"Apart from the business side, we have always been doing this for the love of cinema and the love of seeing people coming and having fun. So anybody who wants to see a film we love to have them."
Fernando Huerta and Joshua James Alas met each other trough their common passion for films. And especially the ones in original language. They wanted to share this passion with the rest of (English speaking) Berlin. So they created a pop-up cinema, which they set up at different kind of places or locations, like in a club or in a forrest.
Who are you and what is your initiative?
“We are Mobile Kino, Berlins traveling cinema. The idea of ‘pop-up’ has been used a lot lately and we are a pop-up cinema. We travel around to different locations setting up temporary cinema’s in bars, in cafes, in beer gardens, in art galleries, anywhere that has a power point we can set up a cinema. Even without power point, we can do it as well. Wherever there is a surface or a place where we can put up a screen, we do it. It begins with Berlin. It has a culture for these type of events, of people who live here organising film screenings, parties, rock concerts, techno parties, and a very big scene of illegal open air parties that were happening all around Berlin. I guess we sort of borrowed this sort of model of events where we organise illegal party somewhere in a park. So we did this, we first did this on a Monday night. We organised a film screening, it wasn’t illegally. It was a film club. In the same way you would invite your friends home to watch a film, we were inviting friends to a park and you would set up all the equipment. It was screening for friends, not for profit. Berlin has this mind set that everybody should get away with a little bit. We wanted to create something similar to the illegal techno parties. I’m not into techno but i’m into film. So I thought, I could use the same model but make it for film. So we started showing films on different locations, and it grew and it grew and each week more and more people would come. We found new venues, we found new films. We found different people to work with and collaborate. It’s been many years now. We are a proper business since 2013. We met at Babylon cinema, here in Berlin. We both had a long history in working in cinema. At one point we started booking films the way cinema’s did and from there on every year has been doubling, tripling the attendants. For example, this year we had 11.000 visitors on all our events. And this year is going to be great as well.”
What makes you different than other projects?
“Pop-up cinema has taken off. Cinema has go often trough this trend period, where every 5 to 10 years is a new trend in the way in you would watch the cinema. If we go back as far as I can remember, there was this trend of drive-in cinema’s back in the 90’s. There is always a new trend in cinema and I think we are a new one. Will it last, I’m not sure. But I think pop-up cinema is a new thing that has taken off and it will be everywhere for at least the next five years. Why we are also different is that there was nothing in original language in Germany. You only have the Sony Centre and us pretty much. We had the idea of doing it for all the foreigners, because there are a lot of foreigners here that couldn’t go to the cinema. And I think that at least 50% of acting is on the voice of the actual actor. I think that’s also one of the reasons that people want to watch our films. Nobody likes it to have it dubbed. As a cultural revolution, we stopped dubbing films, because the original version is better with subtitles. And that hasn’t happened in Germany yet. I like to think that we are the beginning of this revelation in Germany. The other factor what is so good about Mobile Kino is having someone to curate it. Having somebody tell you this is something to watch and this is why you should watch it. Cause things like Netflix have all the content of the world but you still need someone to say this is a reason to watch it. And I think this is also why people like to come to our screenings.”
What is your target group then?
“Our target group is ourselves. New Berliners or expats, people that have a understanding of German but maybe prefer to relax in their own original language. Or even people that want to watch films in original. The core are the people that don’t speak German, I guess. Although we have German subtitles in some of the films. We are trying to include everybody. We always try to have German subtitles, so local Berliners can appreciate these films too.”
With what purpose do you use the different locations?
“We don’t really have a philosophy. We always discuss when we come up of a new film for what venue suits it perfectly. All our venues are completely different. We have some that are proper theatres and on the other end of the scale we have Griessmühle club, which is a junkyard. The variety of venues we have is immense. For example, we focus a lot in Griessmühle (club) on films that have a lot of sound, because we are using the actual disco sound system. And this sound system really adds a lot tot his type of movies. We try to fit the movies to the venues.”
How is the company financially organized?
