A Significant Event: ECA founder Melissa Cogavin looks back on six years of growth

Cinemas Features

Melissa Cogavin is stepping down as managing director of the London-based Event Cinema Association, an organization for alternative-content presenters and providers she founded in 2012. In this exclusive interview, she looks back on six years of remarkable growth of special attractions in the cinema space.

Film Journal International: What was it that motivated you to set up the ECA in 2012?

Melissa Cogavin: I was consulting for a variety of clients all in the event cinema space—then called alternative content—and we were all working so hard to promote the events in cinemas, get tickets sold, etc. I saw that a central information resource was necessary to provide that industry credibility, cohesion amongst providers, a community space for people to gather, and crucially the branding essential to allow audiences to ask for event cinema by name, which at that point was completely lacking.

FJI: What was the industry reception to your idea at the time and how did you convince people to join?

MC: I knew I had made the right decision in doing this by the overwhelmingly warm reception I had amongst people I approached to be founder board members. Some only wanted to join the Association if they could be on the board, so I could see I was onto something. Selling membership after that was a challenge in some respects, as the industry was very young and the ECA had no track record, but the need for what I was offering was so obvious that people took a leap of faith and we grew fast. My experience consulting for distributors had given me clear insight into the information and activities that were needed to help grow the sector.

FJI: What are you most proud of and what would you do differently if you had your time again?

MC: I am very proud of how quickly we established ourselves and became the go-to resource for the sector given our nil capital injection at the start, and the industry support we received. I am proud of the events we hosted all over the world, including the ECA Conference and Awards, which were always met with such enthusiasm from members—time and time again we were told the networking opportunities we offered made the membership completely worthwhile. I am very proud of the Technical Delivery Handbook and the industry reports, which gave credibility to an industry that at that point had few tangible statistics and official best-practice recommendations to back up the passion of its creators. I’m also proud of the network I believe the ECA has done much to help grow internationally. I have been told that the ECA has been widely credited with raising the profile of event cinema and I am very proud of that.

FJI: What have you learned in the last six years?

MC: Running your own business means you have to be good at so many things and be able to do a lot of varied roles at the same time. I was chairing board meetings and committees, writing articles, talking to the press, handling the marketing and the website, tweeting, organizing events, selling membership, raising sponsorship, maintaining membership, managing staff and overseeing the accounts—all in a day’s work.

FJI: What have you enjoyed the most about running the ECA?

MC: I love the industry. I love the people. It’s a very approachable industry populated by small companies and start-ups, so it’s a very warm space. I have made a lot of friends in the last six years.

FJI: What are you looking forward to most in your new consulting role post-ECA?

MC: I have so many new skills now—I feel much more rounded as a professional. So I am looking forward to applying what I know and who I know to benefit my clients on a more one-to-one basis.