10.0A Division of Labour: 1991 to 1999.

From these early events various roles or jobs evolved. These would generally be rotated amongst the collective. Although compliance with this format is not required in the constitution it is a standard practice that defines the Exploding quite precisely when doing the main collective shows.[1] Some of the roles have even been defined at length with the idea of compiling a manual of how to 'roll your own' film group on the Exploding model.[2] Here is a short job description of each role.

The Programmer: This is the person who must start work first and locate the films to be shown, make arrangements with the filmmakers and compose the programme entry for each work.

It's a good idea to alternate GENRES, so that the audience gets a diversity of forms. This grabs their attention. For example :- HOME MOVIE - ANIMATION -  DRAMA - DOCUMENTARY... As the night wears on the audience will be getting pissed, their attention span drops, they get rowdy, so bear this in mind when programming longer work that requires audience sensitivity. Finally make sure to programme intervals roughly every hour. (efile: PROGRAMMER)

Publicity designer: The job is to design a poster and flyer, which will be photocopied and circulated in different ways. This job is rotated amongst the more graphically adept and is usually considered a desirable task; In my time it has usually been done by Duncan or Colette but Jennet and Thomas have also done flyers.[3]

The Floor Manager: This role requires a person to think about the logistics of materials and equipment before the event and to co-ordinate and take final decisions during the event. He or she would also liaise with the management of the venue. [efile: FLOOR MANAGER]

'Decor': One or two people prepare slides and loops sometimes making work especially for a venue. Their job is also to maintain and ideally vary this 'decor' during the show. People like Duncan, Caroline and Paul Tarrago have worked up sets of slides and Super 8 film loops. These recur regularly giving Exploding Cinema a particular kitsch /trash aesthetic. The intense decor give shows a distinctive edge over other film clubs, which can look drab in comparison.

Usually now if you are doing floor managing and you are doing an installation at the same time, and doing decor, you tend to (end up) just chucking things together. And you are too busy to really get it like how you want it. But it is something that I am thinking about doing more installation stuff. I enjoy the combination of things; filmmaking is a bit flat. (Caroline Kennedy interview 16-10-99)

Host: In the first year the host would greet filmmakers and guests and do active PR. This role was dropped sometime in 1993.

Projectionist: The job used to need one person on film projection and another operating the video projector, due to their very different focal lengths. The new video projector (bought in 1998) allows slide, 8mm film and video to be projected from one stand. It is still necessary to have a second projectionist when showing the odd 16mm.[4]

Sound Technician: This person, often not a member of the collective, used to bring the P.A., set it up, run it and get paid expenses or a nominal fee. In 1999 Exploding Cinema has bought its own sound system. As well as keeping an eye on sound levels this person also puts on music tapes during the intervals.

Transport: From 1996 to 1998 this was done by Colette after the Exploding bought her a Ford Cortina estate nicknamed 'The Slab'. She in return paid the running expenses and repair costs. In a large show in which many resources need to be brought from all over London (e.g. the Peckham Roof Shows) this could be a thankless task as the driver also has to load and unload as well as deal with London traffic. When Colette took a year out from the group in 1999 the role was taken by Paul Motel with his ancient LandRover.[5]

Door person: This is often a trusted person on the edge of the collective helped by friends or done on a rota system. Sometimes he or she is backed up by a professional paid bouncer if the place or time seem to require such precautions. At a meeting on the 5th July 1992 it was decided that the only people who should get in free apart from the collective were the filmmakers. This was later extended to a reciprocal arrangement with other London film groups who can get two members each in free.[6]

Drinks: Usually supplied by the venue or subcontracted. If done by the Exploding Cinema collective this job can easily over-stretch resources and muddy the financial situation.[7]

Stalls (including food stalls): These were always run independently by people from outside the collective who show interest in doing them. This is an occasional feature of Exploding Cinema shows, which is hardly ever recorded in the programmes. Mark Pawson has run stalls of his artist's books and ephemera on many occasions.[8] Another regular type of stall is one selling second-hand filmmaking and projection equipment. Such stalls can have a considerable impact on the space and atmosphere.

