Interview with Toby King, programmer of The Duke's After Dark at Duke of York's Picturehouse (From The Argus)
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Interview with Toby King, programmer of The Duke's After Dark at Duke of York's Picturehouse
How would you describe The Duke's After Dark to someone who's never been before. What should they expect?
Firstly The Duke's After Dark is all about seeing a great film in a cinema with a great crowd. This is the simplest and most important part of the whole thing. For me these simplest of things don't exist in modern cinema-going.
Multiplexes are grim, bland places often half empty and fail to capture or harness whatever vibe the film you're watching is giving off. The Duke of York's is a very special kind of cinema because you actually get a cinema experience, even small aspects like the building, or simply being able to buy a beer (or slice of cake) makes it more personal or memorable.
At The Duke's After Dark it's about capturing the uniqueness of the Duke's as a venue, but also being a bit more laid back, a bit more rowdy. The films we program are to be watched with a lively crowd. Cheering, booing, laughing, applauding are strongly encouraged. As we screen films that most of the audiences have seen numerous times and know scene for scene what's coming. When we screened JAWS I don't think there was anyone in the house that didn't quote out loud, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"
How long has The Duke's After Dark been going and what kind of response have you received?
So yeah, it stared first with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE and a screening of JURASSIC PARK in early 2011, but its only really been The Duke's After Dark since THE LOST BOYS show last summer. The response has been fantastic, each show has sold really well and two have sold out.
It's kinda scary because the bar has been set high now. But it's very rewarding knowing that there is a market for this kind of late night cinema. It's great that people still want to see these films on a big screen with a crowd when they could easily pirate them off the internet and watch them alone in bed.
What gave you the idea to put short films on before the main feature and what do you hope to achieve through this?
The short film idea came from a conversation with one of Picturehouse cinema's programmers, and it was a great idea. Anyone can make a short film now, but most of these will only live on YouTube.
So it's nice to be able to get someone's work up there on a massive screen in front of a real life crowd. It's also a nod back to old days when cinema used to screen shorts before films instead of twenty minutes of car adverts.
What do you think of short film as a medium or art form?
Short films are a tricky one. I've seen a lot and there are millions out there. It is potentially a great art form. I mostly see it as a playground for creative types to flex their muscles and try stuff out. I think it's great because there are literally no rules to short films. You aren't catering to anyone's expectations, so you can do exactly what you want to do, and the technology is out there for everyone to have a go.
Which independent filmmakers and short films have you screened so far and what has the response been like from the audience or the filmmakers themselves?
The first one was by my colleagues Jonathan Hyde and Abi Toll and was a music video from Esben and the Witch. It was a great video that complemented the music and the film screening itself perfectly.
I made a terrible little video to screen before JAWS, which was basically me and some friends doing stupid stuff in the sea on the beach. It got a few laughs and suited being screened before JAWS.
A friend of one of the projectionists supplied a weird little short for the ALIENS screening; it was an entry into the Straight 8 competition. I still don't really know what it was about, but it was called MOON EGG and looked real cool.
For PULP FICTION me and my friend (and local photographer) Sam Hiscox made a film inspired by Godard's famous quote, 'all you need to make a movie is a girl and gun.' It's called KASIA KASANOVA; it's pretty great even if I say so myself. We shot on a Wednesday night, edited it Thursday and Friday and screened it at Duke's After Dark on Saturday.
I was also lucky enough to get a trailer for a series of pulp books from Pulp Press; a local publishing company who in specialise in contemporary pulp fiction. This trailer was made by Kevin Mason at Create Studios in Brighton. I'm hoping to get more of their work shown here too.
The incredible TINY DANCER screened before THE WARRIORS was another creation of Sam Hiscox and Matt Martin (who also works at Create Studios). There is a twenty minute edit of it somewhere; but like his dancing, I'm not sure the world is ready for that yet. If and when the follow up comes out The Duke's After Dark will have it first.
The audience seems to really like all the shorts we've shown; all get a good response. All the filmmakers seem to enjoy seeing their work in a way that's completely different from seeing it on the computer. Hopefully one day the next Tarantino can be traced back to The Duke's After Dark.
What sets Duke of York's Picturehouse apart from the multiplexes, and how do you compete with them?
Simply, we show better films and have better staff (because we are encouraged to be - I don't want to knock anyone at the Odeon, I'm sure they're good people too). Because the Duke's is such a unique building and cinema in this day and age, I think people get more of a vibe when coming here.
Multiplexes are soulless and dry places; filmmaker Steve McQueen recently said modern cinemas are like gyms. It's a bit like Guerilla warfare. We use the big bad enemy's weakness to our advantage. And I'm sure being able to get a beer at the Duke's helps too.
What can independent and local cinemas do to stay relevant in the digital age? What can people get from Duke of York's that they can't get at home?
Well, we are digital too, we have digital projector and server, we have 3D (we still have the 35mm stuff too). As long as films are made cinemas will be there to show them. Home entertainment is incredible nowadays, but it will never ever compare to the cinema. I think this is something that local cinemas need to remind people of. Cinemas and the films have the potential to really have an affect on people.
I mean we sold out a screening of PULP FICTION. Nearly everyone I know has it on DVD, it's probably illegally available on YouTube, it was on TV a few days before we screened it and it still sold out. Sure marketing and word of mouth were essential to this success, but people wouldn't come if they didn't love the film and love the idea of seeing it in the cinema. I think what cinemas have to do is make that 'cinema idea' a reality again.
What are the highlights of your upcoming schedule? What's next for you or your plans for Duke's After Dark?
The Duke's After Dark will still be happening bi-monthly (and the next one will be FIGHT CLUB on the 2nd March), but it's kind of merging with all the other late night shows and special events coming up at the Duke's. Hopefully this will involve having short films shown before every late night show, and possibly getting special guests and experts in to introduce and talk about the films too.
We're also very excited about the screening of David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE on the 24th February. I'm working on something with The Green Door store (a music venue beneath Brighton Train Station). But I can't confirm anything yet. We should be having a skate movie made by some local skaters coming up in the summer too. I'm also looking into screening films in other venues, kind of like a Secret Cinema thing except this will be no secret; people will know what's happening. But it's very early days yet, so I'll say no more.