Belying its name, Secret Cinema is one of the most well-known film watching experiences in London.
Turning up with no knowledge of the feature you’ll be viewing, dwellers are expected to arrive as the character they've been allocated prior to the event, assuming a given name while dressed in a designated costume pertaining to a specific rank.
It’s a cold February evening when I roll up to the door, phone and iPad sealed away, and announce myself to the congregated sergeants as ‘press’ (my given occupation; the others range from Technical Sgt through to Diplomat). Considering my required dress code is not too dissimilar from my everyday attire (trench coat, brogues - unfortunately, my wardrobe lacked the brown trilby), I had no problem getting into character, donning the costume and arriving equipped with the props I'd been briefed about days before (notepad, pen - standard practice, even for a digital journalist).
Emmet Gutierrez was born.
Being marched onto a sparse compound in the centre of a secret location (divulged only to attendees), it felt as if I was leaving the present behind with every new step, proceeding onwards into a time vortex. Allowing yourself to get caught up in the atmosphere (a word of advice: do just that) makes you feel years away from the work computer screen you were staring at hours before. Around 60 years, to be precise.
Looking around as you meander your way through the intricately structured building throws forth unique activity: members of the Military Division marching in unison, the Department of Defence sipping on cocktails in a sultry bar accompanied by live jazz, journalists scurrying around, attempting to get some scoop at the behest of their 'editor.'
This being my rank, I headed straight for the newsroom section of the compound and was immediately given a task which required me to take out my notepad and remove the pen from behind my ear (I'd be lying if I said these actions didn't make me feel slightly cool).
Heading to the bar, a guy adopting an American accent asks me my name. “Gutierrez,” I tell him, feeling a tad foolish; I needn’t - the spiel he replies encourages me to explore my character further. That he points out the very guy my editor wants me to speak to stuns me; it's as if he was expecting me, which, judging by the quantity of people surrounding me, is nigh on impossible.
Moments later, I’m tucking into a tin tray serving of macaroni cheese when a commotion causes the entirety of the compound to flock to the action conveniently taking place precisely where I'm stood; the spontaneity is infectious.
This preamble is so engrossing that you almost forget there’s a film to watch. By the time you take your seat in the breathtakingly impressive screening room, you'll feel fully immersed. As some of the 35 actors take to the stage to reenact scenes from the film this whole thing's in aid of, it hits you that what you’ve just experienced is merely the precursor to the main event.
Dolling out the hints before unleashing the reveal, if the hairs don’t stand on end when the film's opening credits roll, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.
To elaborate further would be to the defeat the purpose of this meticulous event. After all, it is a secret.
The next Secret Cinema is 28 Days Later... Visit www.secretcinema.org for tickets.