Interview: Samantha Andie BennettProgramming and developing audiences for archive films
Samantha Andie Bennett talks to us about creating, programming and exhibiting the archive film The Auld Game which delves into the history of Scottish football
In close collaboration with the National Library of Scotland and the Macrobert Arts Centre, The Auld Game was curated and edited by film programmer Samantha Andie Bennett. This archive film takes us on a whirlwind tour of how football became a beloved game in Scotland. Charting Scottish football history across both female and male games from 1910, the evolution of the sport and the community behind it is matched with a soundtrack by Peat & Diesel.
We caught up with Samantha, who is a film programmer based in Glasgow with a particular focus on archive and audience development, to chat about how The Auld Game came to be, any programming and exhibition challenges faced and, of course, how Peat & Diesel joined the project.
Scotland’s love of football is complicated. It unites us and divides us. It builds our hopes up and it breaks our hearts. It is an endless love that defies rhyme or reason. This love of football is about so much more than winning a match, it’s about being bold enough to try in the first place. It’s about being the underdog. It’s about always coming back for another shot. It’s about so much more than a ball and a goal. You see, Scottish football isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. This archive film takes audiences on a whirlwind tour of our football history.
The Auld Game is supported by Film Hub Scotland and Film Hub North with National Lottery Funding as part of BFI FAN’s UK-wide Screen Heritage programme New Directions. The film was made with special thanks to Shona Thomson from A Kind Of Seeing and Grahame Reid of Macrobert Arts Centre and contains archive footage from National Library of Scotland, STV, Hibernian Football Club, Templar Film Studios. The Auld Game premiered at the Central Scotland Documentary Festival and went on to tour seven Scottish venues last winter; it was also included in Film Hub North’s showcase screening at Cinema Rediscovered this July.
Learn more about this project’s journey below…
Where did the idea of The Auld Game begin?
I wanted to make something that attracted a brand new audience for archive film. So, I thought about who I knew that would likely never attend an archive film screening and those people were the football fans in my life. Pairing that with the Euros and the World Cup Qualifiers, an archive documentary film about the history of Scottish football seemed like a no-brainer.
Did you have any experience of working with archive film before?
I had attended archive screenings before and always had an interest but had zero experience in actually making an archive documentary. I had to rely on my programming experience a lot but, I'm not going to lie, it was a huge learning curve and I was lucky to have Grahame Reid and Shona Thomson by my side for the project. They provided guidance and reassurance throughout and I can't thank them enough for their support. Also, my family were a huge help as they must have seen 100 different cuts of The Auld Game and still watched it when it was the finished product!
What archives did you approach?
The main archive I worked with was the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive. They were an amazing help and were always there to answer questions. Their online resource to search and view the archives was an incredible help particularly as covid restrictions made it impossible to visit the archive in person. I also worked with STV. They have a vast archive of footage and importantly they have a lot of archive footage of the Scottish National Women's Team and women's football over the decades.
What title from the archive resonated strongly with you?
The title that resonated the most with me was STV's special news report called Pioneering Women’s Football from the 1970s. The 70s weren't that long ago and seeing how women were treated in the sport in such recent memory was quite jarring. Also, hearing how the SFA actively went out of their way to stop women from playing football was infuriating and makes you realise how incredible the pioneers of the women's game were and how important it is to continue supporting the development of women's football in Scotland.
How did the score with Peat & Diesel come about?
I had tried a few different scores and I felt like the music was making the clips feel sad and that wasn't the feeling I wanted to create. It was a real point of stress for me. One night, I asked my partner for help. After a few very silly suggestions, he pulled up Peat & Diesel's album, Uptown Fank. He played 'Country Boy' on his phone and I played the opening sequence of The Auld Game on my computer. And, the rest is history. I phoned Peat & Diesel's agency the next morning and whilst at first, I got the impression they thought I was kidding, after some calls and a few emails, Peat & Diesel were more than keen and I'm so glad they were. Their music transformed The Auld Game and they definitely gained some new fans from the film. In particular, the West End Bar Airdrie Tartan Army played the songs in the pub after they saw the film for the first time and it seems to be a favourite on the playlist to this day!
How did you juxtapose the found footage, audio and music to create a narrative?
The Auld Game was primarily for football fans and first-time archive audiences. Due to this, I wanted to make The Auld Game a fun watch and not too heavy. I edited the found footage together in time order so that audiences could follow through the history with ease. Having the footage edited together like this also helped show changes in the game and our cities through the decades. The voiceover helped anchor the audiences into the time period but also gave an idea of what was happening at that point in history. I didn't want a lot of voiceovers as I wanted the viewer to experience the footage and not be told what they are seeing. I felt the music could make or break The Auld Game and Peat & Diesel's score drives the film forward, it really helps the film feels fast-paced, but not rushed. All these elements came together really well and although I am definitely a bit biased made an exciting archive film.
What were the challenges involved in programming and exhibiting The Auld Game?
The Auld Game is not a usual archive film and it did take some convincing that a football film was right for some venues but we did get there in the end. The main challenge, however, was covid. After a sold-out premiere screening at the Central Scotland Documentary Festival, The Auld Game film tour was due to start in December 2021. As we all now know, a new covid wave hit its peak during this time and due to this, venues were struggling and people were, rightly, staying at home. We pushed back some screenings and made the best of a bad situation. The film made an impact on the people who did get to see it and it was great to see people chatting about the film long after the credits had finished.
What advice would you give to a programmer starting out on a similar audience facing archive project?
The best piece of advice I could give is to get to know your target audience. I don't mean look up surveys or do a wee google, I mean speaking and working with your target audiences; truly getting to know them. You are making something for them and they are going to put their trust in you or your venue that what you have created is truly for them.
What are the next plans for The Auld Game beyond Cinema Rediscovered if any?
I would love for The Auld Game to have a legacy beyond its tour. We are currently looking into some community screenings just now, particularly more football clubs/groups. We shall see!
What are you working on next?
Right now, I am working on a tv script/pitch with a really talented writer, Aodhan Gallagher, which is definitely different from archive film! I am also dipping my toe into the idea of pitching an archive documentary about Scottish Rugby in a similar style to The Auld Game, particularly as we have the Rugby World Cup in 2023. The Auld Scrum coming to screens in 2023? Never say never.
Book The Auld Game
To book The Auld Game, you can contact Samantha Bennett via email here.
Fund your next archive film project
For more information on how Film Hub North can help your next project, contact our team or visit our Exhibition Funding landing page.
Film Curation Placements in the Scottish Film Exhibition Sector
To understand how to curate and host film events for audiences in Scotland, taking part in Film Hub Scotland’s New Promoter Scheme will help as it offers people paid training opportunities to do just that. This is what past participants have said about the scheme.
Image credits: The Auld Game directed and edited by Samantha Andie Bennett (copyright of National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive)