Those are just the sort of sold-out soirées that Future Cinema founder Fabien Riggall specialises in. Whether he's luring folks to swimming spots, branching out to hotels and restaurants, booking concerts, or bringing the world of iconic films (Casablanca is running until March 23) to life with live, participatory cinematic experiences through Secret Cinema, Riggall is undoubtedly a mastermind when it comes to staging events that defy definition and suspend belief.
Who better, then, to consult for advice on hosting epic parties whose legacies will live on long after the hangovers have faded and the carpets have been cleaned? Here, Riggall tells us what it takes to throw the ultimate event and reveals his plans for launching Secret Cinema satellites in New York City and Athens (Greece), this May. Research trip, anyone?
How did Future Cinema come to be?
"I was and still am, I guess, to a certain extent, a filmmaker who was looking to produce short films and found that there was nowhere to really get them seen. So, we set up a short film festival but basically the idea was that the film festival could take place anywhere around the U.K. We built it in London, but we asked partners in different cities to set up an event and connected them all together. That’s how it all started. But, it was really inspired by the sense of creating a social experience around film and making it more of an event and an experience. And also playing with different art forms and different mediums, from film, music, and DJs. It was also inspired a little bit by the kind of parties I used to go to when I was younger, where you used to get a call and meet up and follow a line of cars and go to the forest and create a sort of happening around dance music — and [also] the kind of peripherals around Glastonbury, where you become lost and discover new things. With short films, it was the idea of discovering amazing new stories and ideas and then getting people together and connected to see more. So, the whole Secret Cinema thing came from asking, 'how can you bring a film to life? How could you create a world where the audience could become part of and contribute to the work?'"
How do you choose which films you show?
"It’s kind of about creating an experience where you can build a narrative around a film. It’s not about mimicking the film — it’s about being inspired by it and creating a new world around it. The idea of each film comes down to the emotional connection we have with it, and also what’s relevant in terms of keeping it exciting, keeping it mysterious, and building something that’s really unusual. It has to relate to a mood, and a sense of where the world is going. Shawshank Redemption was a follow-up from the work we did at Broadwater Farm, where we did a film called La Haine, which is about the riots. (We did it in the area where the riots began, Tottenham.) Shawshank Redemption is about exploring the idea of cultural rehabilitation and the idea that, perhaps, prison isn’t working so well. So, it’s really a mixture. Sometimes it’s just about doing something really fun and getting everyone to wear white suits and taking part in a military world. It’s really about mixing it up, and creating an environment which everyone can just play in."
Tell us about your upcoming launch in New York City. Will the events be tied to whatever is happening in London?
"It’s going to be the same events. The idea is that we’re going to have three cities — London, New York, and Athens — and the same film will be in each different space. The idea is that we’ll be connecting everybody. There will actually be people having the same experience in different cities and then connecting online together. So, I’m really interested in having different communities and cultures connecting. Even though one building will be in London and one will be in New York, they’ll be connected. The audience in New York will feel as though the audience in London is there. It’s a happening that’s taking place in different cities on the same day."
You’ve also done Secret Swimming, and Secret Restaurant. What other projects do you have your eye on?
"What we did with Secret Hotel and Secret Restaurant was really within Secret Cinema. Secret Cinema is where we work on new ideas and create different challenges and take risks with what we’re doing. We’re also integrating music, so there’s a concert element to it. I think there’s a real fatigue in the world in terms of the creative industry — and traditional ways of showcasing art is evolving, so we’ve kind of tapped into something and we want to keep pushing. We’re looking for new ways of experiencing the arts. Also, there are a lot of people who are searching for inspiration, searching for work, and we’re really interested in how you can create a cultural event that becomes a social enterprise. With Shawshank Redemption, we partnered with Amnesty International and each night we got 400 audience members to write letters to real prisoners. We also got them to write letters to governments around the world that are keeping people locked up. It then becomes a sort of cause, and we‘re going to do a lot more of that."
Ready to party down? Throw your own ultimate bash with these tips inspired by the Future Cinema model.