The food aspect of the early shows at Cooltan, Las Casas and the Jugglers seemed to be an important part of the formula. In recent years, with a leaner collective, food has not taken a regular part in the shows.[9]

Programmes: For most of the 1991 - 1999 period making the programmes was a collective act and invariably done in a single evening. At the centre of this process is the programmer who is responsible for typesetting the film entries and making up descriptive captions. Another person has to deliver artwork to the copy-shop, pick it up later and bring it to the venue for collation and stapling.

The programme-making meeting is an important ritual; it generates energy before the show. The programme of films is now fixed and becomes known. The collective are all 'creative' and together produce this object which will act as an aide memoire of the show. Its format is both well known and complex at the same time. Even if you don't have a film to show you can at least make a page in the programme. Once the programme is made the show shifts a gear into production mode.'[10]

Publicity distribution: Generally each member of the collective takes a bunch of photocopied flyers and posters and agrees to distribute them in an area of London that is convenient for them. Occasionally a mail-out is done to filmmakers or to film colleges. A single person informs the Time Out and other listings. Since 1999 an email list has accumulated and seems to be the most efficient and low-cost method of publicity. Along with other pressures email has made flyposting less important.[11]

Webmaster: This is, of course, a recent role. Duncan made the first website at James Steven's Backspace in 1997. It was phenomenally successful and was reputed to have made the top ten website list in some web magazines. Colette also trained in web design and made a site for Volcano! Damon Herd took on the job as webmaster at the end of 1999 and since then Ben Slotover has also contributed.

Finding Venues: In the time I have been with the collective locating suitable venues, going to survey them and arranging a collective visit has often been the prime activity between shows. Responsibility of finding new venues is shared by the whole collective.

Decision making: There are usually one or two meetings between each show. All decisions that effect the group are made in open meetings. This will include the details of the shows but also equipment purchases and other key business. Sub roles within meetings include a minute's writer and chair.

Equipment Maintenance: Since I have been with the group this has mainly fallen to Paul Tarrago who orders the bulbs and other esoteric matters concerning the maintenance of projectors. There was one meeting I attended which sorted, marked and repaired equipment.

Treasurer: This role has mainly been filled by Paul Tarrago, although Colette did the job for a year in 1997/98. The account does not have a chequebook. Transactions must be made in person at a local branch of the Halifax Building Society.

Secretary: This is not a formal position. The contact phone number from the earliest days was often the house in which Duncan and Jennet lived, or Colette. These people answered general enquiries but it also led to them making contacts and occasionally being spokespeople. When Duncan and Jennet's short-life house in Rodwell Road, East Dulwich came to an end in 1998 the phone contact number circulated around the collective more. The role is now more concerned with answering the emails enquiries that the website attracts.

Movie Making: Most of the regular collective are active filmmakers who could show their work at almost every show. There is an old rule which states that a film made by a member of the collective can be shown only once every six months. Paul Tarrago comments: ŮThis has rarely if ever been a problem, but it was informally devised lest such a situation aroseÓ.

Opinion varies as to what extent this both motivates collective membership and effects filmmaking practice. Jennet sees the opportunity to show as important and has even suggested that it was what first encouraged her to make short works, whilst Duncan says it is less important. Both still clearly enjoy the opportunity to present their work regularly.[12]

The Exploding Cinema does not provide any formal psychological support for members who make movies. A person who joined Exploding Cinema for support in making work might well be disappointed. Quoting from my logbook: 'On the way back from a meeting at Paul Motel's house in Streatham on 7th February 1999. We had a pint at the Oval. Paul was grateful for feedback on his (new) film and seemed to agree that Exploding Cinema wasn't an encouraging environment for people making films.'[13]  Later that year Jennet said she was 'completely starved of feedback' after a showing of her work at the Lux on 2nd September 1999. Other collective members like Thomas show little or no work.[14]

M.C. (Master of Ceremonies): This is the person who introduces, announces, attempts to make links between films, and runs a raffle, games or other entertainments. The MC is often called on to hold the audiences interest whilst technical changes or even repairs are carried out and to invite any filmmakers present to come up to answer questions. The MC can be a crucial element that helps to transform the show from a normal short film screening to the vaudevillian show that is Exploding Cinema. Here is a detailed account from the early Las Casas shows from the interview with Jennet Thomas:

