An introduction to the Glasgow Film Theatre and Glasgow Film Festival
I've been taking photographs for the Glasgow Film Theatre and Glasgow Film Festival for around 3 years now. It's such a fun job to do as a photographer, as I often get to hear directly from other creatives like directors and actors speaking passionately about their craft. More than just fun though, it's an honour to spend some time in their presence, to hear their insight and love of film. I was reflecting back on all the images I've taken over the last few years and the people I've been incredibly fortunate to meet and it occurred to me that before I was asked to shoot there, I'd never actually stepped foot inside the GFT. I went to other cinemas often, I loved a variety of film, directors, cinematographers but the GFT was never on my radar to try. For some reason, I had a preconceived idea that it was an old, small and dingy, showcasing films that art and film students would attend, but I excluded myself from it. I was quite wrong. Coming along to this cinema has opened up a whole new level of love for film and film making. So, for this blog, I wanted to showcase the wonders of the GFT to folk like myself 3 years ago. Those that love cinema, but had excluded themselves from going in.
To help us step through the door a little, I called upon the person who called upon my service 3 years ago, Paul Gallagher, to tell us the story of the GFT and why you might want to attend. Rather self-indulgently, as it's my website, I've put a few of my favourite images that I've taken at the various GFT events at the bottom of the interview, with links to the movie it corresponds to. If you like what you see and require a photographer for any upcoming events, click on the button below
Interview with Paul Gallagher - Friday 27th October - Cinema 2 - 10am
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Paul Gallagher and I’m the Marketing Manager here at Glasgow Film Theatre. That means a lot of things, but it briefly means that I am head of the team that is responsible for promoting and publicising everything that we do and show here at the GFT. That also includes Glasgow Film Festival. I oversee all of our digital activities, website, social media as well as all of our printed brochures, posters that we put up, the trailers we show in the cinema: all of that comes under my remit. I’ve got a brilliant team that helps make all that happen.
For the uninitiated, those who have heard of the GFT but have never stepped in, tell us a little about it.
Glasgow Film Theatre is a cinema, that’s important to know. Sometimes the name can trip people up and they think that it’s a theatre. It’s a three-screen cinema and the oldest still-functioning cinema in Glasgow. It opened in the 1930’s and at that time it was called the Cosmo. It became the Glasgow Film Theatre in the 70’s.
The key thing about the GFT is that is an independent cinema where, unlike the mainstream cinema’s that we all know, we are free to programme and choose any film that we like. Most cinemas that you go to are centrally run and you won’t see too much variation between one cinema to the next in what they are showing from one week to the next. We, however, can choose from the latest releases, classic films and films from other countries that we’ve seen at festivals that we think are interesting. We can also host other festivals. For example next month we have the French Film Festival here, where around 15 films that won’t get shown anywhere else in Glasgow, get to play here at the GFT.
As far as what people can expect when they arrive, outside we have a traditional façade, we have retained that 30’s look. But when you step in you will see that we have moved with the times with our digital displays showcasing upcoming films. One thing that that we pride ourselves on at the GFT and the Film Festival is our level of technical expertise: we have real projectionists here unlike a lot of cinema throughout the world which is automated these days. So, while we do a lot of digital projection there is always a projectionist overseeing that. We also project from film, 70mm and 35m, which is becoming more popular again with Directors like Christopher Nolan filming Dunkirk on 70mm film and Quentin Tarantino doing the Hateful Eight in 70mm - and we can show them in those rare formats here at the GFT. In November, we’ll be showing Lawrence of Arabia here in 70mm. For film enthusiasts, that is something that we can offer. You'll receive a warm welcome, we like to call ourselves the home of cinema in Glasgow. When people come they quickly understand that you feel welcome and can be part of the audience here. Once you’ve been to a few films you get that sense of it being a community for film lovers. We show cult classics like The Running Man, or Predator, which we are showing in a few weeks, to local success stories like The Death of Stalin which is Glasgow director Armando Iannucci’s big comedy. We also put on more niche releases - smaller American independent movies or documentaries from around the world.
