#ECACON2017 Preview – Interview With Melissa Cogavin

By and Patrick von Sychowski | January 26, 2017 7:02 pm PDT

Friday 3 February is the fourth annual Event Cinema Association conference in London, this time held in the QEII Center in Westminster. Celluloid Junkie caught up with a busy Melissa Cogavin to ask her a few questions about what to expect from this years event.

Celluloid Junkie: What was 2016 like for the event cinema business? What were the highlights?

Melissa Cogavin: 2016 was a solid and steady year for Event CInema. The record breakers we’ve become used to perhaps didn’t materialise as much, but we have become falsely accustomed to setting and breaking records which isn’t a very realistic position to take for any business.

We’ve still seen some impressive projects and some really innovative, ground breaking work, not least Fathom’s extraordinary Lost In London Live event which took place only last week – and I was there on set! Yes I was completely star struck, not cool at all – but it was a unique experience and I am looking forward to a year of pushing the boundaries really, something we haven’t perhaps done much of over the last 2 years as we have been busy sowing the foundations of of a very solid business. But that’s assured now, and I am looking forward to some more experimentation and lateral thinking.

CJ: How is ECA evolving as an organisation? How are you responding to the members’ needs?

Melissa Cogavin: Well the ECA has developed more than I ever envisaged it would – if you’d told me 5 years ago we’d have 170 members from 35 territories and representatives in 5 territories, I’d have laughed at you.

We are evolving in response to demand from the industry and it’s all happening very quickly really; the plan is to have representatives in markets such as France and Scandinavia, Asia etc.

And we have our ECA Advisory Group which targets more practical issues and represents our members beyond the actual board. Then there is the board itself, and we are about to have our elections so we may see some new faces this time next week.

CJ: What are the themes for this year’s conference?

Melissa Cogavin: This year we have taken a different approach – we are a bit weary of panel discussions and have taken that format about as far as we can, and we are really much more interested in the actual learnings people can take away with them . The ECA isn’t a place of further education but delegates should feel they have a deeper understanding of the market, and we have something for everyone this time, in a series of presentations to the audience, which will be much more in-depth.

CJ: There is a great deal of focus on training at this year’s conference. Why do you feel training is important for the business right now?

Melissa Cogavin: We’ve just celebrated 10 years of Event Cinema…. I hate to break it to you Patrick but we are all getting older – it’s time for some investment in the field in the upcoming talent that is already taking a big interest in this area and we have a duty to provide training to this next generation. There is a big appetite out there – we receive cv’s all the time from young people looking to break into the industry.

10 years ago we had to learn how to do this as we went along and sometimes we have had to learn the hard way; as a result I don’t think we even realise how much we know and it’s extremely valuable. I say let’s share this learning and elevate the industry to one where skills are highly polished and education is a prized asset. It’s such a different industry from conventional distribution that it needs specific training in many respects.

I think the ECA is ideally placed to provide this and to that end we have targeted one session, the Event Cinema Masterclass at students, post grads and 2nd jobbers looking to develop their skills in this area – we have specifically targeted universities and colleges and provide an opportunity for networking between established businesses and those looking to break into Event Cinema.

CJ: Are there any other changes to this years event?

Melissa Cogavin: Another element of this training is aimed more at those already in the business looking to fill gaps in their knowledge base. So we are offering ECA Surgeries and have invited experts from all kinds of backgrounds to offer their expertise in free one-to-one sessions in areas such as Law, Recruitment, Social Media, PR, Funding and Technology.

In the auditoriuum we have enhanced proceedings with the addition of Sli.do, an app on your phone enabling even the most reticent delegate to fire the most contentious questions at the speaker anonymously and we can all engage in some real debate. We’ve seen this before at our Stockholm event and it was very powerful and effective – and a lot of fun!

CJ: This is the first time the conference is not held in a cinema. What should delegates expect? 

Melissa Cogavin: Well this year the main auditorium isn’t stadium seating as you might usually expect – instead we are offering 10 seater round tables so there is plenty of room to move arounnd, get to know your neighbour, spread out, get comfortable, and relax.

We also liked the QEII because all of the action all happens in one place and on one floor. Great for networking and after all, we are hosting a conference, not a screening, so a conference centre is ideal for our purposes.

CJ: Networking has always been a key part of the ECA events, so what’s on offer during and after the conference?

Melissa Cogavin: We’re offering nearly 5 hours of networking across the whole day and then in a break with tradition again we have decided to stretch our legs and head to The Albert pub just up the road, a classic London pub full of etched glass, warm beer and corrupt politicians as it’s just up the road from our very own Houses of Parliament.

Thrill to the portraits of Queen Victoria, Willie Whitelaw and Harold Macmillan on the wood panelled walls and you might even spot the odd Brexiteer, very exciting. It’s a lovely venue and we have Eclair/Cinema Next to thank for the sponsored drinks. All our sponsors have been so lovely and generous.

CJ: Thank you for talking to us.

Celluloid Junkie is an official media partner of the ECA and will be present at #ECACON2017. Hope to see you there.

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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