Since moving to the Cultural Quarter in 2009, Phoenix, Leicester’s independent cinema and art centre (and a registered charity to boot), has earned itself something of a reputation as one of the city’s hidden gems, thanks to its appealing mix of indie, world and mainstream cinema, pioneering digital culture, plus a cracking café bar.
Film is unsurprisingly at the very heart of Phoenix, but not only from a ‘get your ticket and watch the movie’ perspective: it’s also very much a hub for filmmakers in the city, and a growing number of people see Phoenix as a place to develop their skills, collaborate and share their work.
Phoenix’s support for local talent has played a big part in the growth of filmmaking in Leicester, and the city’s burgeoning filmmaking community is attracting more and more young talent, alongside established, seasoned professionals – with groups like Seven/Five Filmmakers Forum (a local filmmaking collective based at Phoenix) bringing together directors, screenwriters, sound and lighting specialists, actors, producers and members with a broad skill set.
Of course, ultimately you need a more than just an interest in making a film to become a filmmaker, though there are definitely some common misconceptions – you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment, nor do you need a lot of money. But you definitely need some filmmaking skills, and Phoenix can help with that too.
Budding filmmakers can take advantage of a raft of opportunities to learn and develop essential skills – from screenwriting and film acting, to camerawork and editing through Phoenix’s programme of short courses, which deliver a thorough grounding for anyone keen to take their first steps into filmmaking.
So just what’s so special about Phoenix’s courses, I hear you ask? Well, aside from the fact that they’re open to anyone over the age of 18, they’re taught by bona fide film industry professionals with a host of awards and credits to their names.
Keith Allott, award-winning filmmaker at Badshoes Film, teaches the 8-week Film School course at Phoenix. He got into film as a teenager and has been a filmmaker for over 20 years. “I really enjoy working with students at Phoenix; we face the challenges of filmmaking and find the answers to those challenges together. Many of my students have gone on to produce their own films, which is something they have since revealed that they thought they wouldn’t be capable of achieving.”
Fellow tutor, actor and director Kenton Hall, who teaches screenwriting and film acting, sums it up beautifully. “Film is such a constant in many of our lives and it has a magic to it, as it should. But that sense of magic can sometimes prevent people from believing that they can be involved. A lot of the courses that I teach, and that Phoenix features overall, are deliberately designed to disabuse them of that notion. Film is magic. But you can learn to be a magician. I think I’m basically saying that Phoenix is Hogwarts, which I’m fine with.”
Visit phoenix.org.uk for details of all Phoenix’s short courses (including filmmaking and film appreciation) which run all year round.