There is very little written information on how to run a film society these
days -- though the organization AIVF might have some. Their phone number in
New York is (212) 473-3400, I belive. If that's wrong, email me back since
they've just moved.
Having run a film society in Ohio for a few years in the 80s and now on the
other end in distribution (for now more then 10 years), the advice I have is:
a) be nice to the distributors, be honest about your budget, and get better
deals than the list price in their (our) catalogs. For new societies and
struggling ones, we and many of the other distributors try to do our best to
make sure they thrive.
b) Make the series fun. Have speakers from the college whenever possible who
can introduce the films and answer questions later. Entertaining promotions
such as my favorite -- "The Worst Films of All Time" festival where it's free
to get in but increasingly more expensive to be allowed to leave -- or a
poster give-away at each show (order an extra from the distributor or their
c) Make sure you give the audiences a reason to come for those particular
screenings instead of waiting for the film on television or video. That can
be the speaker, or the experience of seeing it on screen, or "be the first on
or the anniversary of an event or the filmmaker to make it a celebration,
d) Have lunch with the local newpaper editors at least once a month and get
them on your side. Many of them need a reason why people would be interested
in your series and few understand how important it is for the community.
First is to get your films reviewed (some of us can supply video screeners to
the press before your showing) by a good writer, second is to get more space
or better placed space, and lastly, if the papers have color, to have a
nicely colored bar around the review. Anything to attract the attention of
the reader. Not only did I have lunch with the editor in Athens, Ohio every
month, but I made sure to play basketball with him every Sunday morning and
especially made sure he looked good.
Anyway, I ramble! There are many people I can put you in touch with who run
successful series at libraries, universities and museums in small towns
around the country and have done so for many years despite public
indifference at times and shrinking budgets. They're very nice people who'd
be more than willing to talk.
Lastly, of course, you can always call us about setting up a film society,
the list of distributors you'd need to talk to, and to help find films that
you're looking for.
Milestone Film & Video
275 West 96th Street, Suite 28C
New York, NY 10025
phone: (212) 865-7449
fax: (212) 222-8952
"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."
-- Friedrich Engels, 1803-1882