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Organising BIAFF 2015
By members of the SERIAC team

SERIAC Council
SERIAC Council
Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers |
Chairman Rita Hayes
Organising an event like BIAFF is a major undertaking and not for the faint hearted.
Rita and Pip Hayes
Rita and Pip Hayes welcome guests
The organisers know what they want, but the challenge is in turning ideas and suggestions into a workable, successful event.

Our first problem in the process of bringing BIAFF 2015 to the SERIAC region was to locate the right hotel.

This was not as easy as you might imagine, for we found lots of seaside hotels that at first seemed to fit the bill. However, looking into things more deeply, we found that most either had no parking or made high charges for cars parked on site. Additionally, it was almost impossible to find hotels in our region that offered single rooms, meaning that single occupants would have to pay over the odds to stay in double rooms.
I ended up contacting Best Western and told them our requirements. The company soon got back to me suggesting the Coniston Hotel, Sittingbourne, which met the majority of our requirements, and would offer a special reduction for single occupants. As we discussed the finer details, I mentioned that we needed four cinemas operational during the event. It turned out that they had three rooms which were fine but two that only seated fifteen people. I asked David Newman if the two smaller rooms could have the same films showing, so that thirty people could see that programme at once. David felt that it would be more useful to show a different programme in each, in order that more films could be shown, so we ended up with five cinemas - one more than we had planned!
The staff at the hotel were superb - nothing was too much trouble for them and they cheerfully saw to all our needs. The one worry that I had was the tea, coffee and biscuit breaks. At our various meetings prior to the event, I reminded the hotel staff of the problems that we had faced in the past in this regard, as everyone arrives at once and needs to go to the next film session within half an hour. They listened to our concerns, took them on board, and came up with the idea of having members of staff pouring drinks at different tables. This worked splendidly, and as a result, the usual problems caused by people helping themselves to drinks did not arise this time. The staff also gave out menus for evening meals at breakfast, which also led to quicker service later each day.
The event, however, was not confined to the hotel, and when we did venture out we met with a sunny, dry day (something hardly guaranteed in England in April) and this added greatly to the enjoyment. The trip to Chatham Dockyard was enjoyed by all, with the highlight being a fascinating film set tour, an ideal activity for Film Festival trippers!

The organising of BIAFF 2015 presented a lot of hard work for our council members, who spent two years preparing for the event. By the remarks received so far, it was well worth all the effort put in.

Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers

Secretary Brenda Troughton
A two year activity involving complex logistics began.
Two years ago the IAC asked if SERIAC would run the 2015 BIAFF event.

With some trepidation our Council agreed that we would undertake the task. The first business in hand was to find a suitable venue as described by Rita (above).

A date was fixed and then the discussions began over the costs.Council members made many journeys to Sittingbourne to consult and discuss and finally a price was agreed.

Hotel reception
BIAFF descends on the hotel
The next obstacle was to decide on a coach outing.There are many places to visit in Kent but at last we agreed on the Chatham Historic Dockyard. Rita and Freddy visited the dockyard to ensure it wasn’t too far and had the facilities we needed.We were also offered a tour of the locations used for filming e.g. TV programmes such as Call the Midwife. Coach prices were checked and the coach was booked.Everything seemed to be going well.
The next job was to work on a booking form and to have it printed. By this time we were in 2014 and the forms needed to be sent to Garth to be included with Film and Video Maker Magazine. An online printer was found at a good price and the order was sent over the internet.
The next big job was the programme which I said I would take on. I spoke to Brenda Granshaw at the Stratford AGM and she assured me this was a straight forward copy and paste job. However, there were several changes to the order of the films and many council members were called upon to proof read. The online printer was used once more. They were unbelievably helpful, rushing through the printing and delivering from Germany in a few days at a cost of only £330.00.
Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
(Rookie) Treasurer Freddy Beard
Nothing is as easy as it looks when someone else is doing it.

My experience started off very well with booking forms and cheques in almost every post. Then came the balances of the payments – again, just take to the bank. But then some people had to drop out. Overall we had 10 cancellations, most of them regulars at IAC events and we missed them all.
As you will have heard, David Newman, the projectionists and all the hotel staff did a great job. The Chatham Day was enjoyed, and I thank all the helpers ‘on the Desk’.
We made a profit. I cannot state how much just yet as some invoices have to be cleared, and I do not know how this will compare to previous years but hope it will measure up well enough.

Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
Chairman at the time Ron Prosser
The lion’s share of the work was gamely taken on by the three ladies on the committee

SERIAC organised their last BIAFF in 2007 and Reg Lancaster and myself were joint festival officers. Between us we undertook a lot of the organising ranging from printing all the tickets needed, putting up acres of blackout, arranging the back to back screens and synchronised projection and printing of the programmes.
Unfortunately this year both Reg and myself were somewhat hampered by disabilities and our involvement was a bit limited! However the lion’s share this year was gamely taken on by the three ladies on the committee -namely Rita Hayes, Brenda Troughton and Freddy Beard who between them became a Force majeure and left the rest of the committee a little breathless and in awe of their organising abilities!
The organising, since its inception, went quite smoothly, only hotting up in the last two weeks before the festival began.

Sunday audience
Sunday show
We were suddenly made aware that the ballroom, where the Sunday award show was to be held, had no light switches in the room, being controlled by a computer housed in a “Broom Cupboard” outside!

It made us wonder what sort of idiot had designed this for a new hotel.

By the time BIAFF arrived common sense had prevailed and dimmer switches had been installed – albeit behind the screen on a very dark stage.

Due to a low ceiling the screen was not high enough to accommodate subtitles and I know this irritated a lot of our visitors but there was little we could do about it. This is a problem shared by most modern hotels these days I’m afraid.
Technicalities aside and from a pastoral side of things we were very pleased with the hotel and the service we received. Nothing was too much trouble for them and our every request was carried out swiftly and efficiently and the food they served was excellent. All of our visitors that I spoke to endorsed this view and everyone appeared to have enjoyed the weekend.
Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
Projectionist David Fenn
I put together a set of equipment which would do the job nicely...

Preparing for BIAFF - A Cautionary Tale
Having volunteered to set up and run one of the five mini cinemas at this years BIAFF I was anxious to make this presentation as professional as possible. To that end and, building on the experiences of projecting with Rod at the past Albany and Sussex Film Festivals, I put together a set of equipment which would do the job nicely. Projector and screen, amplifier and speakers. All good so far. A Blu-ray player and a DVD player and a cueing monitor. The former to play the films and the latter, via a switch to display the welcome sign between films. I had chosen a Sony Blu-ray player as it was the only one available at the time that had a composite output as all others were HDMI only.
One wet afternoon, I set up all these items for a rehearsal. My Sony Blu-ray player connecting the composite output to my 7" cuing monitor. I popped a DVD into each player and checked that I could switch between the two. I then removed the DVD from the Sony, re-inserted it and checked that I could cue it on the monitor via its menu and pause it ready to be switched to the projector. No problem so far. I then inserted a Blu-ray disc and established the menu on the monitor. When I pressed play to cue the film, the Sony player changed the composite output to NTSC! This happened with every Blu-ray disc but not with standard DVDs. I could find nothing in the player menu to stop this.
After much head scratching and searching on the internet, I happened to be chatting to my neighbour who has been in the TV trade for many years, about my problem and asked if he might have a magic solution. At the mention of Sony, he rolled his eyes and said he was not at all surprised as Sony had always done things their own way! So my only recourse was to use an HDMI monitor and an HDMI combiner with two outputs. This set up works well but does require extra HDMI cables (cheap now on e-bay).

Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
Projectionist Graham Evans
The room was not much bigger than my lounge at home

