Urban spaces and the cinema have been closely interlinked since the birth of the medium. At the end of the nineteenth century, the earliest films were street scenes shot on static cameras; the life of the city or town was the only story needed. Mitchell and Kenyon’s films of northern Britain from around 1910, for instance, didn’t only show lots of people (the paying audience who made the films worth making), but recorded the town and cityscapes of the time.
Technical innovations in the latter half of the twentieth century enabled location shooting, which saw real places become backdrops for fictional stories. Films used the city as an inspiration, set and ever-present character. A book about New York city and its relationship with films (Celluloid Skyline by James Sanders – highly recommended!) mentions Mean Streets, Smithereens and She’s Gotta Have It as particular examples, but think of the classic Ealing comedies and how much their plot hinges on the urban environment: if Mrs Wilberforce hadn’t lived by the train tracks in London, would the ladykillers have survived?
But the urban landscape is also a good place to watch films. As a pop-up urban cinema, we usually find ourselves showing films in places where you wouldn’t normally find them. The urban environment, particularly Sheffield’s industrial landscape, offers many possibilities for interesting film-viewing experiences. When we are more technologically developed, we may be able to take more advantage of these – all those disused, neglected spaces behind that wall with a tree growing out of it, across that cobbled yard or just round the back of that polished, new, designed-by-committee public art.
Our next two screenings take place in interesting spaces. First up is CADS, Creative Arts Development Space in Shalesmoor (Kevin Smith’s Clerks to illustrate the buddy movie plotline), and then we’re in an empty shop on the Moor showing Sound It Out as part of the Tramlines music festival.
Exploring our city for potential screening venues opens up the exciting opportunity to poke around Sheffield’s wonderful forgotten spaces. It’s uncovering hidden aspects of the city that are either not widely known about (like CADS and Hagglers Corner) or just a bit ignored (like Victoria Quays). We like it here.