Participation Case Study – Film Screenings

Tips on running Community Film Screenings

Films screenings are one way of getting people together in the same room with a common purpose.

Publicity for Green Wave film screening

There are plenty of reasons for creating a forum of people:

  • Outreach for existing campaigns and projects and getting more people involved
  • Air concerns and bring out debates on issues that affect a community
  • Informal mediation and prevention of conflict
  • Create an atmosphere of inspiration and positive creativity.

Going beyond TV

Ideally the video should be just one medium with which you engage the audience at your film screening. Live interviews, popular education, spoken word, audience comments, music, requests, heckling and corrections, announcements and earnest calls to action are the real
flesh of a film screening night. The fact that you are showing films just helps facilitate that.

You can treat a screening as a show, no matter how small it is. If you have put out a film- screening flier and taken the trouble to promote it, why not make it as upbeat, intelligent and likely to make people active as you can?

You may be able to do that in the way films are introduced and the way people are asked to make announcements. People notice the spirit in which it is done and if you really care. This can often be more influential than the content of the films themselves. At screenings you can show and say things that just don‟t get on mainstream TV.

Here are some things that TV can‟t do that public screenings can:

  • Use video flexibly as a resource to stop the action to allow people to share emotions, and reactions, and form a response.
  • Allow its viewers to make announcements of upcoming events as the screening progresses.
  • Inspire people to become active in campaigns and community action.
  • Bring out debate in situations where it wouldn’t normally happen.

How to put on a successful screening

Choose a venue with an audience in mind. These can include:

Arts venues: They often have good technical support and the sound quality is good.
Club/dance parties: Sometimes doing social justice films in these types of places can get lost in the chaos. If you keep your message clear, perform it well, and have really upbeat comedy and music based films it can work really well.
Pub/bar/social club: There are certain videos that are so strong that they can compete with background noise, and work in pubs and bars. It’s good to have a microphone and a pretty good PA, as people chatting in pubs make a surprisingly loud noise.
Community centre/churches: These venues can be a bit cold. Try and create a warm vibe somehow.
Cinemas: Sometimes independent cinemas let you use their facilities and you may be able to link something up with an existing festival.

Promote the gig tactically and add performance into the mix

Performance, live music and having a good time are a great way of getting the message across. Start up something new and try to get a buzz going. Get a popular local musician, DJ or VJ, poet or MC to come along. Make sure you know what events are happening locally in the lead-up to your screening, so that you can attend and give out fliers. You will normally find a lot of people who will play for a good cause. Choose DJs and musicians to suit the mood of what you are doing. Partner up with other events; try to involve other promoters too.

Part of a flyer for a Local Film Night

Techniques to make screenings more stimulating, interactive and less formal

  • Stopping films and getting feedback
  • Offering choices of what film to see next
  • Having the films introduced by relevant people
  • Q and A sessions with people who were involved in the film
  • “Plants‟ in the audience. If you are worried the crowd is shy, you can ask someone to ask a couple of questions to get a discussion started
  • Using extracts of video for “what happened next‟ role-plays.

If you pull together a diverse range of people to watch your film, then discussions can keep going for as long as the film itself. It might be good to make sure that someone with facilitation skills is there to make sure the debate does not get out of hand, and everyone who wants to, has a say.