Cinemas that Made Me: Paul Gallagher from Glasgow Film Theatre

03 Jul 2020 in Cinemas That Made Me

8 mins
Glasgow Film Theatre
Glasgow Film Theatre

With cinemas closed due to COVID-19, we're excited to be celebrating venues and cinema operators across the UK in our series, Cinemas that Made Me. For our latest voyage into cinemas past and present, we spoke to Paul Gallagher, Programme Manager at Glasgow Film Theatre.

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting, or if you've read the first instalment in this series, you'll know that Glasgow Film Theatre is a beloved Glasgow institution affectionately known as GFT. Below, we hear from Programme Manager Paul Gallagher, who filled us in on his journey in film and GFT's expansive and accessible audience development programme. Connecting people through film is key to GFT and lockdown has been no exception; the cinema has continued to find innovative ways of connecting their audience members to quality cinema, and to each other.

What does Glasgow Film Theatre offer audiences? 

GFT is a three-screen independent cinema in the centre of Glasgow - we are Glasgow's home for film-lovers. Our three screens show 100% specialised titles, first-run world and independent cinema, artists' experimental work, issue-based programmes, thematic seasons, repertory programmes, Scottish-produced work, festivals, and a programme of event cinema and live broadcast.

We provide an independent film programme for diverse audiences in Glasgow and Scotland, including specific audience development initiatives aimed at cultural diversity, Deaf and hard of hearing audiences, and socially or economically disadvantaged audiences.

We're also a not-for-profit educational charity, so every penny that we earn goes back into the work we do.

We strive to create a cinema experience that fosters community around film; discussion, connection and shared enthusiasm.

Paul Gallagher, Programme Manager at Glasgow Film Theatre

Which other cinemas have had an impact on your life?

There were three Glasgow cinemas that I went to regularly when I was a young teenager - the ABC in Sauchiehall Street, the Odeon on Renfield Street and the ABC in Muirend. I had so many great experiences seeing films with friends and family at these big picture houses. For under 18s the cinema was one of the few places we could all go and hang out as a group. Those cinemas definitely instilled in me that feeling of excited anticipation when the lights go down - I'd always think "I could be about to see the greatest film of my life". 

What was your first job in a cinema or the film industry, and how did you become a programmer?

I fell in love with cinema when I was a teenager - gradually discovering that film was much more than just the new movies playing at the multiplex (not that I didn't love them too). I first nudged my way into the film industry as a film journalist back in 2005, as part of the team that started the excellent cultural freesheet The Skinny.

Having covered GFT and Glasgow Film Festival for years, in 2014 I joined the GFT team as Marketing Manager - I had experience from a long-term job in Marketing as well as being a freelance journalist. At Glasgow Film the Marketing and Programme teams work very closely, and while I loved working with the Marketing team I realised Programming was really where my heart was. When the Programme Manager position came up in 2018, I went for it, and since then I've been very privileged to work every day on shaping the year-round programme. 

What initiatives and projects are you most proud of working on at GFT?

The ones that are most satisfying are those films that require some detective work to track down and get permission to screen, and even in my short time programming I've had a few. Getting Spike Lee's Malcolm X on 35mm was really special, and I was also really pleased when I got hold of a print of Céline Sciamma's debut Water Lilies which we screened earlier this year.

I also love the work we are doing at GFT to build a community around film, with discussions and opportunities for audience members to connect. I did a double-bill of Todd Haynes' Safe and Gus van Sant's To Die For last year which included guest intros and a pop-up audience discussion afterwards, which was really great. I just love it when people can come together through films.

While GFT is closed due to COVID-19, have you begun any new initiatives to reach audiences at home?

Yes, we've been keeping community connection alive with a weekly Twitter discussion on Fridays where we pick a film and host an hour of chat around it. It's been really fun so far, with different members of our team hosting and lots of people getting involved.

We're also working with some distributors on co-hosting virtual screenings of films, allowing us to present curated films to our audience even while our screens have gone dark. We're making more videos than we usually would be, and are embarking on live-streaming Q&As and discussions too. The response from our audience has been incredible - it's clear that we all just want to get back to the cinema, and when it's safe to do so, we'll be right there!

On that note, we've also just announced that we're collaborating with Glasgow music promoters Electric Frog to run a series of Drive-In screenings later this summer. We will be announcing the programme very soon, and it's going to be a brilliant mix of films under the overall heading Sound & Vision.

Once cinemas can reopen which film would be your first choice to see on the big screen?

I've had a growing desire the last few weeks to re-watch Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, so I think that would be my pick. The mood and the music make that such an immersive film on the big screen. Added to that, it is so strongly a film about human connection, with the characters going on a journey from isolation to connection; so it would be a perfect balm for these times.

Glasgow Film Theatre will be re-opening on 31 August. See their re-opening statement for full details and to find out how you can support them. If you'd like to support other independent cinemas in the UK, consider donating to the UK Cinema Fund. These donations will be added to the BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund and used to offer critical relief and business continuity to exhibitors across the UK.

This Article is part of: Cinemas That Made Me

A series celebrating cinemas, venues and exhibitors across the UK.

View other Articles in this column

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