This weekend, from Friday 15 March to Sunday 17 Sheffield’s Abbeydale Picture House will be home to Reel Steel’s ‘Cult Weekender Film Festival’. We caught up with Joe Harris, producer of the event and co-founder of Reel Steel, to find out more about the event.
Tell us about Reel Steel. What is it? How did it come about?
Reel Steel is an online film magazine and screening event group. Myself and co-founder Josh Senior met when we used to work at the same job. He originally came to Sheffield to do Film Studies at University and then stayed, and I grew up in Sheffield and had spent a few years previously volunteering and working at different events in the city like Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sensoria Festival and the Children’s Media Conference.
We each love cinema and Josh was keen to do some more writing, so he asked a few people he’d met on his course if they were interested in contributing to a new film platform.
The screening events came a little later on, wanting to not just write about films but also screen them. We’ve met a few more people since we started who have got involved, and the thing that links us all is Sheffield – the ‘Steel’ in Reel Steel refers to the Steel City.
What about the ‘Cult Weekender’? What’s the idea behind it?
The Cult Weekender is a bringing together of films from across the different genres we’ve covered at our individual screening events over the past few years – horror, adventure, animation, etc. with back-to-back screenings across a whole weekend.
The idea has been to launch a new annual event on the Sheffield calendar. We’ve always done screening events at different points throughout the year but to have a date that we, and audiences, can look forward to each year will be great.
It’s at the Abbeydale Picture House. It’s such an historic building, how much does that add to the experience?
The Abbeydale has added to the films we’ve shown in different ways. We did a 30th Anniversary screening of cult horror Evil Dead 2 back in 2017, and as the film takes place at a cabin in the woods, the venue held an old and creky vibe that matched the film.
Similarly when we screened a John Carpenter double-bill of The Thing back-to-back with Big Trouble In Little China, the building fit the setting of the remote outpost where The Thing takes place, then the palace of Lo Pan with Big Trouble.
We factor in things like this when we select our films too, we think about what would be good to watch in such a unique building, as it has such a historic feel it’s almost like stepping back in time when you walk in, making the screening of older titles feel that little bit more special.
There’s a great lineup of films on show, tell us about them and how you chose the lineup?
We focus on films which hold a ‘cult’ or ‘classic’ status in cinema, screening influential titles in their genre.
We make sure not to repeat ourselves by putting on the same films each year or just sticking to one genre, and sometimes a certain film will just stick out for us.
Our debut event was a screening of Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, taking place on the date that would have marked Bruce Lee’s 75th birthday (27/11/2015).
Being a big Bruce Lee fan, I was aware of the approaching date and thought it was more than a good enough reason to celebrate this anniversary with a screening of his final film.
There have been a few occasions like that with our screenings, we always try and think of a reason to show a film and be a bit creative with it.
What can people expect from the festival?
As usual with our previous screenings, a great atmosphere amongst people who are either seeing a classic film they love or experiencing it for the first time, in a fantastic venue which brings a real sense of occasion.
What next for Reel Steel? Any other upcoming events?
We don’t have anything confirmed yet, but we have a few event ideas in the works. We’ve also been exploring the idea of screening films that would have played at the Abbeydale Picture House on their original release when the building was previously a cinema – titles from the 1920’s through to the 1970’s, bringing them back to where they first played in the city.
We’re keen to continue to grow our presence across The North too – our 35mm film screening of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro last year attracted people over from Leeds and Manchester, and we presented a 35mm film screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the 2018 Widescreen Weekend Film Festival at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
There’s more to come from Reel Steel.
See or find the event on Facebook for more information.
Image credit: Lisa Wehrstedt


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