New perspectives on audience and spectators

The city is yours

As our cities are developing rapidly and efficiently, it is essential to maintain the complexity of urban space. And since humans are complex beings, urban spaces must embrace this in order for us to grow democratic and economically and socially sustainable systems. By taking film out of the cinema or mobile phone, it becomes available in a different way and so changes the ways in which spectators view it. The concepts of audience and spectators must include the larger group of residents and visitors. How can we rethink our work with audience work? How can the film gain admission and how can an audience access quality experiences in the urban space?

“I want to reach out to people who are rarely given the chance to have their world reflected on film.”

For the pilot study Viewer Perspective, support was granted to three audience development projects. Director Ragnhild Ekner’s film The Traffic Lights Will Turn Blue Tomorrow has a powerful connection to the city life down between the buildings. In Ekner’s words, reflecting “people like us” is a driving force. Shooting a film set in her own “backyard” of suburban Hässelby Gård, the place where she feels 100% at home, she has insight enough to recognize as certain that those she depicts are not those who view film in the venues that make up box office figures. She finds it difficult to achieve her goals through the traditional screening structures. These exist for those who can afford them, for the established inner circle of film and culture. The audience that Ekner aims to reach through her depiction does not have access to that scene.

Reflection from the Ongoing Evaluator on conversation 4:
New perspectives on audience and spectator


The public perspective has permeated the entire Smart Kreativ Stad project. Aiming through film and moving images to make the city more attractive to visit, live and work in, the lion’s share of work has focused on new methods for film to meet its audience in public, rethink and challenge existing forms of audience work. In a conversation about new perspectives on audiences and spectators, representatives from various fields met to reason about challenges, expectations and hopes for film experiences in urban space.

Participants in the conversation 6 March 2020:
Frida Cornell Curator and Art Project Manager, Stockholm konst
Helena Paulsson Head of Urban Development, AFRY
Helena Simonsson Distribution & Screening Consultant, Svenska Film Institute
Jelena Miljanovic Architect, Codesign Research
Jennifer Norström Project Manager, Smart Kreativ Stad
Johan Fogde Dias Festival Coordinator/Program Manager, Panoramica Film Festival
Maja Lindquist Director, Doc Lounge
Mia Wahlström Doctor of Technology and Consultant in Analysis, Strategy and Planning at Tyréns
Senay Behre Director/Producer and Founder of Afripedia
Ulrika Bandeira Program Director, Tempo Documentary Festival

Introduction: Annika Wik
Moderator: Geska Helena Brecevic 

What can be quantified
Cultural life, which is often project driven, is closely linked to the expectation of a large audience. The need to reach the several groups and audiences with different projects is immediately raised for discussion, for instance, the point that projects should be evaluated on more than box office, that what can be quantified is just one of many ways to assess and evaluate a cultural project. Many insist that urban space applies other principles for reaching and “counting” That there are other principles in the urban space for those who are reached by and can be “counted” as an audience occupied a large part of the conversation.

Sharing time and areas
The people moving about in the city are mainly met by commercial messages, especially in the form of moving images on screens. The conversation revolves around how culture should carve out a larger space, how spaces should be created so that areas are shared. Several inspiring examples are alluded to in which commercial and cultural content meet in the same area.

Need for matchmaking
To create better conditions for admitting moving images into the city, structures that facilitate meetings of the cultural class with property owners are needed. Despite some good examples, it is manifestly difficult for cultural expression to gain admission without contacts. There is a need for matchmaking, through so-called structures that facilitate for residents to be a part of the cultural expressions of film and moving images. Different solutions for this were discussed between parties who meet too rarely—property owners on the one hand and creators and screening organizers on the other.

Discovering new audiences
Creators and screening organizers speak of the different methods for reaching an audience. Urban space has been ascertained to entail both opportunities and many challenges, one of which is to follow up how the culture is perceived and received by the residents of Stockholm.

The residents’ stories
The importance of making the most of residents’ own stories was marked from several vantage points. The soul of a place being linked to these stories is one aspect. A second is the representative aspect, the methods for making the unseen visible, for supporting inclusion through admitting a place in the city for personal expression. The issue of audience, whether it spectates or participates, sheds light on the relationship between production and viewing. Seeing the big picture of what is local is a third aspect that is highlighted.

What is needed?
Where do you turn if you want to work with narratives and film in urban space? At present, the support system is not well attuned; the closest is the festival support and project funds that screening organizers can apply for. There is room for new thinking here. Money is needed both for the implementation of temporary projects and for local initiatives to ensure long-term cultural sustainability. In a more practical vein, simplifications reliant upon technology and access to electricity are proposed, as are earmarked places, with conditions for easier access to film screenings, through ready-made permits, electricity, technology, screens or projectors.