Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Librarian Guide to Film Screenings and Discussions

Film screenings and discussions offer an excellent opportunity to engage and educate library patrons. This guide will help you select suitable films, set up the room, find free movies, facilitate discussions, and promote your events.

Film Selection

  • Select films suitable for your target audience, considering age, interests, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Choose documentaries or educational films relevant to your community, cover a range of subjects, or tie in with special events, observances, or exhibits.
  • Screen adaptations of popular books or selections from book clubs to encourage reading and discussion.

Sourcing Films

Public Performance Rights (PPR) are required to screen copyrighted films publicly. Many film distributors offer PPR at a reasonable cost.

Here is a list of companies that provide Public Performance Rights (PPR) for copyrighted films. Some of these companies offer educational films and documentaries with PPR included or available for purchase at a reasonable cost:

Swank Motion Pictures:

Criterion Pictures:

Kino Lorber Edu:

Educational Media Distributors:

Bullfrog Films:

New Day Films:

First Run Features:

California Newsreel:

PBS Educational Media:

The Video Project:

Kanopy: (Note: Kanopy is a streaming service that partners with libraries, offering PPR for films in their catalog)

Keep in mind that the availability of films and PPR licensing terms may vary between distributors, so it's important to review their policies and contact them directly for more information.

Collaborate with local filmmakers, film festivals, or educational institutions to screen their films for free or at a reduced cost.

Here are some general tips to help you find local collaborators for film screenings:

  • You can find a list of film festivals worldwide at websites like FilmFreeway (
  • Contact local universities or colleges with film programs. Visit their websites or reach out to the film department directly to inquire about partnering opportunities.
  • Connect with local filmmakers by searching for film collectives or clubs in your area. Websites like Meetup ( can help you find local groups dedicated to filmmaking.
  • Attend networking events or conferences related to film and media in your area. These events are excellent opportunities to meet local filmmakers, film festival organizers, and representatives from educational institutions.
  • Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to search for local filmmakers, film clubs, or film festivals. Reach out to them with a proposal for collaboration.

Remember that building relationships and partnerships with local film professionals may take time and effort, but collaborating with these individuals and organizations can greatly benefit your film screening events.

Search for films in the public domain or with a Creative Commons license, which can be screened without acquiring PPR. Websites like the Internet Archive ( and Vimeo offer such content.

Here's a list of websites where you can find public domain films or films with a Creative Commons license that can be screened without acquiring PPR:

Internet Archive (

Vimeo Creative Commons (

Public Domain Movies (

Open Culture (

YouTube ( - Search for public domain films or Creative Commons-licensed content using the filters in the search results.

The Public Domain Review (

FedFlix ( - A collection of U.S. government-produced films on various topics.

National Film Board of Canada ( - A collection of Canadian films, including some in the public domain or with Creative Commons licenses.

Prelinger Archives ( - A collection of ephemeral films, including advertising, educational, and industrial movies.

DPLA - Digital Public Library of America ( - Search for films and videos in the public domain or with Creative Commons licenses from various American libraries and archives.

Wikimedia Commons ( - A media file repository with public domain and Creative Commons-licensed videos.

Please note that the availability and licensing of films on these websites may vary. It is essential to verify the copyright status and licensing terms for each film before screening it publicly.

Setting up the Screening Room

  • Choose a room with minimal ambient light and enough space for seating.
  • Set up a projector or large-screen TV with appropriate audio equipment (speakers and microphones).
  • Arrange chairs or cushions for comfortable seating, with good sightlines to the screen.
  • Provide refreshments, if allowed, to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Facilitating Discussions

  • To be well-prepared, research the film's background, director, and subject matter beforehand.
  • Develop open-ended questions to encourage conversation and debate.
  • Be prepared to moderate the discussion, ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak and that the conversation remains respectful.

Event Checklist

  • Obtain PPR or verify the film's license.
  • Test audiovisual equipment in advance.
  • Print promotional materials (posters, handouts) and discussion guides.
  • Set up chairs, refreshments, and any additional materials needed for the event.
  • Designate a staff member or volunteer to assist with logistics and troubleshooting.

Promoting Your Event

  • Create eye-catching posters and handouts to display in the library and distribute to local community centers, schools, or businesses.
  • Use social media platforms to share event details and generate interest.
  • Send press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, or community websites.
  • Partner with local organizations, book clubs, or educational institutions to co-host or promote the event.


You can create engaging film screenings and discussions at your library by following these steps. Selecting appropriate films, setting up a welcoming environment, and facilitating meaningful conversations will help you educate and uniquely connect with your patrons.

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