Symposium No.4 Summary

What a busy week it was. The screening of PressPausePlay was well attended and had some interesting discussion at the end. Similarly, Crushing Snails was a challenge to conventional thinking and raised some interesting points about how to fund films in the future. I’ve Got This Idea For A Film was perhaps the most popular event of the week, with an incredible turnout coming to see how to make a movie in 72 hours. The discussion with Charlotte Hunt about the representation led to some good debate, more so than the actual debating session on the Wednesday, which was poorly attended. Thursday was John Bradburn’s ‘Death of Reality’ lecture, which raised some important questions about the volume of images that exist online and what we are to make of them all. The Creative England networking event in the evening was well attended in Birmingham, with many students getting experience of schmoozing for the first time. Friday saw the launch of Grand Independent and a screening of A Saharan Diary. Overall it was felt that the Symposium was a great success for those who attended, but that the majority of students weren’t getting the best out of the opportunity as they didn’t go to all of the events.

Symposium No. 4 ‘New Model Cinema’

Welcome to our fourth Film Technology Symposium. This year we are looking at new models of cinema and the ways in which our industry is changing. This is our biggest symposium yet – stretching out to encompass events that engage directly with businesses and industry. Please get involved and support these events!


Thursday 16th February @ 7.30pm

Mitchell Arts Centre, Stoke

Our Symposium opens with the groundbreaking partnership between local food producers and first year Film Technology students on a project to promote the region ahead of the 2012 Olympics. Over twenty short films have been made in a mix of documentary styles to highlight the quality of locally sourced food and where it is from. A chance to see their talents on the big screen!


Friday 17th February @ 2.30pm

F14 Ruxton Lecture Theatre, Stafford

Mat Appleton is the Head of Client Services at Envy Post and he sees a lot of CVs. He’s going to come and talk to students about what makes a good CV stand out from the rest. This is an essential opportunity to hear from a decision maker himself! Mat is a great speaker and direct with his responses – come with questions and you’ll get straight answers.


Monday 20th February @ 12 midday

Red Lecture Theatre, Stafford

The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent in an unprecedented way, with unlimited opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out? This is the question addressed by PressPausePlay, a documentary film containing interviews with some of the world’s most influential creators of the digital era. The screening will be followed by a discussion of the themes.


Tuesday 21st February @ 10am

TV Studio, Stafford

James explores ‘transmedia’, ‘eventizing’ and ‘gamification’ in an attempt to see whether there are new ways we can engage with audiences and fund films. ‘Crushing Snails’ is still a work in progress but looks towards making movies differently in the digital age. If you are interested in experimentation in filmmaking processes – this is your lecture.


Tuesday 21st February @ 12 midday

TV Studio, Stafford

A chance to see the documentary where staff and students from Film Technology travelled to Australia to make a feature film in 72 hours. Described as ‘a journey in filmmaking, a DIY call to action and an intimate portrait of a director’, this documentary explores the price of getting our visions up on the big screen. The film will be followed by a discussion.


Tuesday 21st February @ 2.00pm

TV Studio, Stafford

A chance to see what the students have been making! If you want to screen something for the crowd, please come at 1.45pm to load it up. First come are the first served. We’ll watch them in the order you arrive!


Tuesday 21st February @ 3.00pm

TV Studio, Stafford

During the debates in last year’s Symposium a discussion developed over the portrayal of women within the media. The debate inspired one student to explore the issue further, and brought her into conflict with the Student Union over the sale of ‘lads mags’ in the student shop. The discussion gets picked up again here. This session goes to the core of our responsibilities as filmmakers and power of the media to change our perception of one another.


Tuesday 21st February @ 4.00pm

TV Studio, Stafford

The British Youth Film Academy offers students the greatest opportunity ever – a chance to take a serious crew role upon a feature film production. In a world where the breaks are difficult to find, this is a route to be seriously considered by every student. Here’s a chance to see their production of Shakespeare’s ‘Caesar’.


Wednesday 22nd February @ 3.00pm

Red Lecture Theatre

Last year’s debates were awesome. This year we hope to build on the lively discussion with a new series of questions that tackle our thoughts on technology, industry and ourselves. Andy, James and John are there to keep the conversation clean and on-topic (unless they disagree with one another, obviously).