How was it for us?
My name is Graham Evans and I am Chairman of Spring Park Film Makers. My club was involved in the projection of films in small 'cinemas' at BIAFF 2007 when SERIAC last hosted the event. I was a projectionist then, so it seemed appropriate to volunteer again this year for the Saturday when there are multiple mini-cinemas. The films (on Blu-ray discs and DVDs) we had to show was sent to me by secure post. All of these played on the player I was going to use for the projection. Many of these had menus and where possible I re-edited the disc to run without the menus. I did this because I feel that menus reduce the professional look of a film show. I think that the IAC should rule on (a) the use of menus when films are entered to BIAFF (b) how to deal with menus when displaying films when they are shown at BIAFF.
One film had been shot in 4 by 3 aspect ratio but in a letterbox format within that shape. With the projector set for 16 by 9 ratio, the letterbox within 4 by 3 format showed on the screen as a small rectangle in the middle of a large screen. I advised the competition officer who agreed that was all we could do. I think IAC should consider banning this obscure format in future BIAFFs.
I was invited one Sunday a few weeks before the event, to acquaint myself with the logistics of the venue for BIAFF 2015, The Coniston Hotel in Sittingbourne, Kent. I was shown a small conference room where I would project the film. The room was not much bigger than my lounge at home and it was suggested that about 15 people could be seated in comfort. Given the size of the room I thought that the existing screen which was integrated with the wall was quite adequate for the viewers. < br > I was able to talk to the other projectionists about the methods of projecting a programme eg whether to record the films from each session on a laptop or one DVD/Blu-ray disc. One of the projectionists volunteered to provide a still digital photo as a "screen saver" advertising BIAFF 2015 between films. I decided to show each film separately. One Blu-ray player ran the film being shown whilst the other player showed a two hour screen saver based on the digital photo provided for us. This Blu-ray was playing on the second player before and during each session. The idea was to switch to the player with the screen saver between the films.
The start and end of the films was seen on a seven-inch monitor which told us when to switch in and out of the screen saver. I decided along with the other projectionists to bring our projection kit the day before the Saturday at BIAFF and set it up ready to show films at 9.30am on the day. I also confirmed that the seating would be set up in "my" cinema by the time I arrived at the hotel on the Friday at 10.30am (which it was - well done Coniston staff!). We were told that the windows (both external and internal) would need to be blacked out and I understood that this would be done by someone else. The windows were measured by the SERIAC team at the time. < br > My fellow projectionist was David Hunt from Spring Park, who helps me with projection at the annual Kent Film Festival. We arrived at the hotel at 10.30am on the Friday and got the key to our cinema from the reception desk. This arrangement allowed us to set up the kit and leave it and the films to be shown securely in the room until we returned the next day. We were allowed to park near to our room so that unloading was not too much of a problem (we did not think of asking for the use of a trolley!).
The room was set up with chairs either side of a central isle. The room had a large ledge at the back to put the two Blu-ray players, the amplifier, the channel switcher and monitor and these were easily accessible to us operators. This also housed our emergency spare kit (analogue projector, DVD player, and amplifier). There were two power points accessible at this level which we supplemented with a multiple socket. A small table sited near the back of the room was used to place the projector next to the back row of the seating.

Fortunately the projection of the film was clear of obstacles as it pointed towards the screen between the seats along the central isle.

We tried the projector out and succeeded in getting a good picture clear of seats and audience (though the occasional shoulder was visible on the bottom corner of the image). We then wired up the speakers, taking the wiring around the edge of the room secured by duck tape. We tested the sound system and video switching mechanism.

A Mini-cinema
Mini-cinema ready to go
We were told that we would have to black out the windows in our room and were given black plastic on a roll to do this. We measured the windows. We had our own duck tape and we borrowed scissors and cut the blackout to shape then stuck them up, taking care not to stick duct tape to the window frames. The outside windows got very warm with sunlight on the Saturday and we had to make 'running repairs' on the black out between films on occasion.
On the Saturday we arrived just before 9am. I had kept the key to the room overnight so we went straight in and switched on the kit. Long after the festival was over, I looked back an old email address only to find instructions from the organisers (who had been using my current email address for other correspondence about projection work). Seeing it afterwards, most of it was common sense or known to me except for one requirement. This was to provide background music in the cinema as people entered to provide atmosphere. We could have provided this had the correct up to date email addresses been used by the IAC.
Once we got going, our 4 sessions ran reasonably smoothly. All the discs ran correctly except one where there was a progressive lip-sync problem. On reflection this may have been due to me re-editing a DVD to get rid of the menu. If so, I apologise - I should have tested the new disc over the whole length of the film.
Occasionally we switched from the film to the screen saver a bit too quickly during the end credits but generally the transitions worked well between the two images. Switching the lights on and off was easy with two operators. We kept within our session times.
Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
Raffle Organiser Peter Hughes
The cash generated is always useful.

