Friday, November 19, 2010


Yesterday my boss asked me if I could jot down some notes on how I write rosters to see if my technique could help the manager of another cinema in the chain get her wage budget to a more acceptable level. I've been doing rosters for so long now, they're pretty much second nature to me. But his question made me think about a lot of the processes I use almost instinctively to do my job.

Whenever I tell people I run a cinema for a living, their first reaction is to say 'oh wow! You must get to see a lot of films!'. And yes. I do get to see a lot of films. Watching films for the cinema though, is a very different experience to watching a film for pure escapism or pleasure. I have to keep a lot of things in mind, not just 'do i like this?' In fact, it's the films I don't like that I really have to consider carefully. I have rather obscure tastes, and the mainstream dross doesn't appeal to me. But the business won't make money if we program only obscure documentaries about German architecture, or blackly funny Finnish films about deranged priests. So I have to set my personal taste aside and think about the films in terms of a wider audience.

Most of the time, if I absolutely love a film, I need to be wary because nine times out of ten, that film has an audience of about three - me and two other devoted cinephiles - and that does not a profitable season make. So it's always tremendously gratifying when a film I love, also finds an audience. It's also disappointing when a film I loathe finds and audience, but that's far more likely to occur.

I imagine what I have to do to select films for the cinema is similar to what agents and editors do with manuscripts. They must have to read in the same discerning way I have to watch films, looking for things that will appeal to a broad range of people, while at the same time being something they can get behind and push as hard as they can.

Is there anything you do for pleasure that you have to approach differently for your work?


  1. I like the comparison you've made - it's a good point. I'm fortunate that my job deals 99% with statistics. Not something I do for fun outside of work :-D But I do look at the copy writer in the desk next to mine and am grateful I don't have her job. I think writing advertising copy might kill some of my love for writing fiction.

  2. I find writing copy actually helps with fiction writing. You have to be so concise when writing marketing pitches, it helps with cutting verbosity in fiction...