Thursday 23rd February @ 11am

F14, Ruxton Technology Centre

John shares his research into the death of reality. This is going to be a gem and needs no greater introduction. John never disappoints.


Thursday 23rd February @ 1.00pm

F5, Stafford

You’ve got 140 characters to communicate on Twitter. Here you have 15 seconds of video. In this practical session we’ll be making 10 second movies and seeing what you come up with. This is a real challenge of your creativity.


Thursday 23rd February @ 6.30pm

Sence, The Arcadian, Birmingham

The UK Film Council’s replacement is offering the first networking event in Birmingham in quite a while and you are invited. It’s going to be a great opportunity to make contacts and connect with industry. You need to register first at:

A SAHARAN DIARY followed by a Q&A

Friday 24th February @ 7.30pm

Mitchell Arts Centre, Stoke

We close the Symposium back at Stoke Your Fires festival with a screening of James’ documentary about the Sahara. Filmed on consumer cameras over five years and three journeys, it offers a unique insight into life in Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia before the Arab Spring brought the region to international attention. The film challenges our perception of documentaries, with few traits of modern documentary making being used. The film will be followed by a Q&A with James.

On narrative

James: Firstly I would like to thank John and the audience for an incredibly intensive Symposium session this afternoon. I am physically exhausted. My mind is also racing…

If I understand John correctly, he is advocating a lateral-thinking style of non-narrative cinema whereby provocation of ideas is the purpose, as opposed to a fixed polemic or argument. In other words – it is about the means, not the ends. I present you with random, discontinuous sounds and images and YOU detract a meaning as opposed to the filmmaker foisting a meaning upon you.

I am actually a huge fan of Edward De Bono’s work on lateral thinking and I can even be convinced that this would be an avenue to explore to see whether it reignited audience interest in cinema. I understand that John wants it to simply be a broader church, and to include the provocative, lateral cinema alongside the narrative kind, just to offer more challenges to disillusioned audiences.

My problem is that this kind of filmmaking is still only a means, and not an end. It draws no conclusions and makes no points. It is a process and an exercise to provoke you into thinking and engaging. At best, it can only provoke, it can never resolve. Furthermore, at its most pretentious moments, it works on the assumption that you are not capable of this exercise in ordinary life, as if you must be woken from some kind of passive slumber. You can feel alienated as an individual for ‘not getting it’, as if there was some higher, conceptual meaning. But I’m imagining John argues “No! There is no higher meaning, there is only whatever you want it to be!”

And there lies the crux of my argument. The audience wants to share a collective experience. I quoted Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Monday’s “Everything You Know Is Wrong” lecture – “it is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love with works of art only for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they belong to a community”. Walking out of the cinema and into the bar with your friends to try and interpret the provocation seems like a valid example of community, but I would argue that this is not missing from narrative cinema, and can in fact be far more precise and focussed in narrative cinema.

The temptation is to ridicule narrative as a failing model, that we have run out of stories and the audience is bored. I believe this is not the case. There are plenty of stories that are still to be told, and can in fact be reinterpreted and retold in fantastical fashion (e.g; Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’). If cinema is failing it is because Hollywood believes that technical spectacle and big stars are the only advantages over other media. If studios woke up to the potential of cheaper production and the possibilities of digital media in the exhibition sector, we could see challenging, thought provoking, entertaining narratives that fulfilled audiences time and time again. At that point, I believe that the lateral-thinking non-narrative experiment will be exposed for what it really is – a lazy way of filmmaking that carries no purpose other than to provoke thought.

I therefore believe that it has limited appeal, limited audience and limited lifespan.

How’s it going?

A great day of discussions and debate! Symposium is off to a flying start. Thanks to Emmet Dwyer who emailed about ‘The Strangest Secret’ after James’s first lecture. Many thanks to those of you who came and heard Stephen Hurst discuss his first film experience. We hope it was useful.

Today a whole gang of excited filmmakers took a logline from the Random Storyline Generator and prepared to make their masterpieces. You can see their efforts on Friday at 10am in the TV Studio… Should be fun!