I’ve really enjoyed working closely with the team at the Oska Bright Film Festival and Carousel over the last year and am happy to report that we’ll be continuing to work together through 2021 on the development of film industry support programmes and finding more ways to bring films made by or featuring people with learning disabilities, autism or Aspergers to the world.
Newcastle upon Tyne-based distributor Jonny Tull will release four titles in the UK/Ireland over 2021 under new banner Tull Stories.
Tull will first release the Irish documentary GROUNDSWELL from filmmaker Johnny Gogan (Prisoners Of The Moon). The film is released in the UK on Friday 16th April via the Modern Films virtual cinema platform, ahead of Earth Day on Thursday 22nd April. It tells of the trials of a small community group in Leitrim as they fight the fracking company who has just commenced work in their county. Set against the backdrop of the years leading up to Ireland’s historic decision to ban the practice in 2018, the film features appearances from International activists including the actor Mark Ruffalo and author Sandra Steingraber.
In the summer (date to be set) Tull Stories will release the London Film Festival-selected documentary SOUND FOR THE FUTURE. From artist filmmaker Matt Hulse (Dummy Jim) and Pinball Films, the film is an affectionate and daring reconstruction and deconstruction of the evolution of The Hippies, the young punk band which was formed by Hulse and his siblings in 1979. The soundtrack features music from XTC, Gang of Four, Sleaford Mods, The Stranglers, Ought, Generation Riot, Doug Champion, Cheap Fags and The Hippies.
In autumn 2021 Tull will release new feature THE FOOTBALL MONOLOGUES from filmmaker and former actor Greg Cruttwell (Naked, Two Days In The Valley, George Of The Jungle, Chunky Monkey). Completed in September 2020, The Football Monologues adopts a talking heads-style structure involving seven people from different backgrounds under the umbrella of the beautiful game. The Football Monologues stars Emma Amos (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Goodnight Sweetheart) and Samuel Anderson (The History Boys, The Lady In The Van).
Tull Stories is also further developing its adventure documentary slate, with the first release being the multi-award-winning PIANO TO ZANSKAR. Michal Sulima’s film is being readied for theatrical release in the summer.
Jonny Tull said:
“I’m delighted to be able to launch Tull Stories with such a high quality and varied slate. My ambition is to work with talented independent filmmakers who tell unique and inspiring stories and each film we have on the way absolutely represents that. I’m looking forward to introducing them – and Tull Stories – to audiences over 2021.”
A John Brabourne awardee in 2020, Tull has worked in distribution and exhibition in the UK independent sector for over 25 years. Tull Stories will work on projects in both exhibition and distribution, providing programming and audience development services for exhibitors as well as distributing specialised film and adventure documentaries.
If you would like to discuss any programming or audience development projects please get in touch.
When the UK went into Lockdown In March, I was reeling in shock. Over two days I had dozens of film bookings postponed or cancelled, and the exhibition projects that I was working on were all suddenly on pause.
I felt that I had to try and process this situation in some way and to look ahead to consider how we in exhibition might begin to talk to our customers and encourage them back to cinemas after this enforced intermission.
It became very clear very quickly that it would be relevant and helpful to talk to my peers and colleagues in exhibition about their own plans, anxieties and expectations, so I created Pressing Play, a snapshot survey which aimed to take the pulse of the current situation we’re in, specifically by asking exhibitors to consider venue closures and life on the other side of Lockdown.
Based on the number of people working in programming roles or similar and who may not have been furloughed the target sample of respondents was set at 100.
This felt realistic and meant that the sample would still maintain as minimal a margin of error as possible. It also meant that I could access input from a broad mix of venues working across the sector, hearing from cinemas, arts centres and film societies.
In all, there were responses from 97 exhibitors.
It was completed by representatives of 49 cinemas, 29 arts centres and 18 Film clubs/societies.
The size of conurbations represented scaled from those with under 10,000 residents to those with over 200,000 residents.
The number of screens each organisation programmed ranged from 1 to more than 5.
The questions asked in Pressing Play revolved around the areas of:
Our own fears about attending events.
How we feel future attendance by different audiences may be impacted by COVID-19.
Specific barriers to attendance we might want to consider.
The nature of the messages we may use with our audiences to encourage them back into our cinemas.
And what type of activity we may present as part of our reopening strategies.
