Q & A With Dartmouth Film Society Director Johanna Evans '10
The Dartmouth Film Society, which chooses and oversees many of the films screened at the Hopkins Center, has two main programs: the Hop Film Program, which screens a variety of films, and the Dartmouth film series. The latter screens films that follow a predetermined theme, including time periods, genres, or nationalities. The Dartmouth sat down with Johanna Evans ’10, director of the Dartmouth Film Society, to find out more about the society and its summer programming.
How did you first get involved with the Dartmouth Film Society?
JE: I was a member of the film society when I was an undergraduate and then when I moved back into the area, the Hop film office was looking for someone to fill in. Now here I am a couple of years later, and I feel like I’ve gotten a little more of a lay of the land. Mostly my job is organizing the DFS meetings and leading the discussion group and then helping with some of the nuts and bolts of getting the films on the screen.
What kind of programming does the DFS do?
JE: So there are two sets of programs within the Hop film office. There’s the DFS series, which the film society votes on. We choose the theme and the person who proposes the series works with us to curate the films and specify what the theme is. This term the theme is “take me seriously,” and it is about comedians in serious roles. So there was some work back and forth about how serious the serious films should be or whether there could be a little bit of a comic thing and which actors are considered real comics versus actors who just happen to be in funny movies. The Hop film program is usually made up of new releases; we get the films usually about 6-8 weeks after they’ve played in theaters, and it is a mix of foreign films we think people would be interested in, Indies, some blockbusters, especially in the summer and film specials, which run the gamut. We have “The Sound of Music” (1965) this term. We always tried to do some restored classic. And Ken Burns was here last weekend. It was really wonderful.
How does the film voting process happen?
JE: At the end of the summer term we will be voting on the series for the winter. It happens two quarters before. This is interesting because there are fewer students here in the summer, but winter is one of our biggest, most important terms since it’s Academy Awards season, so the voting process is pretty interesting. We usually have a core group of about 12 to 15 directorate members, mostly students but some community members. We’ve got one community member who has been coming to DFS films for decades and hasn’t missed a single one.
Do students need to be on the directorate to vote?
JE: It’s very easy to get on the directorate. All you need to do is write two sets of film notes during the year and come to a majority of society meetings each term, and then you maintain your directorate status. Writing film notes is kind of cool, I’m going through the archives now of all the notes that have been written since 1960-something, and it’s cool to see how people’s perspectives on films change.
Can you tell us about the past film series’ themes?
JE: During the course of the year we try to cover several different territories. Last fall we had a series on the “long take,” which is a filmmaking technique where a shot lasts more than two to three minutes. So we did a whole series on long takes in cinema, which was fun because it was a lot of different kinds of films, but all using the same technique, and the films were noted specifically for that. In the winter we did a series on strong female characters in film and in the spring we did coming of age around the world. So we tried to cover everything from specific filmmaking techniques to genre to issues that are important to us. We did the women’s series because there are starting to be more powerful female characters on screen, but still most of the films are made by men for men, so it was an issue that was important to us in the office to show strong female characters, and it happened that a lot of the Oscar films featured strong female characters, so we got to do that too and that was great. And then this summer, looking at an acting technique as opposed to filmmaking specifically. A lot of it was the buzz related to Steve Carrell in “Foxcatcher” (2014) and we thought people would want to see others doing the same thing.
What are the film society discussions like?
JE: It’s not like once you walk into a film society meeting we expect you to come for the rest of your life. If you see a film that you feel really passionate about, you can just drop in for that meeting, eat dinner with us and say your two cents about the film you saw. We now devote a couple of minutes at the end of every meeting to talk about television.
How has the film society evolved?
JE: Before, it was so difficult to get films that the only way you could actually see anything was through film societies, because you could not get videocassettes. You had to say “Hey, we’re going to rent that print of ‘Gone With the Wind’ (1939) for everybody,’ you couldn’t just rent it from the Jones Media Center or stream it. So, it’s kind of interesting in this modern age where it is a lot easier to access film, so now it’s not because you can’t get the content any other way, it’s often because you want to see it in a theater with an audience. And there are some films where it might not matter as much, but we had a sneak screening of “Trainwreck” (2015) last term, and we had a sneak screening of “Minions” (2015) at the beginning of this term, and it’s a huge difference to see comedies like that with the right audience. Like seeing “Minions” with hundreds of little children is a great experience, it gives you a difference experience then watching it alone on your laptop.
Do you have a particular film that you are excited about as part of the series for this summer?
JE: People probably haven’t heard of this film, but everyone should go and watch the trailer for “Roar” (1981). It’s this film from the [1980s] with Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith, and they’re living with a menagerie of like one hundred lions and tigers. It’s described as the “most dangerous film ever made,” and “no animals were harmed in the making of this film but 70 cast and crew were,” and it’s just going to be so wild. It’s kind of a B movie, it’s not lauded for its work as a film, but it’s going to be so much fun to see it with a crowd because it’s going to be so outrageously violent. But the trailer really sells it, so I think that students would really like it.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.