Q&A with Joan Parsons, Head of QFT Belfast

    Author DCM

DCM caught up with Joan Parsons, Head of QFT Belfast, to talk through her introduciton to the world of cinema, what excites her most about the future of the cinema industry, and what makes QFT Belfast so unique.

How did you end up in the world of cinema and what do you love about it?

When I was a child, the local cinema was at the end of my street. It was one of the first places I was allowed to go without an adult and I adored it. Following its closure, my home town was without a cinema for a number of years. So when a new multiplex was built and they were recruiting, I jumped at the chance. From there, my cinema obsession grew and grew - I’ve worked in cinemas ever since. 

I love that every day is different, it is an industry full of excitement and challenges. 

Tell us a bit about your business/what’s unique about your cinema(s)?

QFT is like nowhere else! The cinema hides behind a terraced house’s front door and is home to anyone who loves cinema in Belfast and beyond. As the only full-time cultural cinema in Northern Ireland, much of the programming is completely unique and offers people a chance to see films from around the world and just down the road with a commitment to international, British Independent and Irish film. QFT is owned and operated by Queen’s University Belfast and is located at the heart of the university campus in South Belfast. In 2018 QFT celebrated its 50thanniversary and we look forward to many more years bringing great films to our screens. 

Do you run any special events/screenings at your cinema?

Yes, we very often have special events on at QFT. From festivals to post-film discussions, Q&As and cross-art form performances, these enable QFT to reach new audiences and offer exciting and engaging moments for audiences.

What excites you most about the future of the cinema industry?

I think people continue to value a quality cinema experience and I have no doubt that continued innovations in cinema operations, audio-visual technology and communications will ensure that cinemas are able to meet the demand for quality at an affordable price. I am particularly keen to see how new technologies can be used to make cinemas more inclusive to people with hearing or sight loss. 

What do you see as the cinema industry’s biggest challenge?

As the number of films released each year continues to rise, the crowded marketplace can leave smaller films behind, often competing for the same audiences. 

Who do you most admire in the cinema industry, and why?

That’s a tough question because I have encountered so many fantastic people in the industry over the years. I think one person who I have always admired is Maddy Probst from Watershed in Bristol, as she is such a great collaborator, a lover of great films and someone who always has ideas to improve things. I really admire those who don’t accept the status quo and constantly strive for improvements and innovation and Maddy is certainly that. 

What is your favourite film and why?

So many films I adore but the one that always comes first into mind is Andrea Arnold’s FISH TANK. It is one of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen. I know it off by heart and I think it is so honest that I almost forget I’m watching a work of dramatic fiction. 

What do you think is the most iconic cinema ad?

For me, the most iconic were the early Orange Wednesday ads, with the film commission. They worked really well to establish the brand and when a new one was released, you’d hear genuine sniggering in the screen. 

What are you most excited about for the rest of the year and what film are you most looking forward to?

I’m eagerly looking forward to Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, I really can’t wait to see a new version of this classic story and with an absolute dream cast. 

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Sleep on it! Because what seems insurmountable at the end of a day will be easier in the morning -  sometimes you need to let a decision wait until the new day.