Michael Pierce: Scalarama, #DirectedbyWomen, ideas, dreams and partnerships

I think that is definitely one of the most exciting aspects, of people feeling encouraged to put something on, with a support network on the ground who help with tips and enthusiasm. We’ve seen film clubs form during September and go from strength to strength, like Reel Good Film Club who celebrate people of colour in front of and behind the camera.

Scalarama and #DirectedbyWomen are co-creating again this September. It’s been such a fruitful engagement.  #DirectedbyWomen caught up with Scalarama visionary/organizer Michael Pierce to talk about what’s unfolding this year. The cinema celebrations run all month long. Join us. This is going to be great!

DBW: Hi, Michael. Thanks for taking a few minutes to communicate during this very busy time – just days from the start of Scalarama and #DirectedbyWomen. For people who may not yet know, please share about Scalarama. What is it about? Who has been/can be involved? Why does #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party feel like such a great collaboration – if it does to you? It certainly does to me. It’s hard for me to adequately express my appreciation for your having reached out to invite collaboration between #DirectedbyWomen and Scalarama during last year’s celebrations. What a great time we had! And now this September we’re continuing the communal celebration! Thank you so much!

MP: Hey, Barbara – you are very welcome! I definitely think it’s a great collaboration as both initiatives have strong similarities. In a nutshell, Scalarama is about creating a month of cinema celebrations to encourage people to get more involved with local film venues and events, encourage people to try their hand at screening films and through a wide range of partners spread across the UK, advocate for why watching movies with others is so important. We grew out of a 2-month tribute to the Scala Cinema in London back in 2011 – the Scala had such a legendary status in cinema heritage in the UK, with its dynamic programming of classic and rep double bills and all-nighters, and its atmosphere, punk leanings and cats! The season was open to all different cinemas and film clubs to get involved, and we realised that this felt like a really great time to shout about all the various initiatives across the country rather than just focus on London, and explore what makes programming film exciting and adventurous rather than just relying on new releases to bring audiences in. It’s very much looking at the past, present and future of cinema, and saying it’s not about competition (independent/mainstream, professional/amateur, etc) but collaborating to show the wide potential of films to connect with all audiences – our motto is fill the land with cinemas, and it very much believes that everyone should have access to cinema, across the UK, as film is an important universal communicator of ideas, dreams and partnerships.

DBW: What impact has Scalarama and #DirectedbyWomen’s collaboration had, do you think? And what are you hoping to see unfold this year?

MP: It was a perfect collaboration as not only did they both happen in September (I call that fate!) but the intentions seemed to be the same – make people excited about the possibilities of films and be as inclusive as possible. We both have an ambition to spread this excitement, and I think both are just two examples of how technology has now shaped culture – without borders or limitations in what is possible and making films and equipment accessible to more people. In the first few years of Scalarama, we put together a core programme of titles that would have discounts when booked in September – and naturally we wanted this to be more representative, and make sure female filmmakers were represented in this. Working with #DirectedbyWomen has had huge impact, as personally I now have someone to share ideas and experiences with – we can work out what tools and resources are needed to help achieve large scale ambitions. It’s inspired people across UK to think about what they programme, which we’ve shown in Liverpool Small Cinema’s 58% initiative and it’s also reflected in the rise of female-centred film clubs.


This year it’s important to state that this is an ongoing partnership – we’ve seen lots of groups adopt the idea and I think we will start to see more cross collaborations across cities.

DBW: What are a few of the Scalarama and #DirectedbyWomen events that are taking place this September? Who’s organizing? Where are they happening? And where can people discover details about events featuring women film directors and their work?

MP: All of the Scalarama events are submitted via Screening Film a listings site for cinemas. We’ve tagged the events we have seen that have come from female filmmakers at http://scalarama.screeningfilm.com/tagged/directedbywomen. The selection this year includes the Skinny magazine pick Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis) and The Loveless (Kathryn Bigelow) at Liverpool Small Cinema, whose programme for September is over 50% female directed. Cambridge’s Reel Women continues with its monthly film night at the Arts Picturehouse, plus there is an event in Budapest, Hungary as Filmodusszea Filmklub presents a short, a music video and a film on 22 September – one of many screenings of Vera Chytilova’s Daisies – which marks its 50th anniversary this year. Lastly we’re really pleased to have Julia Marchese come over to present her film Out of Print on 35mm across the UK.

scalarama liverpool flyer

DBW: Something Scalarama and #DirectedbyWomen have in common is the thrill that arises when communities take charge of the film sharing process… making exciting, innovative programming available in ways that delight film lovers, but also stretch their perceptions of what makes for engaging cinema… and also WHO makes engaging cinema! What insights can you share with people who may be preparing to step into the role of film programmer for the first time through the creation of film viewing parties in formal or informal settings? What has helped people make that leap successfully?

MP: I think that is definitely one of the most exciting aspects, of people feeling encouraged to put something on, with a support network on the ground who help with tips and enthusiasm. We’ve seen film clubs form during September and go from strength to strength, like Reel Good Film Club who celebrate people of colour in front of and behind the camera. I think the insights I can share is that social media seems to be really key to getting word out there, but word of mouth is also sometimes underrated. Invite other film clubs / venues along to your events, and make the network feel stronger and more inclusive. There’s loads of resources in the UK like Cinema For All, Independent Cinema Office, BFI and the Film Audience Network, all who can give practical advice, but more importantly, have a strong ambition. The more you can speak of your ambitions and intentions, the more people and audience will feel included in your development.

DBW: Part of the excitement of multi-location events like these is helping people tune in to what’s happening in the other venues. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we can feel connected. What plans does the Scalarama community have for sharing experiences across time and space? I’ve been hearing some talk about #DirectedbyWomen parties sharing via Periscope and Facebook Live. And there’s a strong contingent who will be tweeting with the hashtag #DirectedbyWomen.

MP: I think this is important and the next stage for Scalarama – how do we feel like a big event is happening – Facebook Live sounds a great idea, especially for Q&As – and how do we feel connected? What can we do as a collective of film exhibitors, and combining our powers for more leverage, maybe on discounts from distributors or reach out to filmmakers. I think by coming together in local hotspots like in Brighton, Glasgow and Bristol, people who speak to each other or follow each other on Twitter etc, can meet in person and feel like a new wave of film exhibition is coming, not one that threatens traditional cinemas, but encourages them to also get involved, and make cinema programming exciting again.

DBW: Thanks, Michael. This is going to be another great month of cinema. Looking forward to staying connected online throughout September. Can’t wait to celebrate with you.

The Scalarama Manifesto resonates so strongly with the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party!  Please take a moment to watch this video. Hope this inspires you to co-create with us this September – wherever you are.