The screening of a film is in part a cultural journey; an exploration of what it means to inhabit this moment in the 21st century whether that is a reflection through the historical, a meditation on the contemporary or a projection of the future.
Watershed supports films for their capacity to engage with and open up fresh perspectives on our world, societies, cultures and identities. We support audiences in their critical engagement with film creating opportunities for them to connect with both the subject matter and with their fellow audience members and collaborate with colleagues and communities to widen and deepen those connections. These engagement opportunities start before they come to the building through editorial forums and social media through activity – formal and informal – in the venue and continue through ongoing curated dialogues.
We are dominated by the presentation of film as entertainment; a two hour distraction from the realities of the everyday. However in my experience audiences increasingly want to engage with their realities whether it is personal identity or wider social concerns. The success of I Daniel Blake and Moonlight in 2016 demonstrated that audiences have an appetite for more than film as entertainment. They want to connect with passionate, well told stories which engage them in more thoughtful concerns and in meaningful ways. And they want to share and discuss that experience with their wider communities.
As Paul Schrader has experienced and articulated in his short film above, the cinema landscape has entered – and may never exit – a bracing era where industry standards and norms no longer hold true. The traditional mainstream cinema exhibition model is now but one of many platforms/screens where audiences can consume films. Its pre–eminence in the film chain is being challenged by availability online and by evolution of the moving image into new forms e.g. Virtual Reality. Cinema exhibition which historically relied upon exclusivity of content and ample audience leisure time is now facing fundamental challenges.
The showing of a film in the cinema now sits alongside a spectrum of opportunities for people to engage with moving image storytelling. In this new era, it is time to reimagine the exhibition of film and its potential to meaningfully engage audiences.
Where the watching of a film at Watershed offers the potential of rich and rewarding experiences for audiences it also offers inspirations and insights for aspiring creatives. The curated environment we provide for film creates the possibility of a more meaningful relationship with creative practice. We profile new and emerging filmmaking talent at early stages in their career showcasing their work and connecting them to audiences and contemporaries. Filmmakers do not come fully formed into the world. They need supportive environments to test, develop and grow. Watershed provides that environment and platform.