Until trying to write this, I believed that I fell into the world of film by happy accident. I now realise that this is almost entirely untrue.
Television was my first love and it was through hours of intensive watching, as a child, that I became aware of myself as a viewer. I think the minute you ‘become aware’ you become, by default, an active viewer rather than a passive one. You become part of the creative process.
I’d liken it to a cartoon character realising they are not a real life entity, rather an animation crafted by an illustrator, who is stood just out of frame and who they are now arguing with. Heavy with this realisation weighing on my 11-year-old shoulders, I set out to find if I was alone in this awareness.
Next came my less autonomous relationship with film; 90 per cent of my childhood movie diet was films my parents liked. Naturally, my angsty 12-year-old self wanted to rebel against such shackles, but I suppose rebellion against films like Trainspotting and The Doors would have been like not taking drugs and becoming a happy and well-balanced adult – well played Mum! Nevertheless, I was hooked.
At peak awkward, highly pretentious early teenage phase whilst applying eyeliner to male friends, listening relentlessly to The Smiths and attending late night cult screenings of films like The Breakfast Club and Labyrinth, I found A Clockwork Orange and bore witness to the genius of Kubrick. My eyeliner-wearing droogs and I gorged. Film was cool, but cult film was cooler and actively knowing about cult film was cooler still.
At this time, my English teacher, Miss Casey, taught us to read film and we studied Psycho and The Godfather. Her passion was contagious, and she bestowed us with the language to engage with film – and with each other – in the way we wanted to. Then after some gentle persuasion (my mother picked my degree and told me to pack up so she could turn my room into a zen space), I studied English and Film at the University of Stirling.
I loved learning about audiences and the multitude of ways in which we engage with the screen and why we do so. The weight on my former 11-year-old shoulders melted at last and all these formative brushes with TV and film led to a clear understanding of my interest in engaging with film audiences. I am currently working as film programme officer at Macrobert Arts Centre – part of the Film Exhibition, Distribution & Sales trainee scheme run by the Independent Cinema Office, which even more fortunately, is a paid opportunity.
Whilst working at Macrobert Arts Centre I’ve had the chance to set up screenings and discussions on I Am Not Your Negro, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri for International Women’s Day and at the end of April, I’ve got a surprise planned for International Take a Chance Day.
Organising these events has given me the opportunity to organise panels and populate them with academics, MSPs and other experts; reach out to groups in the community and work on marketing and audience development around them; do public presentation, and technical setups as well.
The experience has already given me a lot of insight into the job and into my own strengths and weaknesses – for instance, as loud and ham-fisted as I am, I hate public speaking and love technical setups.
In the coming months, I’ll be working on more of my own events as well as helping out with unDependence events, Cycle Cinema, Central Scotland documentary festival and I’ll be coordinating Scalarama, in Stirling. The skills I have gained so far have been invaluable and I’ll keep learning, improving and engaging with the audience for as long as they’ll have me.
As a programmer, you’re asking an audience to let you play (my) mother, to let you pick films for them. As a former angsty rebellious teen, I can see the challenge on both sides. The audience don’t always like your choices and you don’t always agree with the audience. It would be no fun if you did and it doesn’t mean you’re right if your opinions do differ. This alone has been one of my biggest learning points, but it’s probably what makes the job so appealing.
I have something else up my sleeve too; a celebration of the genius of Kubrick, so film buffs, first time viewers and apathetic teens, one and all, keep your Eyes Wide Shut for details…
After all, film is cool, Kubrick is cooler, but the audience is coolest.
Katie Skinner, film programme officer, Macrobert Art Centre.