The survey ran from Wednesday 1st April until Tuesday 19th May 2020.
Written within responses is a note of uncertainty, but as time and responses have moved on we can see that confidence is returning to the sector.
Ultimately Pressing Play is an exercise in understanding and empathising with audiences – and one which I hope may help the sector find an easier route to returning and celebrating our artform with our customers.
I hope that it proves useful.
When audiences will return
63% of respondents are very worried about the speed that audiences will return to the cinema.
45% of us are particularly worried that audiences may not return to cinemas at all after restrictions lift.
Impact on particular audience segments
We are less anxious about the impact on younger adults and families’ cinema attendance.
60% of respondents to Pressing Play believe that attendance by older audiences (60+) will be greatly affected (over 25% reduction).
Barriers to attendance
93% of respondents are worried about the impact that fear of infection may have amongst audiences.
49% of exhibitors are worried about the impact of the pause on audiences and the industry.
48% of respondents are anxious about the possible impact of new VOD practices and strategies.
33% of exhibitors are anxious about what will be available to screen when cinemas reopen.
Exhibitors’ outgoing communications on reopening will be made up of an offer of safety, togetherness, a request for support and patronage, and exciting programming.
58% of respondents will lead with ‘Our venue is clean and safe’ as a key message.
72% of us want to make a fuss of reopening, marking it with a special event or activity.
33% of organisations will launch new pricing initiatives and 32% will offer free tickets.
Exhibitors are now resigned to opening with restrictions.
58% of exhibitors who have completed Pressing Play have not undertaken any online activity with audiences.
What happens when a Muslim city councillor, a key figure in the English Defence League and a member of ANTIFA have a meal together?
In 2015 North East filmmaker David Kenny picked up his camera and set out on an unusual project. Having become frustrated at the political and social divisions in UK society, at increasing anti-Islamic sentiments and at more and more media reports of civic unrest, David wanted to try and understand how the opposing views in Britain’s communities might be better articulated and understood. Rather than left and right wing taking to the streets was there another way for opinions to be conveyed?
To answer this question, David invited three people with disparate and opposing societal views to dinner.
Newcastle Muslim Labour Councillor Dipu Ahad, English Defence League member John Banks, and Rob Sands, a member of ANTIFA, all met for the first time in a restaurant in Cumbria, and the resulting documentary, IS NOT ONE WAY, shows what happened that night.
Before making the film, with such a challenging and far-reaching project, David knew the result would offer different answers than purely seeking a response to anti-Muslim sentiment.
“I know that it would be naive to expect any solution to such a huge social issue so my intention was to try and encourage Rob, Dipu and John to better understand one another as people, and to begin to respect one another’s views by the time they had finished their desserts.”
The resulting film is a thought-provoking insight into the mindset of our three subjects and in a way offers its own insight into a fragmented Britain. David says:
“I’m really happy to have undertaken this experiment and with how it has turned out. John, Rob and Dipu were all amazing to have dedicated themselves so fully to the film, and they were all really open and honest. The three have met again since and whilst they will never relate to their differing worlds, they all now have a better understanding of each another’s situations.”
Understanding that the idea of screening a film about societal unrest might make some cinema managers cautious, since completing the film; David has been carefully preparing for a UK cinema tour, going so far as to screen It Is Not One Way in London in a private showing for political and film journalists. He now feels he is ready to unveil his film, with the first public screening taking place at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema on Tuesday 26th February at 6.30pm.
Director of Film Programme at Tyneside Cinema, Andrew Simpson says:
“I was very keen to bring It Is Not One Way to Tyneside Cinema as part of our Frontline series of films. Frontline is all about taking issues or subjects that matter to people now, and starting a conversation which is driven by cinema, and within the cinema space. In this film, David Kenny does exactly that – it perfectly embodies what we are trying to achieve with our Frontline programme. I anticipate a lively discussion after the screening too!”
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion to discuss whether ‘swapping demonstration for dinner’ is a practical option. The panel will include Peter Hopkins (Professor for Social Geography from Newcastle University), Tony Dowling (Chair, People’s Assembly North East & local anti-fascist) and David himself. It is chaired by Richard Moss, the BBC’s Political Editor for North East and Cumbria.