I was MC for the first time in the middle of the Las Casas period and I was very nervous about it because really I had never done anything like that before. (I had) never considered that could possibly be my role. But it was a good place to start because it was very friendly there, and the audience wasn't too big, and it wasn't too scary. Duncan and Jenny tended to be MC before, both of whom had a much more theatrical (background). Jenny was a professional singer and Duncan used to be in a band and has done a bit of acting, so he was more confident about itÉ  Things often went wrong. So you had to be able to fill in, so as not to let the whole situation get too demoralising.

She then remembers being MC at the first show at The Jugglers Arms in which the audience was much larger, more rowdy and keen to participate and harangue anybody on stage. It would have been easy to be humiliated by the audience without some confidence and experience of returning heckles.

We sold bagels, and as a promotional thing, I actually dressed up, not as a bagel, butÉ I was 'bagelled'. I became Bagel Woman. I made this costume and I was covered in bagels, and I had a giant bagel on my head. I came on to the stage announcing myself as Bagel Woman and it was time to eat. That went down so well, then whenever I appeared on stage again, even to (talk about) a film, people shouted 'Bagel Woman!' So for that period of time, I was Bagel Woman. Which was quite sweet. To become recognisable in that way was nice, and I started realising that there was quite an element of Vaudeville in what we were doing potentially. (JT)

Following this Lepke B decide to MC as the Emperor Nero. He was utterly transformed complete with toga, huge gold belt and laurel. The programme was announced from velum proclamations. Nobody could believe how well he filled the role. Another notable costume was provided by Duncan who would dress as a Sans-Culotte.

At a typical show each person would take several of these roles but below about six people the collective is seriously under staffed. Each show costs between £150 to £250 depending on the venue so we need to get a minimum paying audience of 40 to 65 to cover costs. Rarely does a show not cover its expenses.

This format takes about 150 to 200 hours of labour per show plus the time it took to make the work shown. If this labour were paid, the audience would have to pay a ticket price of around £20 per show. It also means that Exploding Cinema shows are the result of a great concentration of resources. This is sensed as a quality of experience that is outside of the ordinary.

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[1]  For the constitution see Appendix: Collective Agreements

 

[2]  Drafts of these descriptions are provided throughout the electronic file record included in the Archive materials. Two examples are included in the Appendix. See: 'The Floor Manager' & 'Projection Guide'.

 

[3]  The flyers had not been systematically collected like the programmes. During my participation with the collective I collected a number and these are included as part of the archive materials that will accompany the presentation of this thesis.

 

[4] See Appendix: Projection Guide for Paul Tarrago's how to do it text.

 

[5] Since this was written in 2000 Paul Motel has become inactive in the collective.

 

[6] See Minutes of a meeting on 14th August 1997

 

[7] E.g. at the Volcano show in Fashion Street, on 1st November 1997.

 

[8] See Logbook3 p327

 

[9] The food provision to shows has not been well documented although it was an important part of the formula in the early years. This marginalisation may reflect the position of food as a lesser artform.

 

[10] Logbook 1: 9th March 1998

 

[11] Occasionally flyposting brought the wrath of the Local Authority down on Exploding Cinema. This could also highlight other extra legal aspects of the operation such as a lack of an entertainment licence. During the period of my study (1997 - 1999) publicity came to rely more and more on email although a flyer was always produced. A selection of these flyers included in the archive that will accompany the presentation of this thesis.

 

[12] As to another frequently asked question - does the Exploding Cinema help people to make films? Do we have production equipment? Well, the answer is no, but we do help each other out and lend each other equipment on an informal basis once we've gained each other's trust. And there is a lot of knowledge within the group that you can draw on for free (especially about Super 8) without having to go on a course! And then of course with us you've always got somewhere to show whatever you've produced (maybe internationally). (efile: LETTER INTRO)

 

[13] See Logbook2 p229

 

[14] See Logbook3 p331, see also Logbooks pp 71, 81, 349.