Did you know that here at our very own Students’ Union, there’s an entire student-run cinema lurking beneath our feet? I sat down with a few members of the Film Unit committee to find out what it’s all about and how you can get involved…
Meet some of the team:
Sabina (Chair) [SPres]
I’m the Chair, which essentially means I do a lot of everything. I’m supposed to coordinate actions, make sure everyone’s doing their job, make sure everyone’s feeling okay and essentially make sure we’re going consistently in one direction and have a shared vision.
Scott (Publicities Officer) [SPub]
I try to be in charge of the Facebook and make sure that everyone knows about our upcoming screenings.
Freya (Publicities Officer) [FPub]
I mainly run the Twitter and help sort out getting all of our marketing materials and stuff like that.
Jamie (Treasurer) [JTreas]
I mainly manage the budget – making sure we have enough money for events and merchandise, trying to balance our expenditure and income.
What is Film Unit?
SPub: It’s a way of life. It’s a volunteer-run cinema: to volunteer you can be a student or member of the public; all of our volunteers have a shared passion for cinema and we put on really frequent, very affordable screenings open to students and locals alike.
How long has it been running?
SPres: 70 years now, which is a big anniversary for us – stay tuned for our events and celebrations.
How do you decide what films you show?
FPub: We have a selections meeting once a semester and anyone can suggest films which go in a massive spreadsheet and we sit there with pizza and we watch a minute of each trailer, then we vote and it works out based on how many people put their hands up. Then after that we try and get a good mix of classics and genres.
SPres: We advertise them everytime. The Selections Officer’s role is very important as to finding out the correct balance and they are responsible for lining up the films so they do a lot of work over Christmas and summer.
How do you actually obtain the films you show?
SPres: Essentially we work with a distributor who sources the licences for us, and we usually wait a bit because cinema licences are quite expensive so that’s why our films are usually shown six weeks after their official cinematic release and this way we collaborate with one company – it’s all perfectly legal!
FPub: I love that we do that ‘cause I always miss things in the cinema.
SPub: Yeah, so it’s like a second chance to see it on the big screen.
How many people normally come to a screening or event?
FPub: That’s a hard question.
JTreas: If it’s like a blockbuster we sell out.
SPres: I think the key is the variety of films, so sometimes we have something very niche where only 30 people will come but then all of them will be completely amazed that they wouldn’t have seen this film if there wasn’t Film Unit. Then we have a blockbuster that will sell out like Avengers or something like that.
Any famous guests to FU over the years?
JTreas: The most recent was Greg Sistero.
FPub: And he asked us if he could come, ‘cause he came before and he wanted to come back.
SPub: I was ushering last year… and the guys from Drenge were in the audience and I got to rip their ticket and I was like “oh I really like your music”, they’re so cool aren’t they? They’re big fans of us as well.
FPub: It’s mutual; they follow us on Twitter, and I feel so cool because the BFI (British Film Institute) and all these really cool organisations follow us, which is awesome.
Have you ever had any problems/issues trying to show certain films in the past?
SPub: I know there was a nipple rule last year. My friend was in the Burlesque society when we showed Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I know there was a rule about it, no nippleage [in the live performance], I think that was an SU rule “if there’s a nipple you’ve crossed the line.”
FPub: We’re not showing Rocky Horror this year because people in the Uni have suggested that it’s transphobic and we look at the film and think “okay yeah”, so we won’t show it if people are offended by it.
SPres: Yeah we’re always listening to what our audiences say.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about FU?
FPub: I think just the variety, Where I come from there’s one Cineworld multiplex, whereas in Sheffield I’ve seen so many things I wouldn’t ever have seen normally. Just generally it’s really nice to go and see a film you wouldn’t necessarily see.
JTreas: Being from Malaysia, small student-run cinemas are so rare and it’s really nice to have this community – everyone’s so welcoming.
SPres: I think I would say the community is the best thing, because I came first for the free films but then I stayed for the people. It’s just amazing how many different people you can meet from different backgrounds with different degrees and tastes so it’s an amazing place to make friends.
Finally, if people want to get involved with FU, how would they go about doing so?
SPub: Well you can message us on Facebook, we’re very easy to find. You can DM us on Twitter and Instagram, you can email us or come and speak to us at the end of the screening.
SPres: We have plenty of people who come just to usher which takes literally half an hour and they see the film for free.
Image Credit: Film Unit Facebook