Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Host Your Own Film Festival

In honor of Sundance Film Festival and to break up the January duldrums, we like to host our own Substance of Living Film Festival.

Think of hosting a multi-day open house but the movie of the day is the main attraction.

If you're not truly up to the task of a multi-day viewing then schedule a series of movies throughout one day and run it as a marathon. 

Let's do this without breaking the bank!


Make up a flyer with the date(s), times, and movie selections and be sure to invite a lot of people.  The more people, the more fun and milling around.  Most likely not everyone will be in your home at the same time unless you have one particular film EVERYONE wants to see.

If you have more than one TV or DVD set ups, you might want to have two movies running.

Another fun addition is to make ID badges for the guests or "Stars" to wear to ensure entrance into the festival.  We wouldn't want the riffraff coming in, right?!


Groupings might consist of a favorite actor, theme (holiday, scary), or a particular director.  Science fiction, Romance, Foreign - try to stay with one specific such as Italian/German/Chinese/Indian or how
about a Medieval, Renaissance, Shakespearean, Pirates, Epic, Musical themes.

Movie Selections

"Romeo and Juliet", "Excalibur", "Mid Summer's Night", "Princess Bride", "Pirates of the Carribean", "Amadeus", "Girl with the Pearl Earring", "Elizabeth", "Marie Antoinette"

"300", "Gladiator", "Ben Hur" 

"Like Water for Chocolate", "The Sea Inside", "Pans Labyrinth"

"The King and I", "Farewell My Concubine", "Memoirs of a Geisha", "House of Flying Daggers"

"The Bicycle Thief", "Live is Beautiful", "La Dolce Vita"

"Across The Universe", "Moulin Rouge", "Sound of Music", "Rocky Horror Picture Show", "Grease", "Evita"

Remember that not all movies are going to be a hit with everyone.  Some of the viewings might receive a light viewing.

Search for Local Talent

Do you have a theater in your area?  Do you know of any film makers, actors, directors that are seeking to get their names out or their films seen?  Maybe even a 5 or 10 minute live showing of a play.  If you were to ask them to attend or perhaps work with them to see how best to showcase their work, they might just surprise you and actually think your small venue is a good idea.  Who knows, someone at the viewing might know someone that knows someone.  I think there is a seven degree thing working here.

Exit Polls

Hand out exit polls prior to starting each movie so viewers can rate or take notes while viewing.  They can drop the polls in a box or simply hand them to you as they exit.

Some Exit Poll questions to ask:

  • Title of Movie Viewed:
  • How much did you enjoy this movie?  Excellent, Very Good, Average, Fair, Poor
  • What did you enjoy most about this movie?
  • What did you least enjoy about this movie?
  • Would you recommend this movie?
  • Did you have any preconceived ideas about this movie?
  • Could you see a time in your life that was similar to this movie?  If so, would you please comment?
  • Any parting words?


Popcorn by Substance of Living

This is a great party theme to enjoy all those extra cookies, cakes, drinks from the holidays.  Remember, one of the most popular New Year's Resolutions is to watch what we eat or to lose weight.  How much more giving and selfless can we be than to share our goodies with our neighbors, friends, and family?  :-)

A themed menu might be fun if you're staying within a particular theme such as Pirates (gold foiled candies, grog, ale, punch, chicken wings), Holiday (cookies, cakes, eggnog, cider), or a specific Foreign Language (Chinese, Indian, Italian - think finger foods to ease) film.

Another hit is to simply have popcorn and sodas.  Maybe add a couple boxes of candies.


Red Carpet for Film Preview
  • Have a photo opportunity area with a backdrop highlighting all the movie titles and a red carpet.
  • The directors, play writers, writers, actors invited might have some props they could bring that would also help advertise their works.
  • Set up a polling area.
  • Set up a viewing area.
  • Buffet snack counter. 
  • If your guests were to come in costume, such as in a Pirate themethey will inherently make live decorations.

Reception / After Party

This is where everyone gets to mix and mingle.  Announce the final tallies of the exit polls from the movies.

Serve finger sandwiches, champagne, bubbly drinks, and lots of pictures.

Have you ever hosted your own Film Festival?  How do you share your favorite genre of films or favorite movie?

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