constructing a fan-base

FDA exhibition aims to attract younger audiences with a film-focused show


The Film Distributors’ Association Ltd. (FDA) is well known as the trade body for theatrical film distributors in the UK and as the voice for UK film distribution, a passionate advocate of the distributors’ role in the well-being of the whole film economy. A major part of their remit is to increase the UK cinema audience across the board, and the FDA has long realised the importance of getting young people interested in cinema, from movie-making to movie-going.

In August, the FDA mounted an extremely well-targeted exhibition at London’s Soho Gallery under the ‘Secrets of the Movies’ banner. At first sight this provided a great art display of movie posters and photographs from behind the scenes of movie-making, with the focus on films released in 2017, but through the door it became apparent there was much more on offer, an interactive event for all the family.

The opening splash

After a welcome from FDA chief executive Mark Batey, the event was opened in energetic style by TV presenter Alex Zane who introduced a surprise guest, actress and TV star Kara Tointon. Alex interviewed Kara about her love of film and theatre, coaxing from her the revelation that she was a little nervous about her on-stage role as Olivia in the RSC’s recent production of Twelfth Night. She finds the process of acting in a theatre every night more satisfying than film-making, where actors often have to film scenes out of sequence, making it hard to know how the finished performance will appear. Kara wielded the FDA’s scissors to cut the ribbon and open the show.

Looking around, displays of film and cinema artefacts revealed who does what on a set, demystifying jobs such as ‘gaffer’, ‘boom operator’ and ‘VFX technician’. The exhibition also allowed visitors with smartphones to use QR codes applied to each exhibit to gain access to a detailed ‘secret’ cache of related content. Activity sheets and quizzes ensured there was plenty to do for anyone, and the lower-tech needs of younger visitors were well catered for by ‘Creative stations’ —tables of art materials which proved enormously popular. There were free activities every day, including live stunt performances, a video booth, giant games and seminars on designing posters, presentations on animation, and more.

One display I found particularly interesting was a unique model cinema, built for the FDA from 25,000 Lego bricks. A diorama of a foyer and auditorium with a diverse audience taking their seats, it took 150 man-hours to assemble!  

Jim Slater


Support from the top

FDA President, Lord (David) Puttnam of Queensgate CBE, expressed his support for the event, saying “The cinema brings out the inner hero in all of us, never more so than during the summer, when we can live vicariously through big-screen champions of every conceivable shape and size. Secrets of the Movies is a wonderfully vivid, new showcase of many of the creative skills required to make and release films to their audiences. It’s a timely reminder that the cinema experience continues to offer a vast array of compelling and brilliant entertainment.”