It’s hard enough finding a decent week night movie on Netflix, let alone one that your friends can enjoy with you. But that’s exactly what the Film Board does four times a year, meticulously compiling a schedule of arthouse flicks, edgy classics, and Friday night crowd pleasers. During the months beforehand, a group of seven or eight students have long, heated discussions about which movies to select, and with the help of a faculty advisor they eventually create a list of high-quality, interesting, and unique films to show to the school.
Gabriel Urbina ’13, who sat on the film board for three and a half years, discussed the goal behind the series.
“The mission of the Film Series is to give Wesleyan a cultural film experience that is relevant to their interests and their intellectual and artistic education,” Urbina said. “That translates to movies that Wesleyan students really want to see on a big screen with their friends and movies that every Wesleyan student needs to see but has no idea they want to. The best films we choose fall into both of those categories.”
As Technical and Programming Manager and Faculty Advisor Marc Longenecker explained, the Film Board looks for a broad array of titles for each semester because the members want to serve the entire campus and its wide range of interests.
“We’re going for new, old, foreign, and domestic movies,” Longenecker said. “We’re also going for a variety of experiences such that every film isn’t purely for entertainment purposes or purely for film geeks.”
Ethan Young ’13 added that this diversity of genres manifests in the types of films that are shown each day of the week.
“Because Wednesday and Friday nights are paid nights, that means you’re probably going to get more popular fare because those nights are our bread and butter—we need to make money for the Film Series in order to keep it alive,” Young said.
This year, for example, the Friday night films included old-time favorites such as “The Land Before Time,” “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” and “The Breakfast Club,” along with more recent films such as “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
“Thursday and Saturday nights, however, are a bit different because they’re free,” Young said. “Thursday nights often have some sort of series such as the Israeli Film Series, the French Series, or Women in Film Series.”
When there isn’t a particular series planned for Thursdays, the board organizes a special event in collaboration with an outside group, a specific department, or a student group on campus. Saturday nights, on the other hand, are devoted to older films, most of which were released before 1970.
“There’s this huge period in film history that is generally not watched by people our age but [that]we still feel deserves play,” Young said. “We try to provide these films at no charge so that people are more likely to take a risk with something they’re unfamiliar with.”
Classic, foreign, and other lesser-known films also cater to readymade film junkies and more adventurous cinema goers.
The process of actually picking the films is quite elaborate, and although the students on the Film Board make the final decisions, the cycle begins with input from the rest of campus.
“We start by soliciting suggestions from the entire campus,” Longenecker said. “We have physical suggestion boxes put up in prominent places, and also suggestions can be sent in to the Film Series’ email address. In another couple weeks the Film Board will have several very long meetings where we go through every single suggestion to form a smaller but still sizable master pool from which we will pull the titles that will be showing.”
This is not to say, however, that the selections are drawn exclusively from student input. Members of the Film Board can make their own suggestions as well, which is what makes the Film Series different each year.
“Every semester we get some people coming and going, and everyone on the Film Board has strong opinions and obsessions,” Urbina said. “You really see how people’s personalities shape each calendar. For example, I am particularly obsessed with musicals and older classical films, so as long as I’ve been on the board there’s been at least one voice saying, ‘We haven’t shown a Humphrey Bogart film yet and what’s up with that?’”
According to Longenecker, this past semester’s series was as much of a success as always.
“Quantitatively, we’ve been happy with the number of people who have come out to the Film Series, especially since we know how many other great events take place on campus every night,” Longenecker wrote in an email to The Argus. “Qualitatively, the members of the Film Board and I make a habit of attending the screenings and seeing how the crowd responds. Just in recent history, I had enormous fun along with everyone else watching ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ and ‘Bunny Lake is Missing.’”
The Film Board is currently pooling suggestions for next fall and plans to come up with a balanced and engaging list of movies that the campus will enjoy.
“Our basic goals for the upcoming calendar are the same as they always are: to entertain and educate the entire Wesleyan community through the medium of cinema,” Longenecker wrote.