How to Host a Screening:
Film and show screenings can be fun and impressive (and also hard work). Adding a panel discussion or audience Q&A afterward can maximize the value of the event.
If there is a film or TV episode you want to share, start with these questions
- Can you get permission to show it?
- How does this event fit within the broader goals of your work?
- What will make this event a success?
- What resources do you have to devote to a screening?
It’s important to contact the filmmaker or network/studio to secure the rights for a screening. Even if you own it on DVD, you don’t own it for public presentation. Depending on the production, you may be dealing with a studio publicity agent, lawyer or the independent documentarian directly. You can also use a clearinghouse like Swank, Criterion Pictures USA or Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Be prepared to pay a licensing fee.
Broader goals: There are lots of good reasons to hold screenings. For example, films or shows can tell powerful stories about your issue, feature members of your organization or inspire activism. As with every programmatic endeavor, it’s important to make sure those reasons connect to your organizational goals.
Success: Have clear expectations for your event. Whether you’re hoping to reach a certain audience, draw public attention to an issue, raise money or inspire grassroots action, it’s important to know what your goals are when you get started.
Resources: Determine your budget. Consider costs for the venue, catering, materials, speakers and equipment. Know that planning, promoting and executing the event will require lots of staff or volunteer time.
Once you know what you’re doing and why, the real work begins. This includes:
- Picking a date. Be mindful of holidays, local events and other potential conflicts for your audience and experts.
- Booking location and vendors. Consider how big a crowd you’ll be accommodating, whether you’ll need to additional equipment such as tables for sign-up sheets and petitions or microphones for a post-show Q&A. Catering may be necessary for a reception, and you might want to hire photographer to capture the event.
- Planning the program. When you book experts for a discussion, pay attention to the diversity of opinions and backgrounds represented. Prepare your panelists and moderator in advance and have topics and questions ready. If you expect panelists to talk to the media at or in advance of your screening, make sure they are comfortable doing so.
- Preparing materials. Consider what additional materials might be necessary, such as a printed program, petitions, promotional posters, information for press or one-pagers about your organization. Don’t forget about signage for the event, sign-up sheets to collect email addresses and fundraising appeals. This includes online materials as well as hard copies.
- Promoting the event. The audience is critical to a screening’s success, so it’s important the right people know about it. Create a promotional calendar so you stay on track with emails, advertising, social media and press outreach. If you are requiring RSVPs to the event (perhaps using a platform like Eventbrite), be sure your calendar includes reminders to confirmed guests.
On the day of the event, arrive early to do a technical run-through and make sure your team is ready to go. To ensure a smooth event, everyone should have a specific, predetermined role (audience greeter, ticket-taker, speaker support, information table, media relations, etc.)
After the event, you’ll want to follow up immediately with any media who attended, send thank-you notes to your speakers and other helpful parties; process all of the sign-ups, actions and donations; post about the event on social media and your website; and invite the speakers, audience members and partners to share content about the event as well.