Basic Tech Set-up for Film Screenings

Tips, specs and software for perfecting your DIY film screening

At the May Scalarama Glasgow meet-up, Eileen Daily (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Document Film Festival, Picture Window) gave a presentation and led a discussion on basic tech set-up for DIY/non-theatrical film screenings, covering film formats, how to prepare films to get the best presentation and what free software is available to help you do all of this easily.

We’re hosting Eileen’s PowerPoint (above), which formed the basis of her presentation and covers basic terminology, ideal technical specs and useful guides to that free software (plus hot-links to download it).


Scalarama Glasgow is running monthly meetings in the lead-up to September’s season of DIY film programming. They’re aimed at helping exhibitors brand-new and experienced alike to put on films, and each month has two invited experts on different aspects of film exhibition. They’re free and open to all, full details here.

If you have any questions or could use some advice, get in touch with us here: info@matchboxcineclub.com

A Basic Guide to Licences for Film Screenings

Ever wanted to screen a film? Our straightforward guide will tell you what licences you need to screen films in Scotland, how to get them and how to get started

When we started screening films we knew there was stuff we didn’t know, or assumed was probably wrong – whether through wilful ignorance or plausible deniability, we definitely didn’t do things correctly straight out the gate. This is true of a lot of film events, and usually in good faith. Briefly, we figured out what we needed to know and that one problem is that there aren’t necessarily straightforward/simple answers to some basic questions. Licensing for film screenings can be like traversing shifting sands from one event to the next.

However, there are basics and we learnt them and this, here, is the skeleton of a presentation we gave in March 2019 as part of Scalarama Glasgow’s Programming and Licensing event at Glasgow Short Film Festival. You can download it as a two-page PDF here.

Why confirm licences?

  • Legally, you have to (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
  • Threat of fines (and your venue can be classed as a “contributory infringer”)
  • The greater good (exhibitors, film makers, distributors and everyone in between depend on each other to sustain the film industry)
  • Access to funding and other support to help keep doing what you’re doing

These are the licences venues need to screen films anywhere in Scotland:

  • Cinema Licence (from your local council)
  • Entertainment Licence (from your local council)
  • Performing Rights Licence (PRS) (from PPL/PRS)

Depending whether or not you want to plan your screening (e.g. if you want to advertise your screening anywhere outside your venue or online), you will also need one of two kinds of licence:

  • Single Title Screening Licence (STSL, for planned screenings, free or not)
  • Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL, an umbrella licence for unplanned and/or “ambient”, free screenings and/or members-only orgs)
  • NB Filmbank’s Licence Wizard is a handy way to figure out which you need

You can confirm most licences from ‘gateway’ distribution companies who manage large libraries on behalf of major studios, for example:

 Or sometimes licences are held by individual distributors, for example:

Some tips for finding elusive licence holders:

Useful + more detailed guides: 


F.A.Q.

Q: How much is a film licence?

A: Depending on the context and source, it can be anywhere from £60 + VAT to several hundred pounds. Some distributors demand a percentage (often 35%) of final box take versus a minimum guarantee (MG), meaning you pay whatever is more.

Q: Can I haggle/negotiate?

A: You can try. Haggling is more commonplace in Europe and North America than in the UK. And some distributors, e.g. Filmbank, operate an online portal that doesn’t allow for it.

Q: Who will know if I don’t get a licence?

A: Distributors, especially the bigger ones, do keep an eye on screening activity and if they’re made aware of unlicenced screenings of their films, they will investigate. Most commonly, they’ll simply chase you to book it in. Other local exhibitors, including cinemas, will likely notice screenings that seem to be unlicenced too => side-eye and/or bad blood.

Q: Do I need a licence if my screening is free or for charity?

A: Yes. Although on rare occasions you may be granted a licence for free, you still have to confirm permission to screen with the licence holder.

Q: Do I need a licence if the director/star is coming?

A: Most likely. Unless the director is also the licence holder and/or the film doesn’t have distribution, they probably won’t manage the screening rights for their own film.

Q: If I own the DVD, can I screen it?

A: Not without a licence. However, the licence fee most likely will not cover screening materials (i.e. DVD, Blu Ray), which you usually must provide yourself.

Q: If someone released the DVD/Blu Ray, can they grant a screening licence?

A: Sometimes, but not always. The rights to distribute a film for home entertainment and the rights to distribute a film theatrically or non-theatrically are not essentially the same.

Q: What do I do if I’ve exhausted every avenue and explored all possibilities of finding a licence holder?

