Saturday, August 20, 2005

Running a Film Series

This summer, Jordan and I ran a film series at the local library. We used the projector from LMC-TV, and back at the beginning of the summer chose eight films to show people. I was expecting to get a twenty or thirty year old demographic, and chose the films accordingly. Also, one of the points of the thing was that there was a discussion afterwards, so we chose films that would be conducive to discussion.

Once the screenings started it became apparent that we were not getting the younger demographic. At the vast majority of screenings, we had people who were basically fifty and up. And in a lot of cases, the films we had programmed were not in line with their tastes.

The screening that went the worst was when we showed Safe, the 1995 Todd Haynes film. This was a film I loved, and hadn't heard about until this year, so I figured it was the perfect film to show and get more exposure for. However, the film is apparently glacially paced. It's not fast, but I didn't really notice any dragging, however at this screening, we had four old people in attendance and apparently they felt watching the film was not a good use of the time they had left on this Earth and an hour and a half into the film, one of them said "I can't take it anymore" and walked out. So, this was a low point.

However, the next week we were screening Oldboy. I was anticipating a lot of awkwardness, but this one went really well. We actually got a younger audience for this film, about ten people, and it hit the audience exactly as intended, getting a huge gasp at the revelatory moment at the end of the film, as well as a lot of "Augh"s during the nastier moments.

At Waking Life we got an older audience who were bored by the film, so we stopped it halfway through. They claimed it was too 'college' and left then. But, we did have an interesting discussion, so it was a success on the whole.

Then we screened Fallen Angels, the Wong Kar-Wai film. We had a big audience for this and the movie went over pretty well. People might not have loved it, but there were no walkouts and we had a solid discussion afterwards.'

The last film we were set to show was Irreversible. At the beginning of doing this, I was thinking that we could challenge the audience, show them this really challenging film and push the boundaries of the way people think.

I'd always wondered why TV networks didn't show more challenging program, and why movie studios pushed to make movies more likable. Now I can understand that mentality. Doing these screenings I saw slow paced arty movies fail to connect with an audience, who always seemed bored and on the edge of leaving. As time went on, I was wishing we had shorter films that would go over better with the crowd. I moved away from more challening stuff, and rather than thinking about showing the best film, I wanted to show stuff that would appeal to the audience. It's so easy to say in theory you want to challenge the audience, but when you actually have to sit there with them, it's not so easy.

So, Jordan and I had basically decided we couldn't show Irreversible. It was too graphic and intense for people. But, we arrived there and three people said they were there to see it and wanted us to show it. Unfortunately we also had three old women who thought we were going to show American Beauty. So, we decided to go through with Irreversible, after warning them that it was incredibly intense and that they could feel free to walk out if they needed to. I was expecting the old women to go sometime between the start of the Rectum scene and the scene where Pierre bangs the man's head in with a fire extinguisher. However, they stuck around, and I figured the rape scene would end it for them, but they sat through that.

We reached the end of the film, throughout which there was such palpable awkwardness in the air I couldn't even really enjoy it. I was stunned that the old women had made it through the movie, but they had and the three people who had requested the film liked it. So, it was a success and I had achieved my original goal of challenging people's ideas of film.

We may not have gotten that many people, but at the end of most of the screenings I felt pretty good about how it went, and if we bring it back next year, I think we will program a little differently, some more accessible, quicker paced films that can still challenge the audience. I guess you do sometimes have to make concessions to how the audience feels and not just show what you like.

Tomorrow: Look for my reaction to the final episode of Six Feet Under!

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