Events, Marketing

How to organize your indie movie screening

Planning a movie screening in your locale? Read on to find tips and tricks to make the organization process easier.

You’re a film buff who loves indie movies, but you’re also unlucky and no one in your family sees the artistic appeal of auteurs like Christopher Smith, Anthony Maras, Ben Wheatley, and Lynne Ramsey. But don’t worry – you can still share your love of independent filmmaking with other people in your local area.

How? Host an indie movie screening! Plus, if you host your own movie screening event, you’ll be able to pick the films, plus choose the snacks and drinks! Sounds fun, right?

One problem – just how are you going to organize an event like this? Let’s break down what you should do to organize a successful indie movie screening, step-by-step.

Secure a film screening license

First, you’ll need a film screening license. You always need a screening license if you ever plan to show a movie in a public venue or anywhere outside your home. Fortunately, you can get a movie screening license pretty quickly and simply by:

  • Searching licensing companies like Swank, which provide both single event and annual event licenses for movies
  • These licensing companies can help you get the rights to show movies from big studios like Columbia Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and more. Pay these licensing sources a fee, and you’ll be able to show your movie legally!
  • But if your indie film isn’t owned by any of the larger companies, you’ll need to write to the copyright holder independently
  • Request permission to show their film at your venue and see what they say! Some independent filmmakers already have policies in place (which you can often find on their company websites). Others may even allow you to show the film for free for exposure

Regardless, make sure you have your license(s) ready to go in case someone comes asking questions about your film screening.

Consider your venue

Next, be sure to think about where you’ll show your independent films. Chances are you don’t want to just host your indie in your living room!

You can rent spaces all around town, such as in community centers or college classrooms, and smaller or independent movie theaters may even let you rent a single screen for a fee. When looking for space, be sure to consider the following factors.

Space and screen size

Figure out how many people you plan to be in attendance at your film screening. Then be sure that you find a venue that has enough space for everyone to sit down comfortably (plus room for snacks and other concessions).

You’ll also need to consider screen size. Generally speaking, the more people you plan to be in attendance at your screening, the larger the screen you’ll need for everyone to see the action unfold.

Lighting & sound equipment

Similarly, consider lighting and sound equipment. You may need additional lights if the venue you rent has a stage and you want to invite someone who worked on the independent films you are screening to speak as a bonus event to attract people to the screening itself.

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Sound equipment is needed for the same reason, and to make sure that the films you screen sound as excellent as their directors intended. Fortunately, theater-grade sound equipment can be rented for a low fee if you don’t want to purchase tons of speakers and sound control systems outright.

Are there food and drink stations?

Decide early on if you want to provide popcorn and soda to your attendees. We’d recommend that you do, as most people get a little hungry during excellent movies. But keep in mind this will also drive your budget up, and you’ll need someone to make the popcorn, handle the soda, and act as a cashier.

Advance screening options

Lastly, see if your venue will allow you to run a screening in advance. A test screening lets you test out the sound equipment, make sure there’s enough room, check out how the lighting systems work, and more. It’ll help you work out the kinks of your future indie movie screening before everyone arrives.

Marketing matters

Getting all of your ducks in a row won’t matter a bit if you can’t market your indie film screening well enough! You have to get the word out so enough people attend to make all your effort worthwhile.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to market your upcoming indie film screening.

Check out local indie film enthusiast groups

One good idea might be to check out any local independent film enthusiast groups. Fan clubs at local colleges or theater membership clubs are great spots to find other like-minded film enthusiasts like yourself.

Use social media

Always use social media as much as you can. Facebook groups are one of the best ways to draw people from your local area to your indie film screening, plus drum up some anticipation for the event. A Facebook page for your upcoming screening can let you set a date and snap some quick preview pictures of the venue as you prepare things.

Make eye-catching art for your screening

There’s also something to be said for the traditionalist route of making posters. What better way to inspire people to come see some old-fashioned or independent films than to make classic movie posters advertising your upcoming event?

Customize this template here

Don’t have any graphic design experience? That’s not a problem with platforms like PosterMyWall, which provides hundreds of movie poster templates for free! You can then adjust these templates to make the perfect movie night marketing poster. Make as many copies as you like, then scatter them over town and see if anyone bites!

Set the date well in advance

When planning your indie film screening, be sure to pick and set a date well in advance so there’s enough time for people to mark their calendars. With an event like this, weekend days like Friday or Saturday are oftentimes better choices than dates in the middle of the week, like Wednesday evenings.

Create a schedule to hand out at the screening

You can use many online resources to make attractive and organized schedules that you can hand out to event attendees. This is especially important if you plan to have speakers at your indie film screening or if you have other events lined up before and after the main film showing.

Get volunteers to help!

At any indie film screening of appreciable size, chances are you’ll need a little help taking tickets, managing food and beverages, and cleaning up after the fact. Unless you want to be working for hours before and after your screening, consider hiring some extra hands to help out. 

It would be wise to advertise that you’re looking for volunteers (or even paid workers, if you have the budget for them) on your marketing art for your indie film screening in the first place. Make sure you can be contacted easily by including your phone number or email address on the marketing art you create.

If you don’t have the budget to hire people for cash, you can always promise free snacks or an extra free ticket for each volunteer to give out as they please. Create a free job poster to mobilize volunteers.

Launch your screening!

When everything is ready, you can finally launch your indie film screening and enjoy your favorite movies with like-minded film-lovers. It’ll be a lot of work, but it’ll also be worth it and feel great when the lights go down and you’re immersed in the worlds of your favorite filmmakers.

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