Outdoor cinema screen on the South Wing of Somerset House for Film4 Summer Screen

Creative Careers Academy Insights: Film4 Summer Screen

Alex Williams

Creative Careers Academy Member

20 Sep 2019

Creative Careers Academy member Alex Williams, currently working with Somerset House Visitor Experience team, shares his experience of London's largest outdoor cinema, Film4 Summer Screen

Being a part of the Visitor Experience team, my role essentially is to understand how our visitors respond to the building and the programme, and to ensure that we create a unique experience for every visitor. As an individual I am interested in the changing human psyche in a modern world and how this is interpreted in the way people interact with arts and event spaces.

As part of my role at Somerset House I was able to see behind the scenes and even get tickets to the Film4 Summer Screen. Summer Screen took place over two weeks showing a diverse selection of screenings, including premiers such as Pain and Glory directed by Pedro Almodóvar and Inna De Yard by Peter Webber. The line-up also included classics like The Matrix and The Princess Bride plus cinematic excellence in the form of God’s Own Country and Black Panther. Out of the mega blockbuster list of films available I settled on the 90s classic Clueless.

The film speaks for itself, a heart-warming, coming of age adaptation of teenage life in an idealised 90s American high school. It has all the perfect quotable lines and cliché stereotypes while following a relatable story of first love, encapsulated of course in a ‘whatever’ era of headbands, flip phones and platforms. Amy Heckerling created a timeless classic that speaks to a cross generation that are still finding their way in a world where lines blur between Nerd, Jock and Queen B’s.  You could delve into the hidden meanings and analyse the themes explored and compare them to the growing narcissism and craving for social status in 2019, or you can put on your yellow tartan matching combo and dream of the teenage upbringing you wish you had.

Visitors sitting on beanbags at Film4 Summer Screen
Before the film starts at Film4 Summer Screen

I don’t visit the cinema as much as I used to nowadays due to the endless online subscriptions available, the rising cinema prices and overpriced popcorn. However, Film4 Summer Screen gave me that romantic feeling of a cinema experience that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I literally fell back in love with that experience. Like a crush or an ex that I’d blocked, unfollowed and swore to myself I wouldn’t go back there, but ran back to after the wuu2* text.

The evening starts with you entering through giant red curtains draped over the Strand archways, to the smell of Jimmy Garcia’s BBQ. Step a little further and you are presented with one London's largest outdoor cinema screen, lit with purple sidelight. Once settled and with carefully positioned backrests and blankets, even a short downpour couldn’t stop the 90's kid inside me shimmying to the incredible DJ set provided by Jonbenet Blonde. The film is introduced by Film4 programmer David Cox which adds that something special you don’t get in your usual cinema. The lights dim and a swirling light show with a dramatic overture sets the mood for the beginning of a cinematic experience.

Lightshow at Film4 Summer Screen
Lightshow at Film4 Summer Screen

In 2019 we are always looking for new experiences to hold our shorter attention spans and to take what we love and reinvent it for our modern-day selves, and Film4 Summer Screen does just that. Set in a Grade 1 listed building, surrounded by people who love the same film you do. What I took away from this unique experience is that cinema is changing but our love for film is not. We still want to be entertained and now art and cultural hubs are leading with new ways to experience our requited love for film.

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