What was a dark screening room filled with reclining deck chairs and twenty guests awaiting the December launch of Film and Chill at Renaissance, is today filled with light as Brixton Blog sits down with Kelechi Ehenulo and Charlene Campbell founders of the new Brixton based intimate cinema experience.
A product of shared passion Film and Chill is bringing independent films and blockbusters together in the hope of offering an alternative to mainstream cinema. After meeting at the Discovery Channel, Kelechi and Charlene became fast friends, bonding over their interest in film and passion for independent cinema. Kelechi says, “We believe in the power of film to uplift, there is something spiritual about it.”
Later they worked together on an independent film festival and were inspired by the quality of short films being produced, “Most films had a great cinematic quality with small scale productions and relatively little budget.” It was their belief in the transformative power of cinema that lead them to create a space in which these two worlds of film could be brought together. Kelechi explains “We realised no one is really doing this, bringing independent short films to mainstream audiences.”
Charlene mentioned this new project to her friend Marcus ‘Paradise’ Dawes who works with youth from the local community and he was immediately supportive. “When I was explaining the equipment we needed, he said, ‘I’ll get that for you’, he became our beneficiary straight away. It is very rare as young black women to feel so supported.”
Charlene had already spoken to her sister, Tamara Barton-Campbell, as well as Julian Knox, both co-founders of Renaissance who offered their studio space as a venue for the screenings. “Tamara said, ‘I love it!’ when I told her about the idea.” Film and Chill was born.
Kelechi jokes, “I always say I’m the ‘Film’ and Charlene is the ‘Chill’!”
Using Brixton Design Trail 2018 as a soft launch for their idea they soon realised this was something that could become a regular Brixton event, “One audience member came up to us after the screening and asked, ‘Do you do screenings every day?’” It showed the partners that the demand was there for independent cinema offering more for your ticket price.
Unique cinema experiences have grown in popularity with events hosted by Secret Cinema, Backyard Cinema and Rooftop Film Club in recent years, audiences who have been to these events will see the progression that Film and Chill represents. By replacing the trailers with independent short films, they are introducing a new audience to underrepresented and harder to access pieces of cinematic art. “With Film and Chill, we want to offer you more for your money, with your ticket you receive complimentary food, drink and popcorn.” It is important too that everyone feels welcome, whether they love classic cinema or binge on Netflix, they add.
Kids screenings happen earlier in the day and offer a family friendly environment. “We want to expand our offering and are looking into Autistic and Tourette friendly screenings.” They are also making family screenings educational by running quizzes, showing the first film ever made and sharing film facts with young audiences. Kelechi and Charlene hope to motivate the next generation of film makers by adding this extra dimension, “We want to inspire passion for film in children so they can think ‘I can be a producer’ or ‘I can be a director!’”
Charlene continues “When myself and my sister were at school, we were lucky enough to be part of a YCT project which started a studio with students from Holland Park School, we had free access to classes in acting, directing, producing and editing.” It’s this experience which has inspired the pair to help open up the world of film to young people.
Kelechi adds “I believe that everyone has a creative spirit and heart, there is no age limit to inspiration, and we want adults to see what independent cinema can be too!”
The monthly screenings respond to larger themes and events happening during the month, so February will focus on love through an abundance of Valentine’s themed content with La La Land and Beauty and The Beast; while March will see screenings with strong female leads to celebrate International Women’s Day including Hidden Figures (the 2016 film focusing on three African-American female mathematicians working for NASA during the Space Race).
With screenings scheduled at Renaissance for January and February, Film and Chill are also in talks with other local spaces such as Upstairs at the Squires building and Pop Brixton. They have just been awarded membership of The Film Hub London which is run in connection with the BFI.
Additionally, they are looking for independent film makers from the local community to submit shorts for screenings and hope to run a competition to find the best of independent cinema soon.
Film and Chill are also working to raise awareness of two charities close to their hearts, Sickle Cell Society and Diabetes UK. “Sickle Cell is something that effects the local community and is close to our hearts as my younger sister suffers from the disease” says Charlene, “We want to give back to the community.”
Going forward they hope to forge links with local businesses and are always seeking potential collaborations and sponsorship. That isn’t to say that Film and Chill is fixed, “Brixton will always be our home, but we can pop-up anywhere!”
Kelechi sums up “I see a big future for us!”
Both also continue with individual projects, Charlene is a producer currently working on a film celebrating Motown and Kelechi is a freelance film critic.
For more information on Film and Chill visit their website.
Information on upcoming events can be found here.