Matchbox Cineclub on starting a film night

Sean Welsh of Glasgow's underground cult cinema night Matchbox Cineclub on the challenges and rewards of putting the films you love onto the big screen

Feature by Sean Welsh | 14 Sep 2018

There's really no substitute for watching a film with your pals on a big screen. Matchbox Cineclub is a regular night in Glasgow that screens all kinds of weird and little-known cult movies, screening everything from a restored version of Turkish Star Wars (Google it and prepare to be confused) to all-day celebrations of Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves and the two-day Weird Weekend festival. Intrigued? Sean Welsh talks us through how it's done.

The Skinny: How did Matchbox Cineclub get started? 

The idea has always been to show things no-one else is showing, that often you can’t see anywhere else. Personally, it was the only way to get programming experience and a great way to express a love for all kinds of weird and incredible films (we call them orphans, outcasts and outliers). 

What were the key resources/ facilities/ people who helped get things moving?

The Old Hairdressers offered us free hire because we were a regular night and they liked what we were doing. CCA has open-source programming, where they don’t charge for hire (only technicians) and you get the full benefit of their box office and marketing too. All the pals who’ve helped us out, spreading the word, helping us set up, designing posters at mate’s rates, have been really important too.

What have been the biggest challenges you've faced in your time running MC?

We made it difficult for ourselves by programming films that no-one has heard of (because we usually go beyond the familiar cult films that most people know), and by being inconsistent with subject matter/genre. Even if we stuck with “weirdest horror films” or something, that would have been a lot easier. But we know we could fill rooms with cult hits, and our approach is deliberate. Generating and sustaining an audience has been tricky because by definition people don’t know what they’re getting.

Your events have grown to include all-dayers like Cage-a-Rama and Weird Weekend – how have you guys managed the step-up to that next level?

I gained some experience with large-scale events from coordinating Scalarama in Scotland and producing the Document Film Festival, and Matchbox has benefited a little from that. But otherwise, it’s just been a natural process and a huge amount of work. I realised a monthly residency isn’t necessarily ideal for our kind of programming, and the micro-festival format is actually great. It means everyone gets the most out of all the extra effort we put into screenings, and we can focus on making them even more special.

What's the one bit of advice you'd give to someone looking to put on their first film night/gig/club night?

Do your research. See what everyone else is doing that might be similar and, better yet, talk to them and ask questions. Maybe you can team up with them instead, or at the very least be friendly with them. And seek out the organisations that can give you the right advice and support – for film, that’d be Scalarama, Cinema For All, the Independent Cinema Office or Film Hub Scotland.

Cage-A-Rama, 5-6 Jan 2019, venue TBC; KeanuCon, 27-28 Apr 2019, CCA