How to Host a Film Screening

Oct 15th, 2019 | By Sustainable America

Documentary films are a powerful way to bring a community together to learn about issues, spark discussion, and inspire action. If you are moved to share what you have learned about environmental issues with others, consider hosting a film screening. This guide will provide you with the information needed to plan and host a successful film screening in your community.


No matter what environmental topic you want to focus on, chances are there are several great films to choose from. We’ve written about several over the years, including Wasted! The story of Food Waste, Idle Threat: Man on Emission, Just Eat It, Growing Cities, and Pump The Movie. Here is a list of sources of documentaries for public screenings to get started.


There are plenty of public and private spaces that would be open to hosting a film screening. Your local library is a great place to start. If your library already has a film program, they may be open to recommendations. If not, ask if they would be willing to host a screening. Cinemas both small and large are often willing to take on documentary film screenings as part of their community initiatives; contact the cinema manager to inquire. Public parks, community centers, schools, non-profit offices, co-working spaces, and art galleries are also great locations. Consider the assets in your community and get creative!


Once you have secured a location, you may need to secure some equipment to show the film. If you’re working with a cinema or library, they will probably have everything you need. If you plan to screen the film in a public park, however, you will need to secure a projector and screen, possibly chairs (unless you make the event bring-your-own seating), a table for informational handouts, snacks, etc.


Depending on who will be purchasing the film and how many people you expect to attend, different screening licenses are available. Work with the provider to determine the right license and get registered to screen. Some licensees may allow you to use the screening as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization.


Once you have your location, equipment and screening license secured, it’s time to fill the seats. Depending on your location, ask if they have a newsletter that goes out to their network and if they will promote your movie in it or offer a spot to advertise the screening. If your public location has a website, ask if they can promote your screening online. Place an ad of your own in a local newspaper and hang up posters in high visibility spots around town. Libraries, government offices, coffee shops, grocery stores and schools often provide community boards where you can post flyers and information. Promote at public locations and nearby colleges to draw the most attention. Consider reaching out to a local radio station to help get the word out. The more you advertise the better, so don’t be shy, and get creative!


Now that you know where to advertise, try to sell your movie. Some people will naturally be inclined to attend your film screening, while others may need more of an incentive. You can offer door prizes, a raffle, coupons, or invite local celebrities or government leaders to get involved. Free refreshments are often a great and easy incentive as well. If you have a strict budget, see if the location of the screening can pitch in, or ask local businesses to sponsor or make donations.


After the film finishes, do not let people leave with questions. Host a post-screening discussion or Q&A. Consider arranging a panel of local allies and experts. You, as the host (or hosts) of the film screening, can also lead a robust discussion.

Documentary films can be a great way to inspire action, and you’ll want to seize this opportunity to engage with others who share your passion for change in your community. Set up a table with further information about the film’s topic and opportunities for viewers to act on what they learned. Consider it an opportunity to form a local action group and recruit interested individuals to take part.


If you’ve had a successful screening, make sure to use the event as a springboard to spread the word. Send a short article to your local paper noting how many attendees you had and how many people signed up to take part in a local action group. Note interesting questions, comments or discussion points from the Q&A session. Invite local leaders who attended the film to provide a quote. Make sure to also take this opportunity to thank anyone who helped along the way.

If you’re inspired to host a documentary screening in your community, let us know or tag @sustainable_america on Instagram.

Tagged: documentaries, community, films

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