Rooms with a View

gft_ext1There are pictures on the wall of the Glasgow Film Theatre that show it in its heyday. Bit by bit, it’s got a little more cramped. Where there was once a sweeping Deco foyer with plenty of space overhead, a false ceiling has been shoved in to make way for a bar. And now the little café on the ground floor has been gutted to make way for Screen Three.

Digital filmmaking has created an environment where less theatre-goers have to choose between more films. Where shipping a film print to a destination once involved a stack of reels the size of the average drum kit, you can now Fedex a humble hard-drive containing the main attraction. Projection rooms are getting smaller, but so is the average audience size for the ever-increasing archive of content.

Modern cinema design hence favours increasingly smaller theatres like Glasgow’s upcoming Screen Three, allowing smaller groups of fifty or sixty punters to huddle into a space that increasingly resembles someone’s living room.

I spend a lot of my time in such bespoke mini-theatres. In Soho’s movieland they call them screening rooms, because that’s what they are. And for distributors, exhibitors and reviewers, it’s perfectly fine to relax in a plush chair with a posh sound system to assess next month’s movies for review or consideration. What they miss out on, however, is that vulnerable, ineffable sense of community that one gets from being an audience member, in a crowd, in a truly big cinema. I still cherish memories of The Empire Strikes Back, Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park at the vast Empire in Leicester Square. Last October’s Scotland Loves Anime jammed hundreds of fans cheek-to-cheek to laugh and cry and gasp at a roster of films from the apocalyptic Evangelion 3.0 to the intricate Garden of Words. Do audiences miss out on something if they see such epics on a mere laptop? What about if the screen is only marginally larger than your rich mate’s telly? After all, if a giant robot is supposed to be forty feet tall, doesn’t it help the whole movie-going experience if it actually is?

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History, out now from the British Film Insititute. This article first appeared in NEO # 118, 2013.

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Scotland Loves…

Today I’m packing for Scotland Loves Anime, two weekends of Japanese cartoonery held in Glasgow and Edinburgh. This year’s line-up has four, count ’em, four Japanese guests, which means I have my work cut out for me interviewing Yumi Sato (Brains Base) and Shuko Yokoyama (Aniplex) about Hotarubi, and Shunsuke Oiji about Colourful. And the cherry on the cake is the legendary Ryosuke Takahashi (that’s him in the picture), father of “real mecha”, and show-runner on Armoured Trooper Votoms, who will be in Edinburgh to show off his new Pailsen Files, and answering questions after the premiere.

I’ll also be talking to him on Sunday 16th about his long career in the Japanese animation business, beginning with his early days at the famous Mushi Production. I might also bring up his segment of The Cockpit anime, since I translated it 16 years ago.

Scotland Loves Anime is actually part of a broader remit called “Scotland Loves Animation”. This is reflected in the education day on Friday 14th which sees a number of animators, directors and producers from the global animation community talking about their work. Also, the Polish animation house Platiges Images are sending Daniel Nenow to talk about his superb dogfight animation Paths of Hate. And all the while, Jonathan Clements, author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis (that’s me), will be darting about on stage imparting Quite Interesting facts and odd anime trivia. At some point, I think that festival organiser Andrew Partridge is interviewing me… or I am interviewing him. We will probably end up interviewing each other, and as per usual it will turn into a stand-up routine about Bonkers Things the Japanese Studios Have Done This Year.

The Disappearance of Jonathan Clements

Off to get the train to Scotland for tomorrow’s Anime Day at the Glasgow Film Theatre, which includes King of Thorn, Eureka Seven: The Movie, and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I shall be introducing all three films, and talking onstage to Kaze Animation’s Andrew Partridge about surfing, Trainspotting, and issues in modern anime. I expect it will turn into Ten Things That Are Funny About Shintaro Ishihara and the Fractale Production Committee, but we’ll see how it goes.

Thinking Like an Anime Writer

Attendees at the Glasgow Youth Film Festival in February 2011 can expect to be harangued, tormented and cajoled at a morning workshop on the way that Japanese animation scripts are put together, and how Western cartoon companies try to copy them.

Why do they all have such big eyes? What’s with the hot spring episode… and could you do better..? Yes, it’s the return of the notorious Jonathan Clements storylining lab, as seen at Screen Academy Wales, the Irish Film Institute and various other dumbstruck venues.

If you are a teenager with nothing better to do in Glasgow on a Sunday, now’s your chance to sign up for the industry experience that has been likened to a rollercoaster ride through shattered dreams and management madness, variously described as “illuminating”, “life-changing” and “better than the guy we had last week.”

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. Now also available on the Kindle.

Made in Scotland…From Girders

So that’s the first weekend done of Scotland Loves Anime, a mad rush of films and festivities in Glasgow, featuring Satoshi Nishimura and Shigeru Kitayama, the director and producer of Trigun: Badlands Rumble. They were both charming, enthusiastic and informative, and deeply appreciative of the reaction of the Scots to their work. I would say more about it, but I have spent the last three days in a sleepless Japanese haze, and someone else has most meticulous reports that actually remember them better than I do. Follow the links for in-depth accounts of the Summer Wars screening and the Q+A that followed the UK premier of Trigun: Badlands Rumble.

This morning I’m off to Newcastle University to see the people there, but I am back in Edinburgh for Wednesday, when I shall be terrorising and traumatising class Japanese Translation 2B with tales from the anime world. Another lecture open to all university students in the afternoon, and then finally I shall get some sleep… although on Friday it’s the Scotland Loves Anime Education Day, and then another weekend of frolics in Edinburgh.

There’s an article on it all in last week’s Scotsman on Sunday, too. I’ve got to write my next Neo columns while I’m here, so hopefully I will be able to find the time in the middle of all this to sit down and annotate the latest issue of Big Comic Original.

Herald Angels

15th February 2010 sees the UK premiere of the Gainax movie Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance at the Glasgow Film Theatre. I shall be introducing it, although unlike the time I introduced Death and Rebirth in Oxford, I shall not be performing the finale solo using shadow puppetry and silly voices. There are all sorts of things going on the same day, as well, including a brief talk on anime censorship by a lady from the BBFC, and the UK premiere of the long-awaited Gentleman Broncos. Hopefully, the trains will be working by then.