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Scottish Sojourn: the Edinburgh Filmhouse

Posted at 3:08 AM on September 13, 2006 by Euan Kerr

My first real job was tearing tickets at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. At the time it was in the basement of a Georgian crescent on the edge of the city's famous New Town. The Randolph Crescent facility was tiny, one hundred seats or so, and only accessible through a precipitous stairway which always put me in mind of a descent into the Underworld.

Yet what wonders awaited there! I have no idea how many films I watched in that subterranean cinema, but it must have been in the hundreds. Some nights the place was packed. Most it was not, and a couple of times I sat at the back with just one other person sitting in the hall. There was also the night when the projectionist had to leave suddenly because of a family emergency. No-one else knew how to run the projector and so we gave the people their money back and all just went home.

Edinburgh has always been a place that dreams big, and a few years after the film movers and shakers raised the money for the new Filmhouse on Lothian Road. It has three screens and shows a torrent of film from around the world.

I worked there too, just for a few weeks in 1981 doing publicity for the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Winston Churchill once said he thought every young man should go to war. My own belief is everyone should work for a film festival at least once in their lives. It's a lot less destructive, and you learn a great deal about life, love, and business realities.

The publicity team rushed around the city, handing out handbills, talking to radio stations, pampered journalists, and soothed visiting film makers. We watched huge numbers of films, and started rumors about people who may or may not be coming to the festival. It was great fun. At one point we thought there was a good chance the festival director might get arrested because we were screening "Taxi zum Klo" a very graphic German film about gay cruising. He didn't but the publicity was great, and Edinburgh's gay community turned up in force and in costume, which was also great fun.

Now, 25 years on, there are rumblings that there needs to be a new Filmhouse, with state of the art (that terrible phrase) editing facilities and screening rooms. I am still trying to get over the loss of the cinematic cave under Randolph Crescent!

I am hoping to get to the Filmhouse during this trip, although the schedule is tight. It is always good to live in hope though.

September 2006
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