Our new cohort of FTV students are now well into their first term at Birmingham. We’ve had an exciting timetable packed with seminars, screenings, guest workshops and practical training, and last month we also arranged a trip to the Mockingbird Theatre in Digbeth, led by Professor Roger Shannon. In this blog, Magdalena Swiatek shares her reflections on the day and some fascinating insights into Birmingham’s film culture, past and present.
In Week 2 we – the new FTV Students – took a trip to the Mockingbird Theatre in the Custard Factory to meet Roger Shannon, producer and Professor of Film and TV, and alumnus Luke Smith, who had just finished the MA.
Luke showed us his amazing dissertation documentary about his first stand-up performance and talked about his experiences during the MA. He recounted the process of filming, his successes and the mistakes he made. It was motivating to hear how a former student experienced the year on the course and I´m sure all of us took a lot out of this meeting.
Afterwards, Roger Shannon gave us an overview over Birmingham´s film history and its meaning for the UK film industry. Even though the industry is not quite as vivid as it was before in Birmingham, there are still loads of opportunities for us to discover here.
Birmingham and Film
Birmingham´s film history started in 1862 with the discovery of celluloid. Around 60 years later, in the early 20th century, three Brummies – Michael Balcon, Victor Saville and Oscar Deutsch – started to take over the film world from the West Midlands.
Michael Balcon (1896 – 1977) – the honoured film producer who discovered Alfred Hitchcock was born in Birmingham. After the war he and his friend Victor Saville opened a film distribution company in London and started to produce films. In the late 1930s, Balcon was Head of the Ealing Company, one of Britain´s most famous studios.
Victor Saville (1895 – 1979) – the film director, producer and screenwriter celebrated his success in the UK as well as in Hollywood. During his life he worked on over 70 films.
Oscar Deutsch (1893 – 1941) – the founder of the ODEON cinemas was born in Birmingham as a son of Hungarian Jews. The first ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’ (ODEON) – cinema was opened close to Birmingham in 1928. After this, many others followed all over the UK. 10 years later there were already over 250 ODEONs. The architecture and interior design were their unique recognition value. Today the ODEON remains one of the most important cinemas in Birmingham.
Birmingham´s Cinemas Today
The ODEON – located in the city centre of Birmingham, the ODEON prides itself on offering the best cinema experience, just as Oscar Deutsch promised. With 8 screens, the cinema offers a variety of current films.
Cineworld – on Broad Street, surrounded by pubs, clubs and restaurants, the cinema is located in the heart of the city. With 12 screens, the Cineworld offers a big range of top films for every age and interest.
The Electric – the oldest working cinema in Britain has been showing films since 1909. On two screens the viewer can experience loads of indie films, performance screenings and classics in addition to the latest film releases. A regular view of the program is worthwhile.
The Mockingbird Theatre – a Bistro, Bar and Theatre placed in the Custard Factory. Beside theatre plays and music gigs, the film club hosts festivals and organises indie film screenings
Midlands Arts Centre – one of the most important and diverse art centres in Birmingham; offering exhibitions, courses, theatre, music and of course films. It shows a range of new released films, art-house films and live screenings.
Everyman Cinemas – this independent cinema is located in the Mailbox in Birmingham. The uniqueness of this venue is its atmosphere and fancy cosiness.
A big thank you to the team at The Mockingbird for hosting us, and to Roger and Luke for sharing their knowledge and expertise!