Organising a raffle can be tortuous - finding the appropriate prizes, timing and method of draw. Here in the SERIAC region, we are very lucky that all this year's BIAFF prizes were donated and we thank all the donors.
The selection of prizes need to be balanced, not too many bottles or 'smellies' and a broad selection of useful prizes. We have found having a 'Star' prize helps with encouraging people to buy tickets.
Drawing the raffle can be a nightmare. If you have a small number, draw live, however at BIAFF, we had 30 prizes, so the draw was carried out separately to avoid upsetting the schedule for the day. Prizes were then marked with ticket numbers and ticket holders came as and checked their numbers when they could.

Chairman Rita Hayes | Secretary Brenda Troughton | Treasurer Freddy Beard | Chairman at time Ron Prosser |
Projectionist David Fenn | Projectionist Graham Evans | Raffle Peter Hughes | Photography Keith Sayers
Photographer Keith Sayers
I was still learning on the hoof

It would be nice to say that I have a wealth of experience in photographing BIAFF but the truth is, as a region only gets to host it around every seven years, this is not the case. So, although I had limited experience from the last time SERIAC was involved, I was still learning on the hoof.
The pictures are in demand by a number of prospective recipients including FVM, IAC and local websites, people and clubs who might have been photographed receiving awards and those who you have just caught on camera during the event - so it is important to obtain the relevant email addresses.
This weekend included a day trip to Chatham Historic Dockyard on the Friday and I decided to get pictures of this. Although that aspect of the event will not usually be required by many people the pictures may be useful for your local magazine or website. I made a point of photographing groups of people here in case it was difficult to do so at the main event. I also tried to get unusual shots to generate interest.
Throughout the whole weekend I shot in RAW and jpeg simultaneously as the jpegs would be available immediately and the RAW files could be worked on at leisure. It is amazing how much a slightly under or over exposed (surely not!) or wrong colour balanced picture can be recovered with RAW.
On the Saturday five mini cinemas were in operation simultaneously so I could not possibly hope to capture all the action myself. It helps, therefore, if you can make friends with anyone with a camera and ask them to send on their photos. Hopefully there won't be too many but they might capture that important shot you missed. It helps to prioritise the cinemas for the awards you would like to shoot and try to get a guest list as many award winners do not turn up for the event. You do not want to sit in a room for a session where there is very little to shoot. Try to capture young film makers and people who have not received an award before.
The Sunday event is for the major award winners and all who attend should be photographed as these pictures will be most in demand. I made friends with the award presenters to ensure they would encourage the recipients to turn towards the camera and hold the certificates and trophies up in view. On this occasion Terence Patrick was the MC and Linda Gough presented the awards. Linda was as valuable as gold dust to me, arranging the recipient and even calling them back to re shoot after the session in case of the odd failed shot. I hand held the camera, partly to avoid a cumbersome tripod and partly because each shot needs composing to suit. You can't hold up proceedings while you fiddle with the camera. On that note I set the shutter speed to a suitable flash sync and let the camera take care of the aperture. With flash you won't get enough movement to blur the shot unless you have spent too much time in the bar beforehand. I used spot auto focus on the certificates. I know it is conventional to focus on the person's eye, but the certificate needs to be sharp and, with flash, the aperture will give enough depth of field for both. I experimented with several shots of a friend before the show, standing at the expected distance to check the exposure and used these settings for the event.
I also made sure I got several shots of both inside and outside the hotel, both SERIAC and hotel receptions, groups of people in the bar and restaurant and, of course the Saturday Gala Dinner including the laid tables before the guests arrived and the top table announcements.
All in all I took 335 pictures. Thank goodness for digital media. Only a fraction will be used but it enabled me to pick the best. Then all that remained was to rename the files from the standard serial number to something relevant and distribute to all interested parties with their various resolution requirements, the web only needs low resolution but printed material must be 300 dpi.
I don't claim to be anything like an expert and I am learning all the time, but perhaps it will stand me in good stead for seven years' time.

Many thanks to all the contributors for taking the time to write about their experiences.