Programming Doc

Doc Films programming meeting
Doc Films members voted on the Society's spring 2010 schedule Wednesday, February 3, turning in ballots to programming chair Edo Choi, '10 (center).

Presiding over the Doc Films planning meeting is programming chair Edo Choi, and he runs a tight ship. A representative for each film series proposal is allowed to make a one-minute pitch, and Choi cuts off any that run too long. Some pleas are emotional: "This is the last time I'm going to propose this series, because I'm leaving,” says Nick Tell, '10, of his list of French films from the 1970s and 1980s. Some pleas are pragmatic: "Considering how expensive the other series are [$3,000-5,000], this is incredibly cheap—only $1,100," says Joe Rubin of "Cinevangelism," a series of films with evangelical Christian messages.

Programming a series for the longest continuously running student film society in the country is not easy. Doc Films must maintain ticket sales while upholding its reputation for innovative film programming.

This challenge comes to a head on Wednesday of Week Five, when roughly two dozen members of Doc Films—including undergrads, grad students, alumni, and even a few faculty—cram into an Ida Noyes conference room to eat noodles catered by Chant and to vote on a ballot offering 14 themed proposals to fill the spring quarter's six programming slots.

Each proposal includes a list of ten films and at least two alternates, the official distributors for each print (usually in 16 mm or 35 mm format), fees for rental and for shipping and handling, and any on- or off-campus organizations helping to fund the series. The students also write 100 words summarizing the merits of each film and a longer essay to run in Doc's quarterly newsletter detailing the series' purpose.

breakfast-club.jpgOne of the few rules is that a film cannot have been shown as part of a regular series in the past four years. Although there have been some radical proposals over the years, Choi is reticent to criticize them. "I would hesitate to call any series...outlandish or crazy, because at Doc we encourage such ideas and take them seriously. The outlandish, for us, is closer to a virtue than a guilty pleasure. Even mainstream films like Avatar are pretty outlandish, after all."

The ballot for spring 2010 features the avant-garde (art-house auteur Stan Brakhage's films of 1980-2003), the generic (postwar westerns, proposed by Choi), and the populist (a retrospective of John Hughes movies and a collection of Spike Lee "joints").

In addition to voting for their six favorite series, members must also choose one "marquis" selection. The marquis series was implemented when Choi took his post in 2006, just after the club had gone through what he describes as a "near financial disaster." Choi and his cohorts decided that among the rare prints and oeuvres d'art on offer, they needed to program a weekly series that would help boost sales of season passes. In winter 2009 the marquis series was a popular collection of Coen Brothers films, and this winter features "Lynch and Cronenberg: Just a Couple of Daves."

After counting all of Wednesday's votes, including six absentee ballots cast by e-mail, Choi and general chair David Levari, '10, released the results last Thursday afternoon.

Doc Films’ official lineup for spring 2010 will be:

  • Urban Encounters: The City in Middle Eastern Cinema
  • Stage to Screen: Cinematic Visions of the Theatre
  • Cinevangelism: Christian Feature Films from the '70s and '80s
  • A Nos Amours: French Films in the '70s and '80s
  • British Cinema After the Death of British Cinema

The marquis selection is the John Hughes collection.

Emily Riemer, AM'09


February 8, 2010