Tufts Film Series shows free movies for students
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 01:10
Most students would be surprised to learn that Tufts Film Series (TFS) is one of the clubs with the highest budget on campus. Since 1982, TFS has functioned with the sole purpose of providing movie entertainment to the student body, faculty and people of Medford and Somerville. Few students know that this free form of entertainment exists at Tufts, and the group is hoping to change that.
“It’s kind of a hidden gem,” Co-Chair of TFS Sarah Gordon, a sophomore, said.
Head Projectionist Hyung-Seo Park, who has been with TFS for three years, recounted telling his friends, who had never heard of TFS, about what the club does.
“We show free movies — quite recent ones, too, good ones that people actually want to see — on the big screen, quite often,” Park, a junior, said. “And they’ll be quite surprised.”
Tufts Film Series is part of Programming Board, the umbrella organization funded by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate that seeks to regularly provide a range of activities. According to TFS’ website, the group hit its peak popularity in the mid 1990’s, offering up to seven shows a week for $2.00 admission.
Now, shows are free, and about six screenings are held every weekend. Gordon said that in the club’s heyday, every show brought a full house. Despite constant updates to the group’s Facebook page and website, in the past five or so years, attendance has been low.
Park said that TFS currently sees about ten people per movie, including some couples out on dates. Gordon said that on a good night the group will see maybe thirty people in all.
“I don’t want to feel like our budget is going to waste because we really do want to bring entertainment and movies and fun to the campus,” Gordon said.
Gordon explained that because film is expensive — TFS spends roughly $1,000 a week on the films — the club’s impressive budget is a valid reason why its current low attendance is so distressing.
Fellow Co-Chair Tim Charouk echoed Gordon’s sentiments.
“It’s sad when we have one of the highest budgets of any group and only three people are showing up to movies,” Charouk, a sophomore, said. “I don’t think people know about us.”
Park thought that on weekends people prefer to be more social and hang out with friends, and perhaps a quiet theater is not an atmosphere conducive to social interaction.
“It is definitely tough to have high attendance, especially when students have other alternatives such as Netflix or the Internet,” Park said.
Despite this, Park said that audience members tend to come either in groups of four or more or as solo viewers.
Park noted that experiencing real film that is manually projected is not necessarily what students are used to.
“Despite the fact that it’s on the big screen and the sound is pretty good, you do have to realize that sometimes there are mistakes made by the projectionist,” Park said.
The responsibilities that come with being a projectionist are not for everyone, according to Gordon, who admitted that the task was a bit daunting. For those interested, TFS requires novice projectionists to take part in two training sessions and a supervised showing. Charouk, now an experienced projectionist, went through the established training procedure, but he said mistakes can be made even after it.
“I had a mistake with ‘Braveheart,’” Charouk said. “It was a really big film, it’s long, so it was on three big reels, and when I was rewinding it went all over the place, spilled over . . . “ Charouk said.
“Tears were shed,” he joked.
Charouk said that his “Braveheart” mishap went up on the so-called Wall of Shame in the TFS headquarters, which includes mistakes from even veteran projectionists.
According to Gordon, the technicalities of digital projection, however, will not always be a challenge for TFS, as the movie industry’s transition from film to digital projection will demand modification in technology for the club in the near future.
“The overarching challenge is the transition from film to digital,” she said. “We would have to buy a fairly nice digital projector, which can go up to $50,000.”
The high cost of new technology will need to be approved by the TCU Senate, and if average attendance at Film Series screenings remains as low as it has been, Senate and Programming Board may have difficulty justifying the purchase.
“We want to stay on film for at least a few more years, so hopefully it happens when I’m gone, because I like playing with the film,” Gordon said.
According to Charouk, despite the monetary concerns, the upcoming transition will be a positive change.
“The quality will definitely improve — there won’t be as many mistakes [or] changeovers,” Charouk said.