Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Secret Origins of MovieBar...

MovieBar was established in 1912 when Aleister Crowley took his friend George Méliès to visit the Williamson Kinematograph Works in Hove. Filmmaking pioneer James Williamson sat the two men down in his screening room to show them his work:

Crowley and Méliès were impressed by the technical aspects of Williamson's film but found the narrative confusing. In an effort to appease them Williamson offered the two men a drink, but having been momentarily deafened by the sound of the projector he misheard their request for ginger ale and instead provided them each with a large measure of absinthe. Soon intoxicated, Crowley and Méliès ceased their over-critical commentary on the films and instead watched in silent awe, occasionally laughing out loud at inappropriate moments. A thoroughly good time was had by all, and the three of them decided that this should be a regular occurrence, that from that day forward short films and alcohol would always go hand in hand. Furthermore they would create a monthly event where this would take place. Crowley insisted the the event must occur on the first Monday of every month, while Méliès suggested the Cornerstone pub in Brighton as an appropriate venue because he liked the food. Williamson's only request was that every evening should start with a film quiz, because he was full of useless film trivia and knew he would aways win. They called this monthly gathering of filmmakers and film enthusiasts MovieBar, and it has been running in Brighton ever since.

Not really. This is what happens when you let a writer take over a short film event.

MovieBar was actually established by Brighton filmmaker Chris Cook, director of The Penalty King and lecturer at Brighton Film School. The first MovieBar took place on February 5th 2007.

Chris outlined the primary reason for setting up such an evening on the original MySpace page - "There are a lot of talented people out there who just need a bit of help. Whether it's knowing where to get their hands on the money, or even how to set up a shot – if we all get together and talk about it, these problems go away. It's also about having a network of people you can turn to. So when you do get the green light and you desperately need a lighting guru, you know where you can get one." The aim was to bring local filmmakers together to screen their work, share their experiences and find help with their projects in the most informal and friendly way possible. Each night opened with a quick and usually incredibly difficult film quiz, the idea being to encourage people to mingle and start talking to each other early on. The films shown were often brought along on the night which meant there was always something for everyone in the eclectic line-up. Chris also featured performances from actors wanting to showcase their talent, staged productions of radio plays, musical performances and occasionally screened feature films (my film Ten Dead Men screened at MovieBar in July 2008).

After 2 years Chris left MovieBar to focus on filmmaking and passed on the organisation of the event to another local filmmaker, Luther Bhogal-Jones. In February 2009 Son of Moviebar was launched.

Luther ran the event with fellow filmmaker and actor Terence Drew. With the formation of the Brighton Filmmakers Coalition there was less of a need for an evening of networking and collaboration so the focus instead became the films themselves. Luther and Terry they turned MovieBar into a highly organised monthly film festival. Line-ups were formalised in advance and the films were usually structured around a genre or type of film such as animation, horror or documentary. The quiz went from a casual ice-breaker to a competitive and highly enjoyable trivia battle with genuinely awesome prizes (only occasionally ruined by the fact that the same team usually won every week...sorry). Luther and Terry also brought in guest speakers from film and TV including Mark Davis and Simon Messingham.

In December 2010 Luther and Terry handed organisation of the event over to me. I toyed with the idea of changing the name (I think Terry suggested which MovieBar in 3D which is as topical as it is funny) but decided in the end to go back to plain old MovieBar. My brother Peter Regan designed an awesome new logo:

As a writer and filmmaker myself I have found MovieBar to be an excellent source of inspiration and practical help over the years and I'm keen to provide that same resource for other filmmakers. I also hope to continue to screen entertaining and interesting short films with filmmaker Q&As where possible. The quiz will still be present although in a slightly reduced form. My ultimate aim is to create an evening that falls somewhere between the two previous incarnations of MovieBar - a highly organised, professional event that also maintains some of the informal networking and collaborative elements of the original MovieBar. I have also recruited a team of fantastic like-minded people to help, whom I hope to introduce shortly.

The launch night for the brand new MovieBar will take place on Monday 7th February at 8pm. We have finalised the line-up for that evening but if you would like to submit films for future events you can e-mail us at

There are a number of ways you can stay informed about what films we're showing and when the events will be taking place. You can e-mail to the address above requesting to be added to the mailing list, or you can join the Facebook group, or you can follow us on Twitter.

Chris Regan

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