“I’m thrilled to be able to screen It Is Not One Way in the north east. After this screening, I have plans to take the film to other cinemas in the UK during 2019. The release of the film has been supported by over 100 people via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, and it will be really interesting to meet the people who supported it – whatever their perspective. I’m expecting a healthy debate, and I really want to hear what the audience think of our project.”
2018 was going to be the make or break year for me in my endeavour of Connecting People With Stuff, and to have not only survived it but also be looking forward to the next year is unbelievable.
I look back on the last 12 months and see the peaks of happy clients, setting out into film distribution, finding new colleagues, enjoying a slate of work which expanded across the UK and the world, lots of recommendations and repeat engagements. I experienced loads of travelling, new learning and skills building – and the sheer sexiness of having a film I’m working on be made The Observer’s Film of The Week by Mark Kermode!
I also see the lows of missed opportunities, the anxieties of where the next gig might come from, a little bit of ill-health, and the normal insecurities that occasionally cloud our feelings, strategies and judgement.
Cinema is in my blood. After 20+ years of bringing a world of film to my region, and trying to replicate the deep journey I had into cinema for countless others I can’t let go. In 2017 I refused to let the trepidation I felt about major career change push me into another sector and into a role that didn’t involve cinema or an audience sat in front of a big screen.
I’m never going to let go of that fascination of engaging audiences with cinema.
I set out on this new path to learn new skills and develop. After a wildly successful and satisfying career, this necessary new chapter had to be about exploration, growth, and self-affirmation.
It hasn’t disappointed.
The last 18 months of being a freelancer have been tough, really tough, but it’s also been the most rewarding period of my life and through it, I’ve found untapped resolve, new skills and an eagerness to push ahead and build myself into something bigger, better and bolder.
2019 is the next stage. I head into a new year with pencil sketches of plans – films to help distribute, projects in place across exhibition, programming and audience development – and more teaching. I also now have a network of people around me to talk to, seek advice from and take inspiration from.
Once again it’s a make or break year, but this time I head into the fray with more support around me than ever before, more experience, more confidence and a little bit of a strategy.
Time to learn, once again. So if you booked a film, offered advice, hired me, or were just there with support, thank you for everything and have a good one!
Really excited to announce that I’ll be teaming up with distribution company Day For Night and founder Sonali Joshi for the UK release of the terrific New Zealand drama WARU (currently rated 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes kids!).
More details announced soon, but follow the link to info and trailer below if you fancy a peek.
After a fantastic spring 2018, and the releases of PSYCHO VERTICAL and ALAN HINKES – THE FIRST BRITON TO CLIMB THE WORLD’S HIGHEST MOUNTAINS, I’m excited about the many new projects projects coming up over the summer.
Two fascinating north-east projects lead the way, with Abi Lewis’ GEORDIE JAZZ MAN about to make its bow around the UK and David Kenny’s critically-important IT IS NOT ONE WAY showing that discussion can be an alternative to demonstration, which heads out on the road in the next few months.
We’ll also be taking the US documentary DIRTBAG – THE LEGEND OF FRED BECKEY out to cinemas from mid-August, introducing UK audiences to the maverick US mountaineer who could have had the world figuratively – as well as literally – at his feet.
Finally, sometime in the early autumn, we’ll be lending our support to Chris Lewis’ THE YUKON ASSIGNMENT too. It’s the brilliant story of a father and son’s journey across the vast Yukon – by canoe!
With more conversations currently happening with filmmakers all across the world, watch out for more exciting announcements very soon! Find out about our current distribution projects by following this link.
I’m having a whale of a time working on film distribution projects as part of my consultancy services.
Offering a bespoke and tailored approach to a grassroots release means close contact and consultation with the filmmaker and a really film-friendly and common-sense approach for the release of their work.
So far, the fantastic PSYCHO VERTICAL, the first film I’ve supported this year, has been booked into over 30 UK cinemas over the last month, including several Picturehouse sites, Glasgow Film Theatre, Watershed Bristol, Showroom, Sheffield and many more. With four clients on the books, I have a really diverse and exciting set of projects to work on and I’m currently in negotiation with a further five filmmakers worldwide, stretching from the UK to Australia, Japan and the US. I’m really very grateful to be given the opportunities to help tell the stories they have made by these talented people.
Find out about the first three films I’m supporting in 2018, and our approach to releasing each at my film distribution support page here.