“We funded ourselves. Funding is available for certain types of events we organise. We like to have creative control. When you incorporate funding and sponsorships, you are restricted to a lot of things that these companies or agencies give you. They give it for a reason, they want you to spend it the right way. We have had funding and sponsorships, but sometimes it becomes a bit of a hassle. It’s always nice, but you have to go away from your original idea and that is not nice. Any artist can tell you that as well. For example, film makers. Whenever they get funding from a production company they want to take the film another way. But that said, we like funding. We have different categories of events we organise. We organise a lot of pop-up cinema, and we also organise films festivals. Anything from the Columbian Film Festival, to the Berlin Feminist Film Week. Or retrospectives of Tarantino or David Bowie. With these type of events we are actively looking for sponsorships, but they are different than our regular, pop-up cinema events. Also, a lot of the programs we show are very out there. A lot of people wouldn’t want to put their money behind it. Very edgy programs, very sexual, very drug related programs. We often encourage people to have a cigarette when they watch a movie. A lot of these thing people don’t like. And we also like the idea that we are somewhat illegal. But we are 100% legal. The thing with sponsors is that they don’t want to put money behind an event that’s somewhat illegal club. We’re in this space that’s doesn’t attract money very well. But for the film festivals we definitely have sponsorships.”
Do you work with volunteers?
“We have a pool of people that work with us. When we can, we try to pay them all. We pretty much pay always. For example, when we do the weekender festival, that’s volunteer based. It’s not a business idea. It’s really cheap. We cover the main costs. The rent of the place. It’s three days in the middle of the forrest, by the lake in the middle of nowhere. We have different screens running, with different films during the day. We also have a music stage, a kitchen, a bar. With those things we work with volunteers. And we pay maybe one person, the technical guy. But all the other things we try to pay the best we can, the video makers and the people helping us. It’s the way we look for the people. We ask for volunteers and we pay them afterwards. So we now we have people that are interested in the project and not in the money. We get a million people that want to help, they just want to be involved. Like setting up chairs for free tickets. But we also work with other people who organise film festivals. We don’t want to work with them as an employer-employee relationship, we want to be partners with them. Mostly, we have 50/50 partnership.”
How is the cooperation with the local government?
“We don’t have any contact with them. The only contact we have is for the licenses. We are in line with all their requirements, but we don’t have a co-working relationship. But it’s also difficult. Often times we try to reach out to these organisations and we’ve only got negative or stand-offish responses from the culture departments, that are supposed to be organising these sort of things. They supposed to be interested in promoting culture in a place. We actually have a very negative response to the local government. We follow the rules of what we need to do to get our licenses, but as far as getting help to do that, there is nothing really there. We figured it out without.”
What about knowledge institutions?
“We have had some. Some things are kind of up in the air for this summer. We discussed the idea of doing like kid screenings. Also kind of like teaching how to organise. How to teach kids to make their own film festival. Which is something we learned to it ourselves and we can teach this to some kids. We are open to work with kinder gardens and schools. Apart from the business side, we have always been doing this for the love of cinema and the love of seeing people coming and having fun. So anybody who wants to see a film we love to have them.”
What is your relationship with the business sector?
“We have a relationship with all the venues we are working with. Another big part of the business is event rentals. So we often contact people, anyone from Netflix, beer companies to big organisations. They rent our equipment or have us organise a pop-up screening for their guests, for people they want to impress. We are actively searching for companies to work with. But that’s separate to our regular business.”
What obstacles do you encounter with this project?
“Chairs, chairs, so many chairs haha. There are always obstacles but also always ways around them. I think the administration in German. You need a fair level of German to get through that or have someone who know how to do that. But it’s not really an obstacle. Joshua is more the creative guy and Fernando is more the numbers guy. So Fernando is kind of like in charge of all the administration and Joshua is in charge of all the technical side, the programming and stuff. The German bureaucracy is just complicated. When you are used to it, you know how to do it. What an other obstacle is, is getting the films, getting the rights for the films. We are getting really big, last week in 3 days we sold out 5 times. No cinema is doing that. But is hard to get the distributers to see that. Because we aren’t a typical cinema, although when they see the numbers they are like: “oh great numbers”. They don’t think like “ah let’s give them the film”. But even if the obstacle is that we can’t get the films when they get released in the cinema’s, we still get a lot of them. And then 4 week later they say: “ok yeah now you can have it”. And we sell out 4 screenings in a row. And they are right back to saying: “oh wow your numbers are so good”. And we are like yeah off course they are good. It’s an obstacle trying to convince a distributer that this new form of pop-up cinema is a real cinema experience.”