Future Cinema: Pictures that Talk, Sing and Dance

By Peter Fraser

future-cinema-events-1.jpgPictures from recent Future Cinema events

James Cameron, the US director both revered and reviled for such special-effects heavy blockbuster epics as Titanic and the Terminator films, recently argued that for cinema to survive in an era when films can be downloaded onto a television, a laptop or a mobile phone it would need to offer something uniquely ‘cinematic.’ He argued for 3D, which featured in the latest Superman film, and which takes the concept of the blockbuster further towards its natural apogee as a ‘rollercoaster ride.’ Cameron’s films are renowned for their spectacle and it’s no surprise that for him theme park attractions provide the model for a new cinema.

However in the UK, independent exhibitor Future Shorts has addressed the issue from a more radical angle than many filmmakers would countenance, usurping the cinema screen by making it part of a holistic live experience featuring bands, artistic installations, circus acts and theatrical performances, taking a performative model for a new cinema that relies less on technological, and more on interpersonal interactivity. This innovation is called Future Cinema and seeks to counter both the conventional cinema experience – to which 3D glasses make little difference – and the more anti-social tendencies of new media technologies.

As such it represents another possible route forward for cinema while at the same time harking back to the legerdemain of cinema’s earliest days. I spoke to Fabien Riggall, the director of Future Cinema, to get his view on what he is doing and what he hopes to achieve.

future-cinema-events-2.jpgPictures from recent Future Cinema events

Peter Fraser: What is Future Cinema?

Fabien Riggall: Future Cinema organises events which shake up the traditional cinema experience by fusing film with music, theatre, and cabaret. Future cinema pushes the boundaries of cinema, creating a more stimulating and interactive experience.

PF: Why did you decide to initiate Future Cinema? Why at this particular time?

FR: Future Shorts has been going for some time now. We approached the London Film Festival last year to ask them if they wanted to screen Future Shorts as part of the festival but they said ‘well, we’re already screening short film programmes, can you suggest anything else?’ so I came up with the idea of Future Cinema and we staged an event in the London Bridge club SE1 during the festival with a mix of short films and cabaret and it was very successful.

PF: Where does Future Cinema take place and why those particular locations?

FR: We screen Future Shorts in a variety of different cinemas and arts venues in the UK and around the world but Future Cinema takes place in larger venues such as clubs, while our event in Bristol took place in a mansion. I’m really interested in reaching out to different audiences, challenging their expectations and bringing all these different elements together. I feel quite constrained by the traditional cinema experience so I think that it’s important to do something more innovative and mix it up a bit. 2000 people came to the Future Cinema that we held in club SE1 on the 1st June – a very respectable number considering that we didn’t have a major band headlining the event. We only charged £10 per ticket, which I think is great value considering that you can pay up to £10 to see a feature film at the cinema.

PF: Why is it important to you to have a mix of cinema and ‘live’ events?

FR: Well, it attracts a broader audience and enables people to look at cinema in a new way. I like the idea of turning the cinema experience into an entire evening’s entertainment, taking the elements of the cinematic experience – sound, vision, performance – and exploring them and making them interact with one another. For Future Cinema we have had Nosferatu re-scored by Darryn Harkness, the lead singer of the metal band Serafin, which has definitely brought something new to the film. At the SE1 event we also had installations from D-Fuse, theatrical performances, art direction from ‘The Pikled Pikchers’, virtual and digital artists, Future Physical and Minivegas, trapeze artists, burlesque performers as well as a Future Shorts programme in the gothic cinema.

PF: Do you agree that in a sense Future Cinema takes cinema back to its earliest roots?

FR: Yes, early cinema was one influence and the Nosferatu screening is an obvious example. I named the events ‘Future Cinema’ to tie in with Future Shorts but obviously we are looking backwards as well as forwards, trying to recapture some of the early experiences of cinema such as when screenings were accompanied by live music.

PF: Your publicity says, ‘Welcome to the Future of Cinema.’ Do you see Future Cinema as an alternative to the increasing emphasis on the individualising trends of new media?

FR: I think that we’re heading towards a more multi-layered entertainment experience. I don’t think that everyone will simply download films on to their ipods and that will be the end of cinema, because I think that people will still want the social experience of cinema perhaps in a more flexible and interactive format like Future Cinema. We’re also interested in the potential of new media for distribution, particularly of short films. I don’t think it’s one or the other.

PF: How successful has Future Cinema been so far? What are your hopes for Future Cinema and is this format the future of cinema in the age of new media?

FR: It’s been very successful: our event in London was followed by one in Bristol; we also took part in the first open-air film festival which took place in Greenwich Park, and there will be a Future Cinema at the Edinburgh Festival fringe this year. We’re approaching the BFI to work with them and the Berlin Film Festival is interested in staging a Future Cinema event. I hope that Future Cinema will continue to expand and challenge audiences. I think that the communal cinema event will survive but that it will have to offer a more social, interactive experience like that provided by Future Cinema.

For more information of Future Cinema and their events visit their website http://www.futurecinema.co.uk/

Peter Fraser is the Marketing Coordinator for Vertigo Magazine, Deputy Editor of Close-up Film magazine and a freelance journalist and writer