YFN Stories: Florentina Faconti

From YFP to YFP Mentor and Social Media Assistant at Electric Palace Cinema, Harwich

A headshot of Florentina Faconti
Florentina Faconti is based in Harwich, Essex and began as a YFP. She's now a mentor in the group and volunteers regularly at the Electric Palace Cinema.
Back Story

I have loved films for as long as I can remember and many of my fondest memories involve going to the cinema. It was a big contributor to my love of performing from a young age, which led me to study acting at college and a foundation degree at East 15 Acting School. I have always been drawn to more creative activities but there is not much catered to 16-25 year olds in Harwich. When I saw the Electric Palace was starting a Young Film Programmers group, I was very excited to get involved and still love being a part of it a year and a half later.

Electric Palace Cinema

The Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich is one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas still running, complete with its silent screen, original projection room and ornamental frontage still intact. Other interesting features include an open plan entrance lobby complete with paybox, a small stage that is used for live music and comedy and a former gas powered generator engine with a seven foot flywheel situated in the basement. They launched Sparks, their young film programmers group, in 2022 and meet regularly to programme and market films for younger audiences, families and teenagers.

Becoming a YFP

I joined the original team of YFPs at the Electric Palace in January 2022, a few months before the cinema reopened. We met weekly via zoom to plan and present our first event, a specially themed screening of Dracula (1958) to celebrate Christopher Lee’s 100th birthday in June 2022. We were very pleased when around 50 people attended as we were not expecting our first event to be so successful. Alongside the film, we also ran a dressing up competition and photo op area, which most of the audience got involved in.

Since then we have gone on to welcome new members and programme three more films at the cinema, all with varying degrees of success. For Halloween, we chose one of my favourites, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which brought a decent audience over two showings at the end of the October half-term. With the success of this seasonal screening, we then decided to programme a film for Christmas Eve. Coming up with a short list, we left the final decision to a public social media poll. The winner was Home Alone (1990), which went on to be our most successful event with the widest audience age range we’ve seen at the cinema since it reopened. Finally, our most recent choice was M3GAN (2023). We had a lot of obstacles with booking the film, leaving us with limited advertising time, so unfortunately our audience wasn’t as big as previous events. We did manage to attract a younger audience than usual though, so it was still a success to us.

Progression Opportunities

With YFP Network Bursary funding, we got to take part in a Film Handling Workshop day at the Electric Palace. Going into this workshop, I had very little knowledge of what it took to get film from a reel onto the big screen. I have always had a big interest in movies but had never even held physical film in my hands before. The first time we were given some to handle was terrifying but by the end of the day it almost became second nature!

We spent our time exploring all different varieties of film and the different projectors needed to play each one. My personal favourite was the 35mm because you could see the picture clearly without a projector and it was so interesting to look at each frame individually, especially the ones that had colour added in after filming. It was also a lot of fun playing with the 8mm film too because you couldn’t see what you would be putting on the screen until you started to play it. The highlight of the workshop for me was getting to run a trailer on the 35mm projector.

I volunteer at the Electric Palace regularly and all we have to do to start the film is press a button, and even that can be nerve-wracking! Despite being there so much over the past year, I had never been up into the projection room before and it was fascinating seeing how the old projectors run. Now I know how long it takes to thread all the film through the projector and how much work it would take to run a whole feature, I’m very thankful all we have to deal with is one button!

If getting to play with it in the projectors wasn’t enough, we were even given a chance to cut film, which is exactly what it says on the tin. We were given a contraption that sliced the film in half and stuck it back together with tape. Even just doing a few cuts and repairs took a while so I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to cut together a whole feature.

If you’re a fan of cinema, I cannot recommend this workshop enough! I loved playing with all the different kinds of film and gadgets that David brought with him. The workshop was so practical and hands on that my arm was aching the next day from winding all the film reels! I learned so much from him in just those few hours but it was clearly just scratching the surface of his vast knowledge of motion picture film and cinema. I was eager to learn more so I even came back and assisted him in another workshop with children from a local primary school the following week. A very fun and educational day in a beautiful, historic venue!

Getting a job in the industry

I always knew I wanted to be involved in the film, television, or theatre industry and it’s been really exciting for me to volunteer at the Electric Palace as a YFP Mentor and Social Media Assistant. I would like to get back into acting at some point but equally would love to work behind the scenes in film production. Being a YFP has opened my eyes to a lesser-known side of the film industry and introduced me to another possible career path in film exhibition that I had not previously considered. Before getting involved with the Electric Palace, I had no idea how much hard work it takes to show a film in the cinema, especially a small independent one. It has heightened my appreciation of cinema and encouraged me to branch out and watch things that I wouldn’t normally be drawn to. Above all, it has been so exciting connecting with other young film enthusiasts in my area and discussing all things cinema!

My role today

Today I am a regular volunteer at the cinema as a Duty Manager or running the snack shop a few screenings a month. I also contribute to the cinema’s social media by designing posts and running the TikTok account, alongside supervising our YFP group, now as a mentor, as we move into our third recruitment.

Work email: [email protected] or DM me on Instagram @florentinafaconti

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