The range of what we show here means that there is something for everyone. For example, we’ve been doing huge sing along screens of Calamity Jane which have been really popular. People might think that we only show films that require a knowledge of the history of cinema to be enjoyed, but that’s just not true. We show films for people who just love movies. For example, we have a screening of Gremlins coming up at Christmas time with the star of the film here, but then also, we can show really great films from festivals around the world. So, there are films that we show for the cinefiles as well. We did a season recently from the director Jean Pierre Melville who was one of the pioneers of Film Noir, a French director hugely influenced by Hollywood and hugely influential on Hollywood. So, you can learn about cinema or you can just have a great night out with your friends, there is a real breadth to the programme at the GFT.
One of the things you mentioned was showing the Gremlins film in December. One of the first jobs I had for the GFT, was to document a Q&A with a director. It was such a great experience to watch a film and then get to hear from the director or stars of the film straight after and for the audience to have direct access to them. Tell us about the Q&A's you have here at the GFT
It’s another aspect of being an independent cinema: if a film promoter has a film event in mind, they can come to us and say ‘Hey, we want to promote a special screening of Gremlins and we have the star Zach Galligan coming to the UK, can you fit it into your programme?’ we have the freedom to say, ‘yeah, great, we think our audience would really like that’. So, in that event, just before the film starts, Zach will get up and he’ll say a few words and after the film he’ll be there to talk about his experience of making the film and what he’s doing now. There will be a host, someone from the GFT or a local journalist, and they’ll ask Zach some questions in front of the audience and then there is time for audience to ask questions as well. Q&A's are a regular occurrence at the GFT. So, each month there are 2 or 3 Q&A’s, there are high profile ones like Gremlins and The Death of Stalin, which you took pictures for, which sell out quite quickly, to others where you might not have heard of the filmmaker. But what we’re trying to do is help people find entry points into finding out about films. When you have the filmmaker here talking about the film, it’s just another way of getting a sense of what the film is about and hearing the story behind the film. Telling the story of a film is a big part of what the GFT is all about as well. We believe in the power of cinema to bring people together and be a force for good.
And so, having the people who made the films and are part of the industry here helps the audience to appreciate that a film doesn’t just exist on the screen, it is the product of loads of ideas and loads of teamwork; there is a real human side to cinema.
The programme for the Glasgow Film Festival 2018 is being finalised. Again, for the uninitiated, tell us what is a Film Festival and why do we have them?
Primarily a film festival is celebration of film. It’s basically what we do through the whole year but we are trying to pack it in over a wonderfully intense 12 days. If you have a film festival, it gives you a platform to show films that perhaps haven’t got money behind them to be released to cinemas around the world. In order to be released widely a film needs a distributor behind it, an organization or a person who has put up the money to put it into cinemas. So, a film festival is a way that you can individually pick films from around the world without needing to be part of that business model, if you like. So, in that intense 12 day period you can show a whole bunch of films that may not get shown anywhere else in Scotland.
The other side of the Film Festival is our opportunity to put on really big events that we just can’t afford or focus on at any other point in the year. So, one of the really unique and special things about Glasgow Film Festival is our mix of interactive events across the city. For example, last year we did a huge screening of the Lost Boys at M&Ds Theme Park. It's about putting films on in interesting environments but with some added elements to make the film an even more immersive experience.
