Start a film community on Meetup
The motivation for this experiment was two-fold. I wanted
- to get to know people with a different background
- to have people to talk to concerning the things I'm passionate about
Most of the people I interact with are people I know from work or work-related areas. I feel like I could benefit from people with a different background. I expected this could give me another perspective on my day-to-day life. I also wanted to spend more time with what I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about my work - but my passion is not limited to it. Exploring other paths sounded like a worthwhile endeavour.
The most obvious thing I came up with was Golf, which I was starting to play around that time. But I didn't want two experiments to get mixed up. Another thing I considered was starting a band - I played music regularly when I was a student and kind of missed it. But then I remembered I tried that in 2013, and it was really hard to find people who were committed and shared the same musical taste. So I wanted something with a low entry barrier.
In the end I decided to go for cinema: I'm a big fan of films, and previously made a point about not having a home cinema, but making actual local cinemas my home cinema. But still, I rarely watched a film on the big screen. So I wanted to start a group for film fans, with whom I could watch films and discuss them.
Meetup was instantly the platform I wanted to use for this experiment. I assumed it was free, but at $2 per month, I didn't hesitate to join. This turned out to be a great decision. Meetup makes it very easy to start a group, you only have to focus on the content, not the technical things. They also advertise your group to people in the area, which is invaluable - I started the group, Filmfreunde Bonn, on May 11th 2014 and after only a few days it had ten members.
The first meetup
I scheduled the first meetup for the end of May, and picked the latest Wes Anderson film "Grand Budapest Hotel". I was thrilled that four people signed up to join me - but in the end three canceled. But hey, at least I was not alone at the first meetup. And it was big fun, after the film we had a drink in the pub in the cinema, where we relaxed on a comfortable sofa, browsing a Wes Anderson coffee table book I brought.
The group grew quickly, and had about 20 members after a month. But still, only one person came to the meetups in June, July and August. I also hosted a meetup during the Bonn Silent Film Festival where, for the first time, eight people signed up, but still only one showed up. I had some doubts if this was the way things are with Meetup - last minute cancellations seemed to be the rule, not the exception. I was hoping it was due to the summer slump, there were not many great films out and people were rather doing outdoors stuff than sitting in the dark. I had to be patient.
(Silent Film Festival Bonn, image by foerderverein-filmkultur.de)
The critical mass
From September on, things improved dramatically. After six months, the group has now 88 members, and seventeen different people have showed up at twelve meetups. The no-show rate is still about 50%, but for the last meetups at least 5 people showed up, which might already be an optimal size.
In general, the group is way more active now than before, I frequently get movie requests (so I get to see interesting movies I would otherwise have missed), and have promoted members to co-organizers. The discussions after the screening have always been very interesting, making film-watching a much richer experience.
I try to pick movie events that are special, in October we attended a screening of the classic "Days of Heaven" which featured a discussion panel afterwards, and in November we got to see "The Matrix" accompanied by the Beethovenorchestra! These were the events where most people attended.
I'm curious how the group will evolve if the member count keeps rising like this - size isn't everything.
During the last six months I got to know a lot of different people, and all of them were very friendly. Some have already become regulars, and we get along great. I like the mixture of expats and natives, I get to practice my english and broaden my horizon. I've also seen a lot of great films on the big screen, like "Grand Budapest Hotel", "Boyhood", "Night Moves", "Interstellar" or "Citizenfour". I also write short reviews of each film we see, and it's nice to see that people appreciate this. This experiment has been a total success, and will be continued indefinetely!
Whenever you're in Bonn, feel free to join Filmfreunde Bonn for a visit to the cinema!