Art for Art’s Sake

invernessHello, Ian. Hello, Stuart. I’m addressing you by name because you are the only people who have shown up. So my introduction to today’s screening of Patema Inverted doesn’t really require a microphone. I’ve flown up here from London. Andrew Partridge there has driven me for one hour from Glasgow to Perth, and then we sat on the train for two hours to Inverness. So that’s the two of us, and Kevin the projectionist, and the usher lady and She That Sells the Popcorn, all here for your benefit this sunny Sunday.

Since the British Film Institute is forking out a bucket of Lottery money per venue for this tour of the regions, you’re basically each the recipient of a Garden of Sinners DVD’s worth of subsidies. But that’s what Lottery money is for – taking risks with odd and niche-interest films, in search of unexpected spikes of interest and swells in consumer behaviour in a dozen places that would otherwise not see any anime at all. Yesterday we were in Bo’ness, a picturesque Scottish village decorated with ominous signs about how “Summer is Coming” and “Hail to Our Queen,” as if the locals were already erecting a Wicker Man to greet us. But 30 people showed up to see the film, and many were keen to ask questions about the Kickstarter for the DVD or the movies on show at this year’s Scotland Loves Anime.

The definition of success for mini-tours such as this is an order of magnitude away from packed London Film Festival screenings, and buckets of money. If profit were the sole motive, anime would never reach cinemas like this at all. It’s far more arty and bespoke, like M. Night Shyamalan’s plea in Lady in the Water that a work of art only has to have a single person love it for it to become worthwhile. Maybe we turned you into anime fans today. Maybe we turned you into festival-goers or Kickstarter angels, or NEO subscribers. Maybe we just carried on the conversation, putting Patema back into the public eye, and hence promoting it to people who hadn’t heard of it. Whatever the result, we keep doing this, because this is how you grow a market for anime, one person at a time… until they tell their friends.

(Scotland Loves Anime would like to point out that after Jonathan’s introduction in Inverness, the audience in the auditorium quadrupled in size, quadrupled! To nine people, including three Hungarians.)

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 126, 2014.

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2 thoughts on “Art for Art’s Sake

  1. 9 people? Really? I know it’s anime and still a lot more niche than most actually realise, I’d still think you’d easily get double figures into any large Scottish town or city, like that 30 in what’s so ever Bo’ness. Was it advertised at all? Was it just too early?
    Patema Inverted isn’t exactly a complete unknown…

    • Well, you might equally argue that any real anime fan in the Scotland area would have already seen Patema at Scotland Loves Anime a year earlier, and that the mini-tour was more of an outreach programme targetting casual walk-ins. It *was* also a really sunny day.

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