The original idea was to drive filmmaker Ben Blaine into the countryside and abandon him, but since Ben can’t drive and doesn’t own a mobile phone, his friends “thought it’d be great to do an event where I’m driven into the countryside and abandoned and people have to find me just using the Shooting People mailing list,” explains Blaine. “Thankfully this soon turned into a slightly friendlier idea—the Mobile Cinema.”
So with a van, a projector, a screen, a sound system, and a DVD player, Blaine and his team spent two weeks exhibiting shorts throughout the United Kingdom. “We use the internet to find our audience, but then we bring all the rest to you in the real world.”
Blaine had been a member of Shooting People—an online network for exchanging ideas and finding crews that was launched with 60 filmmakers in 1998 (today the site has an active membership of over 29,000)— when the idea for Mobile Cinema was born. Chatting with Shooting People’s founders Brits Cath Le Couteur and Jess Search, he mentioned that, “thanks to Shooters [Shooting People for those in the know], there are hundreds and hundreds of films being made every year, but the downside is no
one gets to see them and wouldn’t it be great if Shooters did something to change that. And they did one of their sideways glances and said ‘go on then.’”
Now, traveling from the Shetland Isles to Bristol, the team is never sure how many viewers to expect. “Audience size always varies and one of the joys is never really knowing who is going to turn up,” says Blaine. In Winchester, they had two people but when they played “the Harrisons’ back garden up in Leeds, not only did Shooters come from the whole of the North but most of the street came along to see what the noise was. It was brilliant.”
Lest Americans dismay, the Mobile Cinema tour is coming to the United States as soon as Blaine and his brother Chris finish their own short film about a talking panda. They plan to begin the US tour in New York and roll right across to Los Angeles. As Blaine says, “Cinema is a real thing that is always best experienced in a room full of people and everything we’ve done with the Mobile Cinema has just confirmed for me that feeling.”
Follow their progress at www.themobilecinema.com or http://shootingpeople.org/bensblog.php.