Grahame Reid: How the magic of movies can shine a light on unknown lives

I must have been about 14 when I first became properly aware of film. I had seen countless films before but for the first time I wasn't watching passively for the next big explosion, unware of what made the film I was watching so special'¦ or not, as was most often the case.

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

My friend Andrew and I were ­generally up to something. Nothing particularly outrageous, just general early teen mischief, seeing what we could get away with.

On this day we had managed to get a copy of a VHS called Pulp Fiction, a film that promised humour, ­violence, drugs and most importantly, an 18 ­rating, which of course meant we weren’t supposed to watch it. Although it certainly was as advertised – plenty of humour, violence and an overdose (pun intended) of drugs – that wasn’t what caught my eye. It was the tension that built ­continuously over three individual stories, which also fitted into the overall arc – all despite the non-linear structure.

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OK, so maybe the 14-year-old me didn’t have those exact thoughts, but it definitely had me hooked in a way no other film had, alluring 18 ­certificate or not.

Grahame Reid, Film Programmer, Macrobert Arts Centre

I gave up passively watching film (well almost), studied film at both Undergraduate and at Masters ­level and took on an internship as a film programmer at Macrobert Arts ­Centre. It seemed like a dream to be able to control and influence the film viewing of the masses. To butcher that quote from Field of Dreams, “Pick them and they will come”. Oh, if only it was that simple!

I soon realised that knowing films is all well and good, but it is only half the battle. Knowing your audience is just as important.

So I set out on a journey to learn who, what, why, when, where and how and used that knowledge to influence how I programmed. 
Getting to know our audience and, in turn, them getting to know me resulted in our attendance figures increasing and my role at Macrobert Arts Centre becoming a full time position.

I like to believe, that over time, our audience has put their trust in me as their film programmer. Not only have we reached out to new people and increased the number people who come to see films at Macrobert, but the people who have been with us for a while now trust us/me enough to take a few risks with their cinema viewing.

Grahame Reid, Film Programmer, Macrobert Arts Centre

This relationship journey means that I’ve been able to really develop the film programme and take more risks with the titles I choose, which in turn has had a ­massive impact on the importance of film within our organisation.

Next month we take another step on the journey, when the inaugural ­Central Scotland Documentary ­Festival starts on 17 October (until 23 October).

This is the chance to bring film to the forefront at Macrobert, ­creating an annual event that I hope ­audiences invest in as much as they have with my year round programming. I believe that film is a really accessible art form and within that, documentary film is the most accessible genre. They offer so much, can ­cover any subject, highlight passions and plights, challenge or emphasise thoughts and beliefs. They encourage us to laugh, cry, learn, question, critique and be entertained.

Add documentaries to the ­equation and you also add discussion. Be it with a director, panellist or the ­person sitting next to you and whether it is regarding the subject, the process or experience, I hope that these discussions carry on long after a screening and the Festival have ended.

Having the chance to create a moment that shines a light on film in the heart of Scotland is something I am relishing and having just put the finishing touches to the Festival guide as I write this, I cannot wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to the business of showcasing a programme that I feel really proud to have curated.

From my own point of view I want this inaugural Festival to be just the start. I want it to become the film festival for the Central Belt and an annual event that not only showcases some of the best in documentaries from around the world, but is synonymous with the word documentary across the film industry.

That, would be an amazing thing to get away with!

Grahame Reid is film programmer at Macrobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling.