Doing Film Events in the Church

One idea we’ve been doing at our church (Camas Friends) we started last fall, it’s called “Last Sunday’s for the Earth.” The idea was to create a forum where topics could be discussed using films as a starting point for those conversations. We have shown a number of films, two of our most well received were Jeremy Seifert’s film Dive! and Food, Inc. Each event has been advertised in the local paper, on facebook and on the church blog. We’ve been able to meet a lot of people from our community this way, and have some really good discussions.  We’ve also invited a variety of people to come and lead these discussions, which helps us learn from people outside our own meeting. All of this is with an eye towards trying to help each of us learn a little more, and interact with different stories than our own. The feedback has been positive and this seems like good work to carry on.

One of the issues we’re running into is being able to afford the licenses to show these films in public (usually around $100). While I haven’t found it difficult to work with the companies who mediate these licenses spending that kind of money monthly is not an option for a small Quaker meeting like us. I understand the importance of people getting paid for their work, but it seems like if it was between not showing it, or showing it to a small group of people (25 or so) who show it for free themselves, wouldn’t you rather get your work out there? With the most recent movie we showed (Food, Inc.) we asked for donations and that was helpful in covering most of the cost. So we’re looking into ways to have free events that won’t also get us in trouble with licenses.

This past Sunday we invited Michelle Week to come and talk to us about the project she is heading up in our community: Camas Food Co-Op (and facebook). To kick things off, in true “Last Sunday” fashion we showed some film clips from YouTube! So we had a nice turn out, a good conversation, and it didn’t cost us a penny.

Showing films and creating a space for more of a forum atmosphere is a good option for meetings looking to generate some involvement with their community around issues that they feel are important.

Published by Wess

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. He works at Guilford College, enjoys riding his Triumph Bonneville, and listening to music.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, Wess! My name is Stephanie and I'm a member at Berkeley Friends Church, and we do a monthly film screening series as well. I also used to work at an art museum that had a monthly film screening series, and did a lot of research at that job about under what circumstances you have to pay license fees for a public screening. My understanding is that as long as you are not charging admission you don't have to pay.

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for the comment. My understanding is that it is up to each individual film maker whether you have to have a license or not. For instance, when I talked to the makes of Food Inc, and told them we are a Quaker meeting, and do this for free, etc. they said great, that will be $75. Yet, I have another friend who has made a documentary on trash (Dive!) and he doesn't charge for church groups who show it for free (though he still likes to be asked). So I wonder how much of this is a case by case thing?

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