Alchemy

“A process by which paradoxical results are achieved or incompatible elements combined with no obvious rational explanation”.

 “Living in Oblivion” arrived in the post from LOVEFILM this morning – a painfully funny and wry look at the trials and traumas of making a movie – and it made me think about collaboration.

Although film-making is something you can do as a solo project these days, it is still fundamentally a team effort; unless you work as a total one-man band with no cast or crew whatsoever, somewhere along the line you need to involve other people. And that’s where things can go way out of control into nightmare alley, or turn out better and more brilliant than you could ever have imagined on your own.

Same thing goes with actually showing a movie.  All our events involve some kind of collaboration  – the venues, other organisations we work with and the audiences themselves are all an important part of the process – and though it’s kind of scary to lose the “control”, it means being able to do things we wouldn’t be able to do alone. When different people bring their own particular strengths into the mix it creates an alchemical reaction that’s far greater than the sum of its parts.

We had this a few nights ago at Summer’s End Soiree. An outdoor film screening at Recycle Bikes’ yard had that magical festive quality, thanks to our collaborators; what started as a casual idea to show a cycling-related movie (what is it about films and bicycles? – they seem to go together so well!) gradually gained momentum and suddenly several different groups were involved.

We had some manic bike races around the Recycle buildings and yard, which is on a hill and made a natural amphitheatre in front of the screen, while the Abundance crew chopped dozens of windfall apples and pears and hand-pressed them into a delicious coral-coloured nectar.

Our roving popcorn vendor Jenny and her helpers distributed bags of sweet or salty to new arrivals, especially all those who were out of puff after cycling up that hill!

As the light faded people started to put down rugs and unpack their seats to settle in front of the screen while clips of 1970s Italian cycle racing played to get everyone in the mood – accompanied by the clink and whirr and gorgeous smells of the Caffe Carino coffee van. Heeley Development Trust and our trusty sound technician John worked hard to get the light and sound quality just right (not easy out of doors) and it all came together beautifully.

Sight, sound, scent and taste – and the feel of a warm rug on a (brr!) slightly fresh late summer evening under the stars – we couldn’t have brought all those qualities together on our own and together with a good film and a lively, up-for-it audience they made for a truly special ambience.

We think that’s what cinema should be all about – a sensuous blend of different ingredients culminating in a magical experience – and I suspect that that’s what it always used to be before the days of the multiplex. Just think of the live piano accompaniment in the days of the silent films, or the organist rising majestically from the bowels of the earth in old cinemas; even the traditional standing up and singing the national anthem after the film’s end credits (which lasted right up to the early 1970s).

Our next two screenings will also be collaborative ventures: first up, a night of CHEAP THRILLS! screening local shorts with Little Red Light Productions (the winners of South Yorkshire Film Makers’ Network’s “Two Weeks to Make It” music video competition) – then we’re showing seminal art house favourite “Orphee” as part of the Off the Shelf literary festival, complete with 1950s music, vintage cabaret theme and 21st century micro-brewed ales!

More on these very soon….it’s you, the audience, who brings the magical touch to the alchemical mix so do sign up for membership if you’d like to get involved.

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