10 Tips for Making the Arrangements for a Local Screening

If you are screening your film for an organization, you may not need to do much promotion, since the organization may do much of that for you. You just need to show up to introduce your film and answer questions at the end. Even so, you might help the organization get more attendees if this is a public meeting. It’s to your benefit to help with promotion to attract a larger crowd, since the larger the attendance, the more this will help you set up your own future screenings, interest other organizations in screening your film, or appeal to distributors.

If you are organizing the event, you need to reach out to your network and to the general public who might be interested in your film to attract attendees.

Here are some key tips for making the arrangements and promoting a local screening.

1) You generally don’t have to do anything to help an organization promote your film when the program is only for members, employees, managers, or officers or when the person putting on the program tells you not to do anything, since the organization is taking care of the outreach.

Even if you aren’t involved in promotion, you can still gather the organization’s marketing and promotional materials to use in your portfolio of accomplishments. Then, you can use that portfolio to promote your film to prospective attendees or other organizations that might want to screen your film.

2) If you are organizing the screening, you have to make a number of arrangements, beginning with determining the date, location, and cost of the event. The venue you select affects the available dates, and the cost of the location affects how you price the event.

Preferably, start small to keep your costs down, when you first distribute your film. This will help you set a lower price that will draw a larger crowd. Apart from ticket sales, a good showing will help you increase awareness, so you can seek a larger venue and audience for future screenings. In setting the price, take into consideration the cost of the venue, refreshments, and your promotional costs to attract attendees. You might also have to figure in the cost of an assistant to help with your promotion, event set-up, or assisting at the sign-in table.

If you are doing a straight screening, price in the range of $5–15 a ticket. If you add in refreshments and beverages or make the screening part of a social networking event, the price can be $15–35.

3) In choosing a date, consider the dates available for possible venues. Have a general idea of the date when you want to hold the event, but be flexible about changing this if the venue you hope to use can’t offer you the date you want. Alternatively, choose another venue.

In choosing a date, keep in mind the preferable times to hold a screening, based on when your targeted audience is likely to attend. For instance, if you are aiming for professional and business participants, early evenings during the week between 6:00–9 p.m. are best, and a two hour event is ideal from 6:30–8:30 or 7–9. This way, you allow 15–30 minutes for arrivals and networking before the program and 15–30 minutes afterwards for a screening, which usually lasts for 60 to 90 minutes.

The best evenings are during the week from Tuesday to Thursday, since Monday is often a stay-at-home evening and sometimes people are just back from a long weekend. It’s best to avoid Friday nights, since many people think of this as a date or party night, and it’s the beginning of the weekend. Avoid setting up your program on holidays or during the Thanksgiving to Christmas season, because many people will have other plans.

In setting the date, allow three to four weeks to market and promote the program.

4) Once you have a general idea of the date, decide on a venue. A first consideration is the town or city where you want to be. Then, consider the neighborhood where you want to hold the screening. Generally, a downtown location is ideal, especially if it’s easy to park or get there by bus or commuter train.

Additionally, consider the type of venue and cost. Take into consideration the likely size of your group. If possible, look for a place where you might have some flexibility with different size and costs for rooms, in case you get more or less people than expected.

5) Unless you expect your film to attract a large audience, start small with a room for 25–50 people, since your cost for a smaller room will generally be less. Preferably get RSVPs in advance or even require advance RSVPs in order to better know or at least estimate the size of crowd to expect. Should the screening draw a bigger audience than expected, the location you have chosen may have a larger room available; if not, you can find a larger venue and forgo your initial deposit, since the fees paid by a larger attendance will generally cover this cost.

6) Once you find a suitable venue, if possible, arrange to tentatively hold the space for the next one or two dates you are planning. Then, if your first screening goes well, you already have the next locations lined up. But preferably, don’t make a financial commitment until you see how the first screening goes, because if you don’t get the expected turnout, you can easily cancel the dates. This flexible approach makes a lot of sense if you decide to change your focus after the first screening from organizing your own events to using your experience — and a video if you create one — to help you set up future screenings with other organizations which will handle the arrangements for you. Later, you can always shift back to organizing your own screenings after you do events for different organizations and build a following.

7) Some potential venues for a local screening are rooms in the following:

- library

- bank

- club house

- hotel

- motel complex

- country clubs

If you have been to events in these venues, you can assess whether they would be suitable for screening your film. You can also get referrals from others in your business and personal networks. Or look for venues by a search on Google. Just put in the type of venue you are looking for and the name of the city where you want to hold the screening. Then, call to find out if the venue has rooms and equipment that will accommodate a screening.

