when distributor’s marketing for such titles is not likely to be especially far-reaching.

The impossibility of seeing everything a festival has to offer is greatly softened by the connections made at these events. As I was staying in London for the duration of my week at LFF I was able to attend the networking sessions in Picturehouse Members Bar at the end of each day, which provided a great opportunity to survey fellow film lovers about what they had seen, and gather diverse and passionate responses. It also provided space to discuss industry difficulties and successes frankly and openly, gaining understanding from distribution, production and other more nuanced roles in film as well as speaking as an exhibitor.

I came away from LFF feeling a renewed passion and excitement for the exhibition sector, which has carried on in to these dark winter months!

Inspired to attend a film festival?  You can find all you need to know about applying for a bursary to attend vital events for industry progression here

Coming up is the ICO Spring Screening Days and we encourage bursary applications to attend