It's never ideal to wander into a presentation late - all eyes turn to the door, you cower like a dreadful imposter. Nevertheless, legitimacy of lateness at least takes the edge off the guilt. After an interesting panel event at a BECTU freelancers fair at the Royal Institution, and with a lot of keen young filmmakers keen to chat, I extricated myself from their optimistic faces and bore on, hurriedly, to Southbank for this year's pre-screening days event, a meeting between cinemas and distributors, on the Friday evening.

Walking in just in time for the group discussions, the conversations in our group flowed around marketing timelines, VOD, ‘day and date’ debates - all serving as a useful reminder of the complexity of the distribution/exhibition pipeline. It's always good to put faces to names, and nice to have an open line to chat to distributors, outside of putting in film requests.

Unaware of what Saturday had in wait, I trotted off to meet a friend to see Taryn Simon's underground performance piece exhibition, 'An Occupation of Loss'. The work was strangely absorbing and repelling on the notions of grief and immigration. The theme of grief was to continue throughout my weekend, in various guises through film choices, such as 'In the Fade', 'Philomela's Chorus', 'Under the Tree', 'Summer 1993', and 'Island'. I also caught 'The Rider', 'My Friend Dahmer', and 'Edie'. Embargo's force me not to comment - it's a struggle, but given now I've met some more distributors face-to-face, it would seem a rather flagrant dismissal of the rules. Suffice to say, there was a lot of quality film and my emotions may have overwhelmed me at times. They say four films a day isn't work, but I beg to differ! It's a privilege for sure, but it's still work - when you work in cinema.

The chance to talk through feelings and feedback with colleagues is always welcome, particularly when the world of film programming can be a little lonesome. It was helpful to get critical insights, see other views, hear about titles I couldn't get to, and mix up the films I had selected, thinking about target audiences, and the marketing and audience development work that we could do. It's always nice when your opinion is largely represented on the leaderboard as well!

Talking with other rural, comparable venues is always helpful, particularly when budgets are low and getting out can be problematic (nod to the Film Hub Midlands bursary!). And it's lovely to hear what people are plotting too - whether it's young audience initiatives, revamping old buildings into new cinemas, launching inclusive screenings, or the Bechdel Test Fest! Skipping out of the F-Rated talk, I discovered later that the criteria have been suitably tightened and now only female writers/directors' films are worthy of the stamp of F-Rated approval, no longer just 'female characters in their own right'. A quick email back to the team at The Courtyard, and our latest guide will be 'bang on'.

Toki received a bursary award from Film Hub Midlands.

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