The Film Festival allows people to enjoy a film again, within the community of an audience who love the same kind of films. We get many people coming together who just want to enjoy cinema for a few days and are really up for connecting together. Just like a music festival will have a massive audience of people coming together for a shared love of the bands, the film festival allows folk to come together for their shared love of film. Another example is we had The Thing screened in Scotland’s only real indoor snow ski slope at Snow Factor in Braehead. In order to make these events happen, we work with the best technical companies. For The Thing, we used a company called Indy Film, who specialise in off-site screening. Indy Film brought this enormous inflatable cinema screen which was set out at the foot of the real ski slope, while the slope was covered with deckchairs going up. And as it was real snow, people were freezing and had to wrap up in their real snow gear. So, as they watched the movie, based in the Antarctic, people felt that they were right there. The festival gives us the freedom to put these types of event on because it is specially funded by the British Film Institute, Creative Scotland, Event Scotland and Glasgow Life. For these big events we can go ‘all out’. We are all about the audience, so there are no events that are closed to the public that are VIP only to get in. Anyone can buy tickets to any of the events that we put on - if they're quick enough!
There is a fiercely loyal following of the GFT, tell me what is it about this place that creates such an engagement with the general public?
The GFT is seen as a Glasgow institution- you know, Glasgow is proud of its own. The staff here give it 110% in terms of technical effort to ensure that the experience here is second to none in terms of what you see on screen, the sounds you hear and the welcome. Each of the cinema screens themselves have very different personalities, we’re in Screen 2 at the minute, which is very much made in the classic 30s cinema style with huge pillars and feels like a picture palace from the golden age of cinema. Screen 3 next door, is brand-new in terms of its styling and has leather seats with cup holders and it feels much more like a specialised screening room. Then Screen 1 is huge and feels like you are travelling back in time to the heyday of big premieres. So I think that’s part of it, people come here and there is so much character to the halls that you are sitting in. It’s hard not to start developing a personal relationship with the place. It’s like the opposite of going to a large multiplex cinema where every hall has been designed to feel the same. When you come to the GFT, as soon as you step through the door you’re being taken to another world.
The team here are fans of cinema and love getting the opportunity to be part of this and to introduce audiences to cinema in this way, the staff can’t help but be enthusiastic about what goes on here. And that becomes infectious to the audience as well. If you love or you hate a film here, you will always get something out of it, it gets people talking. Perhaps the movie that you watched wasn’t the most important part of the evening, but the company that you had, the drinks and discussion - it all started and grew here with the films we put on.
In your time here at the GFT, tell us what your 3 main highlights have been
So, as I’ve said, we get lots of guests here. In 2016 at the Festival we had Richard Gere, a huge movie star, and I got the opportunity as part of the team, to interview him for our festival YouTube channel. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as famous as that and it’s a weird feeling, like, this guy is probably known and recognised by more people in the world than anyone else I’ve ever encountered. It's fun and it’s kind of weird when you think about it, and that was really memorable.
Then a second guest, which was earlier this year, which you took photos of, was Julian Barratt who is known from The Mighty Boosh - a brilliant British comedian - he was here with his movie Mindhorn. I got to host that Q&A in front of a sold-out audience here in GFT 1. I do love the opportunity to talk in front of an audience anyway, but when it’s with someone that you really love and admire, and then getting to meet them and not being disappointed, someone who lives up to expectations, that was really special.
The third highlight isn’t about events or guests. In my first year here I got to go to a festival in Bologna in Italy, called Il Cinema Ritrovato, which is a huge festival all about rediscovered cinema and old classics that have been restored. I was there for 4 days as part of a programme organised by Europa Cinema - anyone coming to the GFT will see the little Europa symbol popping up at the beginning of the films. They are basically a network of European independent cinemas. I’m a huge fan of classic old movies and so I was in my element watching some of these films, but it was also so great meeting people from independent cinemas across Europe and getting to appreciate that I was now part of this network, these are my peers. People in the film industry who do what they do because they really want to inspire a love of film, in as many others as possible, I just felt like 'wow, these are my people'.
For those now keen to come and try the GFT at the 2018 Film Festival, how do they find out more information?
In terms of GFF18 info, we’re not doing our first full announcement until later in November, so for now you could maybe say people should keep an eye on glasgowfilm.org/festival for updates, and the key dates are 21 Feb – 4 Mar 2018, with the full programme launch on Weds 25th January.