Birmingham City Council agreed to find £5,000 so that they could turn their film night into Flatpack, a fullyfledged film festival. Shorts still formed the heart of the festival, but there was also a “natural progression” into features – “Seven Inch is all about finding stuff that will blow your mind, and that you wouldn’t normally see around here, and Flatpack expands on that.” Based out of their attic and working entirely for free, Francis and McKnight pulled off a hugely successful festival, mixing their beloved shorts with longer features, arts events and live shows. Flatpack became an annual fixture on Birmingham’s cultural calendar, and at the end of 2008 the UK Film Council came calling, making Flatpack one of its seven key national events and delivering a chunk of money, “which has paid a lot of bills”. But just because they’ve got more money to play with these days doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten where they came from. Flatpack is still renowned for screening a varied programme of shorts and features in unusual venues across the city. They still play in pubs and clubs, but the festival has also taken over car parks, disused warehouses, shops and office blocks, giving Flatpack
36 THE DREAM FACTORY
a unique appeal and ensuring that it remains closely tied to the fabric of the city. “You could never do this in London,” says McKnight, “because all these industrial buildings have been torn down and built over or turned into yuppie flats or something else. There’s no untouched area of London or Manchester or Edinburgh any more, so we use Birmingham’s late development as a selling point and an opportunity to do interesting stuff. Part of us would love to have a great cinema complex like FACT in Liverpool or the BFI in London. That would make our lives so much easier, but then that’s also the thing that makes Flatpack unique because these are places that you’d never expect to find films in.” With the unusual venues comes a more varied audience – the sort of people who wouldn’t normally pay to sit in a darkened room and watch weird stuff. Around a third of this year’s screenings and events were free, encouraging people to take a punt on something they might otherwise ignore, and it’s this engagement with the wider public that Peter Buckingham, Head of Distribution and Exhibition at the UK Film Council, finds so exciting.
Published on Jun 25, 2010