The British Museum and Its Audiences: A Day in the Life of Jane Findlay

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes of world-famous galleries and museums? How do they connect with their audiences? What are their routines and how do they arrange the content that we experience as visitors? I’ve reached out to Jane Findlay, Head of Schools and Young Audiences at The British Museum, and asked her to shed light on a role that, although we might not be aware of it, definitely shapes our experience of these places as soon as we walk in.

to Jane Findlay, Head of Schools and Young Audience at The British Museum

Hi Jane, thank you for sharing some insights on the position you fulfil at the British Museum. Can you introduce your role to someone who is not familiar with it?

My role is to engage schools, families and young people with our collections and temporary exhibitions. We do this through programming, interpretation, digital content… The whole visitor experience really.

It looks like it’s a job that requires a varied background and very specific skills at the same time… How did you build your expertise in this field?

I’ve worked in museums and heritage for just over 8 years now following completing an MA in Museum Studies at UCL. My positions have been in institutions of many different shapes with varied collections. I started out a Community Curator at London Transport Museum, then became a Digital Participation Officer at the National Maritime Museum before becoming an Audience Development Manager at Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath. One constant however is that I’ve always worked with audiences. My passion is in connecting collections and people. I often find myself as the intermediary between the institution and the audiences.

Can you give us an idea of your day-to-day work?

It’s a busy and varied role. In a day I might be working with teachers, contributing to exhibition interpretation, feeding into marketing campaigns, meeting with sponsors and juggling event logistics. I manage a team of 9 so all that goes with that too!

What are the different audiences the British Museum is addressing and how do you liaise with your colleagues working with different demographics?

The people coming through our doors and engaging with us online have increased and changed over time. We need to keep in tune with this changing profile. As well as schools and young audiences, the Museum’s learning programmes covers adults, community partnerships and access audiences too. Good communication and understanding each others’ goals make sure our work supports one another and we can make the most of any overlap between our audiences. We also work closely with colleagues in the marketing and digital teams too.

The British Museum, Great Court

What is the main difference you experience when working with national and international audiences?

The Museum’s collection spans over two million years of human history and culture. We have a local, regional, national and international remit. Families make up a quarter of our visitors and 70% of these are international. By contrast the vast majority of schools are from the UK. For me it’s key that we tailor our offer to meet each different audiences’ needs. It’s about thinking what people’s points of reference are and finding ways in for them to the stories we tell.

What is the aspect of your job that you love the most?

I love finding ways to tell stories about our objects that resonate and relate to young people. Nothing beats seeing young people being inspired by our collections. And I’m always learning things from them too through the many ways in which they respond to our programmes.

Talking about engagement, do you have any preferred tool/channel/platform, something that suits your needs better than others? Any resources that you’d like to recommend?

I think it depends on the audience and what you’re trying to do. We’re experimenting with different types of family interpretation at the moment including tactile guides for exhibitions and apps in permanent galleries. We’ve found augmented reality to be a great way to layer interpretation and help families to look closer at objects. In terms of social we’ve found Tumblr an effective way of curating content for teachers so are looking to use this platform more too. Taking part in international initiatives such as #askacurator day and #museumweek also have proved effective ways of engaging with a spectrum of different audiences. I’m interested in experimenting with cross platform approaches and long form storytelling and how this could shape the way we communicate with audiences.

If you want to know more about Jane you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Let’s Bring the “Gialli” Back. Davide Melini on his Short “Deep Shock” (Part 2)

After discussing how director Davide Melini started his career, let’s delve into his new short, Deep Shock. Produced by Fabel Aguilera and Melini himself, it is supported by the most important institutions of Malaga, such as the “Diputación de Málaga”, the “Ayuntamiento de Málaga” and the “Málaga Film Office”. According to the official synopsis, the story revolves around Sarah Taylor, a young woman played by the Spanish actress Laura Toledo, who can’t completely overcome the deaths of her grandfather and her older sister. The trauma and lack of sleep cause her to embark on a strange journey of apparitions and murders, apparently caused by her mind…

Prominent Monkey: “Gialli” are among the most internationally known Italian films and Deep Shock, the project you are currently crowdfunding, pays homage to some masters from that era. Why do you think that “Gialli” are still relevant nowadays?

Davide Melini: This genre has gradually disappeared but is still very popular. With Deep Shock I pay tribute to the “giallo” as in 2014 its 50th anniversary took place in 2014. The title itself is inspired by the most famous horror movies of two of the most important transalpine directors: Dario Argento (Deep Red) and Mario Bava (Shock). My goal is to recreate that magic and bring back some of the genre’s signature oppositions: rational vs. irrational, thriller vs. horror, life vs. death.

