Where did the time go?
Looking back, it seems we’ve been doing this forever and it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t even know each other and film club was just a twinkle in our eyes. And on the other hand it’s like it all happened just yesterday.
Anyway, our first screening together was five years ago this week.
We showed “Harold and Maude” to a full house at “The Sharrow Pie Experiment”, a splendid and much missed pop up cafe on London Road.
We played the film from a laptop and tiny speakers, with a borrowed projector and screen. It was boiling hot but we couldn’t open the doors because of the traffic noise outside, the black out material fell down halfway through the screening but no-one seemed to mind. The important part was, it was fun.
Between then and today we’ve done 82 public screenings and a fair number of private ones.
Although today there are now so many different film events in the city and so much to choose from – as well as new online platforms such as Mubi, live streaming of theatre or dance broadcasts, and a whole new independent cinema with the Sheffield Curzon – five years ago it all looked very different and we began film club because we wanted to see the kind of films that weren’t getting shown anywhere else. Films we loved and wanted to share.
So we started Magic Lantern to see if anyone else might feel the same, and it’s been going ever since.
We’ve popped up in all sorts of places, from an empty Argos shop floor to the Lantern theatre. We’ve done wonderful “picnic” screenings at the ReCycle bike yard and the boatyard at the canal basin (thanks, lads!) and Spanish themed film and food at an old church. Our “immersive” screening of Alien will surely live on indelibly in the memories of everyone who came. We’ve shown films in 35mm, 16mm, super 8 and 3-D as well as digitally, though the much-talked about Lazerdisc event is yet to happen.
We’ve done site specific, dress-up, games and prizes, children’s films and film literacy sessions, and a memory bank season in a care home for the elderly. We’ve even put on a film for the Blind Veterans.
We’ve shown double features, documentaries and programmes by local film makers. Hagglers Corner, the Rutland and DADa have been among our many excellent hosts. After all this roaming, we’ve come to land at Picture House Social and their little basement cinema.
And films? We’ve shown two Hitchcocks, two Polanskis, two Wim Wenders, two Ridley Scotts and three Ealing pictures. We’ve shown John Hughes and John Huston, Hal Hartley and Lynne Ramsay, done a Von Sternberg season at the Showroom, screened Chaplin in 16mm with the University, played films by Tarantino, Carpenter and Scorsese but somehow no Orson Welles, no Truffaut, no Bergmann, Rossellini, Kurosawa or Ozu. No David Lynch, no Tarkovsky, no Minelli or Ford. Jim Jarmusch but no Clare Denis. Jean Cocteau but no Agnes Varda. Bunuel but not Cronenberg. And so on.
The list of what we haven’t shown yet or haven’t been able to because of licensing restrictions is one of the things that makes us want to keep going because there are so many more films we want to share.
After five years we’re aware that there are other people doing the whole event cinema thing much bigger and better all the time, while we are increasingly more interested in great content and simply watching a good film together, one you might not have seen before. We want to broaden our programming, be more responsive to present and future audiences, and share more films with more people.
The film club wagon has been kind of running on two wheels since Alison went to live in Spain, though she is still very much involved from afar, but the original passion for cinema that kicked it all off is still undimmed.
We’re working on the space at Picture House Social and it’s getting there…not quite right yet, and yes, if you came to our birthday screening you’ll agree it’s still a bit chilly. Nevertheless, it’s all gradually taking shape. We’re currently hatching new ideas for this space and beyond in the coming year, and next week Mel is beginning a mentoring programme with the Independent Cinema Office.
We don’t really know what’s next – but then again, to paraphrase Deckard at the end of Blade Runner, “then again, who does?”