A: In the very unlikely chance you have (see Sophie Brown’s Point Break saga), there is the option to self-indemnify, meaning you make a record of your attempts to source the licence, reserve the box office take and prepare for the licence holder to eventually come forward. No-one recommends you do this.

Q: Which films are in the public domain?

A: There isn’t a definitive answer or resource for this. Websites that claim to be definitive are not and in any case are often based in the US, which is a different distribution territory that also has different copyright laws. On top of this, the legal status of films often changes over time. All you can do is research.


Scalarama Glasgow is running monthly meetings in the lead-up to September’s season of DIY film programming. They’re aimed at helping exhibitors brand-new and experienced alike to put on films, and each month has two invited experts on different aspects of film exhibition. They’re free and open to all, full details here.

If you have any more questions or could use some advice, get in touch with us here: info@matchboxcineclub.com

 

 

Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy

A mind-bending predecessor to the modern mash-up, The Movie Orgy (1968) is also the Rosetta Stone for Joe Dante’s oeuvre and a must-experience for movie fans and cinephiles alike.

Movie Orgy Eventbrite

Before Gremlins, before The Howling, before he started his career cutting trailers for Roger Corman, Joe Dante hosted the 7.5 hour All Night Once In A Lifetime Atomic Movie Orgy. An ever-evolving edit, it was a communal experience – a mind-bending predecessor to the modern mash-up with no definitive version. Matchbox Cineclub programmer Sean Welsh charts the evolution of The Movie Orgy through five key dates.

October 9th 1965, The Playboy Theater, Chicago

The first screening of An Evening With Batman and Robin, one of two key inspirations for The Movie Orgy. The other was Susan Sontag’s Notes on “Camp” (1964), which popularised the term and inspired the repackaging of the 1943 Batman serial as a single 4.5-hour programme. Audiences laughed at its phony climaxes, marveled at its blatant xenophobia, and it began touring college towns. When Dante caught it, at the World Theater in Philadelphia, he was particularly struck by the camaraderie of the crowd, who “came out into the lobby as if they’d just gotten off a sinking ship.”

Early 1966, Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia

Inspired, Dante, a second year student but already a programmer at PCA, decided to host his own Camp Movie Night. The exact date is lost to history, but Dante and collaborator Jon Davison rented the only complete serial available on 16mm in Philadelphia, The Phantom Creeps (1939). They stretched it to seven hours with serials, clips, ads, industrial films and cartoons from their 16mm collections. Its success meant several follow-ups, each a step towards what would shortly become The Movie Orgy, then variously The Movie Orgy 2, The Movie Orgy Strikes Back, Son of the Movie Orgy, Escape to Movie Orgy and Son of Movie Orgy Rides Again.

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March 8th 1970, Filmore East, New York

Although 1968 is commonly held as the term “The Movie Orgy” was first used for Dante and Davison’s project, the performance that film archivist and Orgy expert David Neary describes as “the most important Movie Orgy of all” came in 1970. 1970 was peak Movie Orgy for the pair, who employed dueling projectors (tipping their hats to Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls). Davison’s would show various features – in lieu of new serials – and Dante’s would interject, drawing on his panoply of 16mm weirdness. They took their cues from the audience, so no two screenings were alike. Press coverage of the Filmore Orgy drew the attention of Schlitz Beer, who sponsored Orgies to tour colleges for years. But when the new material the Orgy drew upon to keep it alive began itself to be infected with self-referential camp, it was time to call it a day. Dante, already in Hollywood, sold syndication rights for “The Video Orgy” to be screened on college campuses’ closed circuit TV networks.

Dante's Inferno
Credit: Dennis Cozzalio

April 22nd 2008, New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles

The grand finale of Dante’s Inferno, a two-week retrospective at LA’s legendary rep cinema. Joining the scores of curious film fans were Davison, Allan Arkush, Bill Hader, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. Dante enjoined the crowd to move about, go outside, have a smoke, grab a pizza and wander back in. The Movie Orgy was always intended as a movie to be walked out on. But the director was curious to if it would play – have any relevance – after years in his vault. It brought the house down.

September 9th 2018, The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow

We’re screening the digital version Dante made for the New Beverly (not the 90min “UK cut” previously screened in London). It’s 4.5 hours long, the official Movie Orgy, “distilled, recaptured and re-curated”, according to archivist David Neary. It’s not the full, wild 16mm experience, of course, but there’s also no Blu Ray coming. “It’s more like a concert in a way,” Dante says, “It’s something that you really have to be there for.”

Sean Welsh


Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy screens at The Old Hairdressers, Sunday 9th September

Facebook event here. Tickets here.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in the Scalarama 2018 newspaper.