Future Cinema founder Fabien Riggall talks to Screen about the developments Future Cinema has made over 2012, including their recent Secret Cinema production of The Shawshank Redemption which attracted over 13,500 people.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary next year, Future Cinema has had a busy 2012 including the launch of Secret Swimming and Secret Hotel, alongside the 18th and 19th productions of Secret Cinema and the continuing success of Future Shorts.

In total, Future Cinema productions in 2012 recorded admissions of over 120,000.

“There’s a certain momentum now,” says Fabien Riggall, founder of Future Cinema.

“It’s been a year where we’ve put a lot of work in as an organisation and we’ve worked flat-out to push this concept. We’ve definitely built bridges with the industry and I think the industry is more receptive now.

“I think it’s been a phenomenal year for us and this is what we do, so we’ve hoped it would go this way. We’re doing something right and we’ve connected with a hunger for something.

“We’re not saying it’s any better than any other cultural experience, we’re just saying that we should explore it and that’s what we want to do.”

Sunday (Dec 2) saw the climax of the month-long 19th Secret Cinema production, which saw Cardinal Pole lower school transformed into a penitentiary for The Shawshank Redemption.

The idea for the production stemmed from Future Cinema’s second The Other Cinema event earlier this year, when they screened Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine at the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham.

La Haine

The Other Cinema presented La Haine at Broadwater Farm estate in May.

“It’s the idea of culture being a form of something that can disrupt people in a positive way,” says Riggall.

“It’s a film [Shawshank] that’s quite tough but much of it is about beauty, so there’s a sense of following that but also that the building felt very close to the film. It’s very rare to find a building like that and we were very lucky that Hackney Council were amazing to allow us to use that building.”

Following instructions to show up to a court summons wearing a suit with a t-shirt and long johns (or leggings) underneath, the early stages of the production saw participants sent to jail for one night.

One element included being ordered to change into a prison jumpsuit, so was Riggall concerned at all that this was a step too far into the immersive world of Secret Cinema?

“It’s tough to be able to communicate this to an audience where they’re not supposed to know anything, but the idea is really that with every new production, we’re going to create a truthful world inspired by that,” he explains.

“Prison’s a tough place and if we’re really going to go into the world of Shawshank, it’s a tough world. There was concern but at the same time, we’ve got systems in place and I think most of the audience really want that experience. They want the truth of it.”

It has certainly been a popular production. Over 13,500 people were ‘convicts’ for the night, and it has led to the launch of Future Cinema presents The Shawshank Redemption, running from Jan 10 to Feb 12 next year with the potential for it to run longer.

“It’s been overwhelming in terms of the audience, it sold out very early and I think lots of people want to come to it,” says Riggall.

Secret Cinema 1

Secret Cinema’s production of The Shawshank Redemption saw the audience turned into convicts for the night.

Sponsors and partners on the production included Stella Artois, Amnesty International, PEN International, Foyles, Penguin Classics, Sport England, Craftivist Collective, Fine Cell Works, RAPt, Clinks, Arts Against Extradition, Blanch & Shock, Grays & Feather, GF Smith, Candlemakers of London, Bright & Klean, Martha Sakulu and DiRoom. The film was provided by Park Circus.

Mercury nominated folk singer Sam Lee, actress Tonia Sotiropoulou (who featured as Rita Hayworth) and the West End Gospel Choir were among the performers taking part during the night on the production.

Riggall hopes to turn the building into a community space and Future Cinema are currently working with local residents to ensure that activities such as workshops and extra screenings will be put on when the production isn’t running.

The latest production also saw the launch of Secret Hotel, which saw participants stay in the “jail” overnight with actors wholly in character throughout, including an early morning yard workout. Riggall believes it creates a sense of travel in the Secret Cinema world.

“Travel is very much about creating a world that you live inside but it’s another world,” he says.

“I think we create that feeling of travel and the excitement of a journey. What if you could stay in a hotel overnight with the actors in character? Some people quite like it, some people don’t – not everyone wants to stay in prison for the night – but actually it makes people think and it extends that experience.”

For Riggall, alongside the continued success of Future Shorts, two events stand out from Future Cinema’s year in 2012: La Haine at Broadwater Farm and Secret Cinema’s Prometheus production.

SC Prometheus

Secret Cinema’s production of Prometheus was its first to screen a film at the same time as its cinema release.

“When we did La Haine in Broadwater Farm, I kind of felt that maybe we’d taken a step too far, because of the trouble we had where we had local government trying to stop us doing it,” he recalls.

“Fair play to them though, the CEO of Haringey initially pulled it and I proved to him that we can do this, we’re working with young people and this is going to be a positive experience, and it was.

Prometheus was a daunting thing to do because it was a huge buzz title, and I think we achieved something with it. I think we created a world that was truthful and real and people felt like they were on a spaceship.”

Next year is set to be even bigger for Future Cinema, with Secret Cinema’s 20th production taking place not just in London, but in Athens and New York.

It’ll be the same event in each of the cities and Riggall hopes, time zones permitting, that it can take place concurrently or at least on the same days. In essence, the ambitious production will see people in three different cities discovering the same events and living the production at the same time.

Details, as ever, are scarce, but Riggall does leave us with this tantalising snippet.

“We really believe we’ve done something that no one else has done and we’re keen as a British organisation to go to New York and Athens. There are reasons why we did an event in Kabul and there’s a reason why we’re doing Athens. It’s connected to the story of the film.”

Tickets for Future Cinema presents The Shawshank Redemption go on sale on Dec 7. Tickets for the 2013 production of Secret Cinema have already sold out, but you can register your interest for the Athens and New York productions at Future Cinema’s website.