If you are thinking of having food and beverages, ask about the arrangements for this. Sometimes you can arrange for a local catering service or restaurant to set up everything, or alternatively, you can pick up some snacks and drinks at your local supermarket.

Ask to speak to the person in charge of room rentals and reservations to make your arrangements. For example, here’s a typical menu of options for a venue with several options for rooms, based on the time of day, along with fees for other services.

8) Once you decide on a venue for your event, consider the rental policies, which can affect your decision to book the venue. For instance, if you want to sell anything or collect money at the door, be sure you can do this. The organization may also have other policies you have to agree to and require you to assume certain responsibilities. These responsibilities might include taking care of any set up and clean up after the event during the time you have booked. You may also be financially liable for any damages to the property or injuries to attendees at the event unless you or your venue have insurance that covers this

9) Here are some typical rental policies:

- Your event can’t interfere with other activities at the location.

- You will confine the activities of your event to the space rented and to the restrooms.

- You shall allow for set up and clean up time during your rental period, although some organizations may allow you an extra 15 minutes for set-up and clean up.

- You may have to submit any of your materials to publicize the event to the organization, and if there are multiple rooms at that location, you have to specify which room you are renting.

- You can’t use certain types of materials to put up decorations on the walls, such as nails, tacks, staples, or sticky tape.

- You can’t put up permanent signs on or adjacent to the building, though you can put up temporary portable signs.

- You can’t discriminate in your event due to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation.

- You have to put a deposit of the estimated total balance and have to pay the remaining balance within a week after or at least a week before your rental.

- Under certain circumstances, you may need to have a certificate of insurance, although this isn’t usual for small screenings.

- You are responsible to set up and remove all decorations and outside equipment, and you have to clear off tables and chairs, put any trash away, and clean up any spills or stains.

- You have to remove any property you bring in to the event.

- You have to assume the sole responsibility for any accidents or injuries to persons or property resulting from your use of the venue.

- You are responsible for the control and supervision of anyone attending the event, including making sure that the venue suffers no damage and that everyone conducts themselves in an orderly manner.

- If you plan to sell alcoholic beverages, you need to obtain a license in advance to do so.

Such policies may seem daunting when you just want to put on a simple film screening particularly if you only expect a small number of attendees at your first event. But these policies are for everyone’s protection, and you are likely to do all of the things required anyway in putting on the event.

10) Finally, when you book the venue, you will normally be asked to fill in and sign a rental agreement. This agreement will include the screening date, your contact information, and your type of organization or company, such as if you are a private organization or a non-profit. You will also be asked to indicate the arrival time, start and end time of the screening, and the time you intend to leave.

Some other questions may be about the type of event, such as if it’s open to the public, if you are serving a meal or refreshments, if you plan to have alcoholic beverages, and the number of attendees expected.

Other questions may deal with the room set-up, since the venue organizer may set up the room before you arrive. For instance, the organizer may ask: Do you prefer theater seating? How many chairs would you like and how would you like them arranged? Would you like a registration or welcome table in the room, and if so where? Do you want a podium to introduce your film? Can you use table linens?

If additional services are available, such as audiovisual or staff assistance or advertising your screening in the venue’s newsletter, the venue organizer will ask if you are interested in that.

GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in business and work relationships, professional and personal development, social trends, and popular culture. She has published 50 books with major publishers. She has worked with dozens of clients on memoirs, self-help, popular business books, and film scripts. Writing samples are at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.

She is the founder of Changemakers Publishing, featuring books on work, business, psychology, social trends, and self-help. The company has published over 150 print, e-books, and audiobooks. She has licensed several dozen books for foreign sales, including the UK, Russia, Korea, Spain, and Japan.

She has received national media exposure for her books, including appearances on Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN. She has been the producer and host of a talk show series, Changemakers, featuring interviews on social trends.

Scott is active in a number of community and business groups, including the Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek Chambers of Commerce. She is a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Contra Costa program. She does workshops and seminars on the topics of her books.

She is also the writer and executive producer of 10 films in distribution, release, or production. Her most recent films that have been released include Driver, The New Age of Aging, and Infidelity.

She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her J.D. from the University of San Francisco Law School. She has received five MAs at Cal State University, East Bay, most recently in Communication.

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