Deputy Culture Editor - Film & TV
A Q&A with the new CEO of Glasgow Film, as the Glasgow Film Festival 2020 gets underway.
As the Glasgow Film Festival 2020 gets underway on 26 February, I recently had the chance to speak to Allison Gardner, the next CEO of Glasgow Film (the parent charity which runs the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) and the Glasgow Youth Film Festival), about student-deals, The Breakfast Club, and her top picks for this year’s festival.
GG: Firstly, congratulations on your appointment as the next CEO of Glasgow Film. Glasgow Film has always focussed on providing a diverse selection of films, exposing new audiences to art cinema, and introducing innovative approaches to making the enjoyment of film inclusive and accessible to all. Are there any Glasgow Film Programmes that run throughout the year that you are especially proud of, or are excited to develop further?
Allison: A programme that really embodies the spirit of the GFT and one I couldn’t be more excited to develop further in the coming year is our Pay What You Decide screenings. Every Monday, the GFT hosts a screening where you can come along to the box office, get a ticket up to two hours before the performance and then you choose what to pay for it upon leaving the cinema. We want our audiences to come to the cinema more and support independent film; but we also want them to take more risks with what they watch and to venture outside their cinematic comfort zone. With the current media landscape there is so much content out there that is instantly available, and as great as that can be, it can make people complacent in what they choose to watch and how they watch it. Our Pay What You Decide programme gives an opportunity for films that audiences may not usually take a chance on to be experienced the way they were intended to.
GG: Now, with just one week to go until the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF), just how hectic has the Glasgow Film HQ been in preparation for an event of this size?
AG: It’s a huge undertaking and it just keeps getting bigger every year; but we have such a close-knit team at GFF so even during the festival, while we’re all at our busiest, it’s still a joy to come to work every day. It’s a point of pride for all of us that while Glasgow Film Festival has grown to be respected as one of the top film festivals in the United Kingdom, the GFT still maintains that sense of being a local cinema.
GG: With the GFF screening over 190 films across twelve days, this next question might be a tad unfair. Is there any film that you have had the opportunity to watch in advance that you are particularly excited to see screened?
AG: That is a very hard question, but if I had to narrow it down to three I would have to go firstly with the incredible Heroic Losers from Argentinian filmmaker Sebastian Borenzstein. The film is a Robin Hood-style heist caper about a retired footballer in Buenos Aires who persuades his neighbours to invest in a co-operative; when it’s shut down, the group stage a daring heist to steal back their stolen money - I absolutely loved it. I would also pick Mak CK’s One Taxi Ride, which is a documentary about a male sexual assault survivor coming forward about his experience after years of choosing not to reveal it to those closest to him. It’s very emotionally intense but I think it’s a really powerful and vital piece of filmmaking that a lot of people should watch. Finally, I would pick The Undercurrent which is an utterly charming film that was shot guerrilla-style through vlogging sessions and workshops with a group of young climate change activists in Idaho. The students of Glasgow University have always been politically active and proudly so. I think this is definitely one that students will leave feeling as uplifted and inspired as I was when I saw it.
GG: Given the inclusion of the hugely popular Special Events series for this year's edition, can you give a run-down of some of the classic events that have run in previous years, and how this year's festival plans to surpass the high bar you have set for yourselves?
AG: Our Special Events get bigger and more ambitious each year; we’ve had everything from a late-night screening of The Blair Witch Project in the woods of Mugdock Park to a screening of The Thing in -5°C temperatures at an indoor snow slope. Audiences always look forward to what we are going to come up with and I think the team have outdone themselves this year. On the opening weekend of the festival, we are transforming the Argyle Street Arches into a dystopian vision of the city called Neo-Glasgow, where we are putting on immersive screenings of sci-fi favourites like Total Recall and Train to Busan. It sometimes feels like we are already living in a dystopian future so we not only want to give our audiences a fantastic event cinema experience, but also reflect the times we’re living in with the films we’re screening.
Elsewhere in our Special Events, we are hosting a screening of The Breakfast Club in Strathclyde Student Union which will be followed by a school dance for our audience who will all become part of the Class of 1984. With the sad news of that building being shut down as the student union, it’s going to be a great night where students present and past can join together to celebrate the great nostalgia that both the building and the film hold for so many people. Finally, we have a spooky scavenger hunt through Glasgow where audiences will have to solve clues to reach a secret location screening of Final Destination; be sure to watch out though as you never know who you might encounter on the way…
GG: The Glasgow Film Festival has had a long history of supporting women in film, with Mark Cousin's 14-hour epic documentary Women Make Film already appearing to be a landmark event. How do the GFF team and yourself ensure women are represented in the curation of the programme?
AG: I think what’s always been most important to us at GFF is showcasing quality films by quality filmmakers; while we are lucky to have so many films this year directed by female filmmakers, they are filmmakers first and foremost and the decision to choose their films was based solely on the outstanding calibre of their work. The methods we use to select these films are the same in selecting any film for our programme. However, it’s important to raise women’s voices and the profile of their work, which is why we chose to both open and close the festival this year with female directors, providing two excellent films with high-profile, headline slots.
GG: I am sure I speak on behalf of all cinema-lovers in Glasgow when I say that I am incredibly excited to attend what looks like a spectacular celebration of cinema. As a student, are there any deals or cheap events that I should keep an eye out for? And one final question, how can we get our hands on tickets?
AG: The best way for a lot of students to take full advantage of our packed programme is to apply for one of our GFT 15-25 cards which entitles you to any standard festival ticket for £6.50. All full-time students are entitled to an adult concession ticket which is priced at £9.30 but we also have a fantastic selection of films throughout our programme that are priced at £6.50 for all audiences, which includes the films in our Women Make Film strand.
Also, all the events as part of our Behind the Scenes and Retrospective strands are free of charge. Behind The Scenes events are a great opportunity for any students aspiring to work in the film industry to meet people at the top of their respective fields; this year we have iconic film photographer Susan Wood who will be giving a talk on her experiences being the set photographer on Easy Rider as well as shooting such figures as Jane Fonda and Billy Wilder. Our Retrospective strand is all about dystopian film this year, showing both modern and cult classics, which are screened each morning of the festival and are ideal for a student schedule.
If you see something that takes your fancy, you can book tickets online or over the phone, at glasgowfilm.org/festival and through the GFT Box Office (0141 332 6535).