Promotional poster for "Deep Shock".

Promotional poster for “Deep Shock”.

P. M.: There are several platforms for crowdfunding audiovisual projects out there: why did you choose Indiegogo and the “fixed funding” option, instead of “flexible funding”?

D.M.: We analysed many crowdfunding platforms and considered Indiegogo the best choice for our needs. We chose the “fixed funding” in order to protect potential backers who don’t know us: if the film does not reach the goal, the money will be returned to the backers.

Lobby Card featuring Laura Toledo.

Several versions of this lobby card featuring the actors are among the perks.

P. M.: Dario Argento has recently completed the crowdfunding campaign for his next movie, The Sandman, on the same platform. What is your position on the debate about whether experienced directors with a track record should use crowdfunding or not? Are they taking away attention from newcomers in a space that is more suitable for the latter?

D.M.: I’ve heard many criticisms on this issue. Crowdfunding platforms are there to be used by everyone: each one of us just tries to promote their own cause.

Actress Laura Toledo plays Sarah Taylor.

Actress Laura Toledo plays Sarah Taylor.

P. M.: A few years ago you worked on the set with Argento, as you were one of the assistant directors for his film Mother of Tears: The Third Mother. Would you like to share some memories about this experience?

D.M.: Being on set with the master of Italian horror films was an honour. You just have to keep quiet and observe how Dario directs a movie. There is so much to learn! It was also a very nice experience, because I had the opportunity to get to know his daughter Asia. I clearly remember when we were in Rome, near the “Mouth of Truth” (“Bocca della Verità”), to shoot a scene in which a man had to smash a car using a baseball bat. As soon as we started to film I was approached by a Chinese guy in shock. He was watching what was going on and asked me incredulously: “Why?” I was almost laughing but he was really concerned. Of course, I explained him that it was just a movie, but it was such a funny moment.

Let’s Bring the “Gialli” Back. Davide Melini on his Short “Deep Shock” (Part 1)

It’s not a secret that the film business is one of the most competitive among the creative and cultural industries. So I’m always keen to support emerging filmmakers who are trying to break into it. Davide Melini is an Italian director born in Rome in 1979 and who relocated to Spain a few years ago. After completing four short films, including The Puzzle (2008) and The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010), he is currently crowdfunding his next project titled Deep Shock.

Davide now needs your help to bring the “Gialli” back, that golden age of the Italian film industry that spans the decades between 1960s and 1980s, when flicks such as Dario Argento’s Deep Red, Sergio Martino’s Torso and Pupi Avati’s The House with Laughing Windows, now considered cult films worldwide, started to redefine the concept of thriller.

Prominent Monkey: Hi Davide, thanks for sharing some thoughts about your experience as a filmmaker. Let’s start from the very beginning. Do you remember the defining moment when you realised that you wanted to shoot a film?

Davide Melini: I was just a kid and it was love at first sight. My uncle worked in the film industry for 30 years and sometimes I met him while he was working. For me it was incredible to see “behind the scenes”. I was like a kid in a candy shop! I started to study it and around 14 years ago I wrote my first screenplay. I continued writing until I directed my first short in 2006.

Natasha Machuca in "The Sweet Hand of the White Rose", directed by Davide Melini.

Natasha Machuca in “The Sweet Hand of the White Rose”, directed by Davide Melini.

P. M.: You’re an Italian director who has worked in Spain for many years now. How did you start this experience and what is the main difference between Italy and Spain in terms of the support for independent filmmakers?

D.M.: In June 2007 I moved to Spain, where I now permanently live because I have two wonderful children. Spain is very similar to Italy, both in the good and the bad things. But unlike Italy, here you can find institutions that support your project, as happened to me with The Sweet Hand of the White Rose and now with Deep Shock.

"The Puzzle", directed by Davide Melini.

“The Puzzle”, directed by Davide Melini.

P. M.: The market for short films is very tricky and it is common knowledge that monetary payments are pretty much risible. Shorts work instead as a sort of business card that helps to build a portfolio and get a feature film. What is your experience in this respect?

D.M.: I agree with you, it is impossible to make a living with short films only. My idea about that is very clear: after Deep Shock it is my intention to shoot a feature film.

P. M.: Very often, independent directors combine personal projects with more commercial ones, just to pay the bills. What is your top tip for aspiring filmmakers?

D.M.: Making a good movie requires a huge effort and even the smallest of short films deserve all the attention from the director. Working on two films at the same time doesn’t seem a good idea, but we need to be realistic: without money we cannot live. That said, when our passion requires us to make sacrifices, we are always ready to make them.

End of Part 1. Part 2 will be online this Friday.