Film Society Offers a Low-Stress Outlet for Students


Caspar Dowdy, Editor-in-chief

It’s almost like a movie theater.

The room is dimly lit, a classic film flickering across the screen. Contemplative students sit in rows to watch. There are, of course, snacks.

It’s — almost — like a movie theater.

But really it’s English teacher Cara Lane’s classroom, after school on a Thursday. Film Society has gathered for a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Blackmail,” a 1929 thriller thought to be Britain’s first full-sound feature film.

At the front of the classroom, making jokes and welcoming newcomers, is senior Will Dorsey. This is his second year as president of the club, and the fourth film he’s led the showing of this year. Trivia that he’s prepared about this month’s movie, as it is every month, is resting on Ms. Lane’s podium.

For weeks, the club has been advertising its meeting with morning announcements and printer-paper copies of the movie’s poster, which proclaim the movie’s status as “Britain’s all-talkie challenge to the world.” Even still, the group at the Jan. 19 meeting is small, albeit engaged.

“The size we’re at now is comfortable,” Dorsey said, “but I would definitely like to see more members than this. Our first meeting of the year, we were absolutely crammed. We had kids sitting in the middle aisle, which probably discouraged some members. But I do wish we had enough people to fill the seats when we’re here.”

As attendees carry popcorn-burdened napkins to desks, settling in for the movie, Ms. Lane greets them and begins the meeting. According to Dorsey, having her as a sponsor draws students to Film Society. As a freshman, he joined after she suggested it during a meeting of debate, an experience he thinks is common for his club’s members.

Ms. Lane, who has been sponsoring the club for 19 years, began screening movies after overhearing a student question why EHS didn’t have a film club. She saw to the club’s creation, drawing from college experience with film studies that helped give her an appreciation for the medium. Since then, she’s been hosting the meetings once a month — and she’s never shown the same movie twice.

“I think something that is interesting about taking film as a class is that we all know about film as passive audience members,” she said, “but it’s a whole other ballgame to think about how those films are constructed and what is happening when you think about film as a text.”

After each film, members of Film Society are given the opportunity to discuss their thoughts. The meetings offer an opportunity to “scratch an itch,” as Ms. Lane said, for critical thinking with media-interested students like junior Stephen Crony.

“I think film is a really great medium of storytelling,” Crony said. “It really appeals to your senses like sight and hearing while still providing much of the same ideas about narrative and perspective as literature.”

While the club can be a platform for deep thinking, its leadership sees just as much value in its ability to let students relax.

“We try to make it low- to no-stress, so that way it’s actually not as involved…” Ms. Lane said. “I do like what this club offers, in terms of you don’t have to come from one month to the next, if something piques your interest you can come and you don’t have to have any sort of knowledge ahead of time.”

According to Dorsey, misconceptions about the club keep some students from exploring it. Despite its obscure movie catalog, he sees the environment of the club as welcoming regardless of someone’s familiarity with film.

“I think a lot more people would come if they knew it wasn’t as serious of a club,” he said. “We understand what we are. We watch movies together once a month. We’re not trying to be too serious.”

At the heart of the club is the celebration of film, ending each year with a screening in the auditorium. Last year, as Dorsey explained, the club hosted a night of “The Godfather” with pasta for attendees. This year, the club looks to screen 1988 Italian classic “Cinema Paradiso” for its finale.

Whether students join Film Society to engage with their love of the medium, or to fit a low-stress activity into a busy schedule, the club has made an effort to show that they’re welcome.

“It’s powerful to laugh with other people. It’s powerful even, sometimes, to cry with other people, or to have that shared experience where now we’ve all watched this film together,” Ms. Lane said. “Some people come because they love the films, and some people come because they’re excited to see something new.”