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How to...

Run a cinema

Jason Wood, programming director of Curzon Cinemas, London

I have worked in the film industry for approaching 20 years and have been a film programmer for more than half of that. As director of programming for Curzon, I am responsible for anything that appears both in our cinemas and on our On Demand platform. The main changes I have witnessed are the increase of alternative content, the positive impact of digital distribution and the continuing threat to anything that falls under the broad banner of arthouse or specialised cinema. These are normally considered to include foreign-language features, documentaries and low/no-budget productions or titles that are independently made and challenge the social or political status quo.

Film is an art but it is also an industry and I have to operate within a testing commercial environment. If a film opens and fails to ignite then come the Monday after release I will be looking to reduce its shows or rip it from the screens entirely. This has given me the reputation of a grim reaper but if audiences don’t come there is little I can realistically do to preserve a film’s shelf life. We all have a role to play – distributors, exhibitors, cultural commentators and audiences – and we all have to ensure that the cultural climate does not become homogenised and the private domain of the mainstream.

The majority of films we play can be considered specialised and I cannot think of another 500 plus seat cinema in the UK (which is what we have at Chelsea) where audiences would have the opportunity to be enthralled by Michael Haneke’s Amour. I play blockbusters from time to time and, like everyone else in the country, we cleaned up on Skyfall but I view these as a sort of cultural subsidy, allowing more challenging fare to screen further down the line. Some choose to be in the business of culture rather than the culture of business. I believe that we are able to successfully operate in both.

Top three tips

  1. Watch and learn
    Be prepared to attend multiple screenings but also check figures to ensure you are operating at maximum capacity.
  2. Travel
    Plan trips to the world’s major film festivals. Berlin, Cannes and Toronto are the key dates in Woods’ calendar.
  3. Love what you do
    “I take my responsibility seriously, but reading this piece back and trying to do so with an objective eye, I find myself thinking, ‘You lucky bastard’.”

how to...

Write a love song

Caitlin Rose, Nashville-based singer-songwriter

You have to write a love song for a person rather than as an exercise in writing a song. Maybe the best love songs are the songs that weren’t ever meant to be heard by anyone else but just found their way out anyway. Sometimes you think you’ve written a love song and you realise it’s a break-up song.

The lyrics and the key are important when you’re writing a love song but the crucial thing is the melody. I could probably hum 200 love songs without ever knowing what they’re called but can always remember the power of the melody. Melody feels like love, it’s that swooning thing. The lyrics can be pretty banal but does it matter if the feeling’s there? I can think of more love song melodies than love song lyrics because sometimes the lyrics aren’t too smart. Maybe the love shines through: I can listen to an opera and not understand it, but know that it’s about love.

Love is a great subject for a song, of course. It might be easier to write about love in the past tense and that’s not just to do with sad words rhyming better.

It’s hard to write a love song in the present tense that’s an exact, honest way of saying how you feel about someone. I think Paul McCartney was great at it. John Lennon, too – Jealous Guy is one of my favourite love songs. But then is it a love song? It’s very honest.

First you have to be in love and then try to be articulate but that’s not what love’s about, is it?

Top tips

  1. Fall in love
    “You can probably only write a love song if you’re in love and are also prepared to deal with what the song says about that relationship.”

  2. Don’t play games
    “I’m not sure there’s a musical trick you can pull to say, “this is a love song”. If there’s a copy of Love Songs for Dummies then I haven’t read it, that’s for sure.”

How to...

Make the next Killing

Piv Bernth, co-head of drama at Danmarks Radio, producer of The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge.

We are having a break from crime but will be back with something in 2015. It’s good to change it up. We have been looking for a male detective. We want to see what the guys were up to while we were all looking at Sarah Lund. It’s going to be a series called Follow the Money, but it’s at a very early stage right now.

We believe in developing young talent here and have a close relationship with the Danish Film School, our next big series will be written by Maya Ilsøe who has come up through Danmark’s Radio [DR is the Danish national broadcasting service]. We started to prepare to replace The Killing a couple of years ago as soon as we knew the third series would be the last one. We needed something different, a different setting and way of shooting, so the next big idea after series two of The Bridge [a Danish-Swedish crime series, also sold internationally], won’t be a crime series but a family drama called The Legacy starring Trine Dyrholm. It’s about four siblings coming to terms with the death of their bohemian, artist mother and is set mostly on the island of Funen.

The most important thing in a new project is always the idea – what is on the writer’s heart and mind, what they are concerned about and want to investigate. I think that a theme is more important to us because we are a public service broadcaster. Of course you need a strong plot but multi-faceted characters are very important. The Killing was a crime series but Sarah Lund was the driving force.

Top tips

  1. Remember the rest of the world
    “Our main market is still Denmark but if we can pre-sell a series it means we have a larger budget and can improve the production values.”
  2. Cast a wide net
    “There is enough acting talent in Denmark but we do sometimes have to be kicked out of our comfort zone.”

How to...

Write a thriller

Håkan Nesser, award-winning Swedish crime writer

It starts with a small idea. You don’t want to know too much detail before you start writing because it can ruin the creative process. The story comes to life as you put words on a page and, gradually, that idea will become clearer and clearer. There are two stories taking place in a crime novel, one backwards – “who is behind the killing?” The other is looking forward, “how is the detective going to tie this up?” You don’t need to know the answers from the start; you will work them out while writing.

For clearing my head, it inspires me to walk the dog every morning before I write, then I can concentrate on my work for the day. This is important if you’re going to sit and write for five or six hours.

The crime genre seems to be turning more violent but it’s important not to get tied up in clichés. The violence and darkness should be between the lines not on the lines.

Top three tips

  1. Trust your story
    Don’t try and have all of the answers from the beginning; you have to trust that you’re going to find out – the same way the reader does.
  2. Create believable characters
    It’s not interesting when bad people commit bad deeds, what’s interesting is when good people commit them. Get into a character’s head and you’ll make them plausible.
  3. Conceal and reveal
    When writing a story you have 100 details; tell 10 details and hide 90.

How to...

Export K-Pop

Bernie Cho, president DFSB Kollective, Seoul

Although I always believed the global success of K-pop [Korean pop music] was less about “if” and more about “when”, I had no idea the awareness or the acceptance of Korean music worldwide would come this far, this fast. What seemed like a psychotic impossibility just a few years ago has now, because of artists like Psy, become a surreal reality. But if a singer is positioned as “Korea’s version” of some other international artist, then that’s a label worse than a curse.

Being sexy and having style helps but swagger, sweat, and showmanship are far more important. An insane concert experience requires no interpreters. If people are passing out at certain artist’s shows, we want to find a way to spread the story abroad. Because Korea is the most wired and wireless country in the world, youth culture, digital culture, and pop culture are pretty much one and the same. Via the internet, K-pop has gone international.

Like many Latino music artists, Psy has proven the concept that singing in a foreign language like Korean is fine as long as there are a few key English words and phrases that anybody, anywhere, can catch onto and chant to. However, in order to avoid being dissed and dismissed, speaking in English during interviews, press conferences and after parties is the best way to keep rewinding the 15 minutes of fame stopwatch.

Top three tips

  1. Develop your taste
    Pick an artist/band name that doesn’t sound like smelly wine or cheap perfume.
  2. Stay simple
    Design a memorable logo that can be slapped on club bathroom doors.
  3. Keep it clean
    Boy bands should ideally not wear more makeup than girl bands.

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