“They stay to read the credits,” commented John Leyman, Chair of the New York SAG-AFTRA/WGAE Film Society. While that comment might not mean much to most people, if you are an actor you know exactly what it means.
That phrase alone speaks volumes. When did you last attend a movie where the people actually read all the credits at the end of the film? Yet, when it comes to actors, that’s exactly what they do.
And it’s also one of the perks provided by being a member of the Film Society. You can read the credits without having the theatre empty out while you are attempting to dodge bodies departing like birds heading south in the winter.
While most SAG-AFTRA members and aspiring members recognize that being part of the union not only gives them a better pay scale but also protection from being mistreated, not everyone knows about what else the union offers them. In fact, the organization also has a lot of perks and one of those is the Film Society.
Now it its 37th year, the new season began at the beginning of September and runs through the end of August 2015. So, if you are a member of SAG-AFTRA, now is a great time to sign up.
To join the Film Society all you do is sign up and pay. The only criteria is that you must be a paid up SAG-AFTRA member in good standing. New Film Society members pay $140 and renewing members are $130.
It’s what you get for that money that really makes this a home run.
For SAG-AFTRA NY members, every other Monday and Tuesday one new film is released each day and screened at the Directors Guild Theatre, a state of the art theatre located at 110 East 57th – between 6th and 7th. This location has been where the screenings have been housed for the past 20 years. The theatre seats 420 people, and very often at least half or more of those seats are filled (actually it averages out to about 280 people per screening from the 2500 members in the Film Society.)
There generally are four screenings a day (you can choose just one), which gives members a chance to work it around their own personal schedule. The films offered cover the gamut of newly released to foreign films and best bets.
“In New York, we offer first run films either before they come out or just as they come out to the members of the Film Society,” explained John. “We guarantee 24 films for the year but on average we provide between 48 and 54. We do one film a day, four times a month; generally first and third Monday and Tuesday of the month.”
While that alone makes it worth it, what’s even better is that you’re allowed to bring one guest. So, if you took advantage of every film with a guest in the end it would cost you about $1.50 per film. That, of course, is if you live in Manhattan. If you don’t it may not be as cost-effective but still worth the investment.
“What’s good about this opportunity is not just the price,” commented John, “but also the fact that you get the combination of new and smaller films that you might not have chosen to see but were glad you did.”
“We try and provide a wide range of films and sometimes they include blockbusters. Summer is more about the big summer films,” continued John.
“Fall is more about what is being nominated and for the last 12 years we have had every single nominated film or performance with one exception. “
That exception was that “12 Years a Slave” was replaced with “Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.” And that was because the members were being mailed a DVD of “12 Years a Slave.” Over its 37 years, the Film Society has shown films with every nominated actor or best picture.
When John was asked about the feedback he gets from members he was quick to comment, “They love it; the price, the atmosphere, you are seeing it with other professionals, other people that appreciate the art.” And that’s also when he added, “And they stay to read the credits.”
While the theatre doesn’t allow food, in a way that gives everyone the opportunity to focus on the feature rather than being distracted by munching neighbors. “Nowadays you can’t go to a movie theatre without the constant texting, talking and munching while the film is going on,” John remarked. “This gives our members a chance to focus and not be distracted by the environment. They appreciate that.”
John recalled a recent experience he had at a regular screening. A person in the row in front of him was texting during the entire film. He knew because the lighted screen was popping up every few minutes. But worse was the fact that immediately after that text, another screen lit up four rows in front of that one. So, obviously these two people were communicating with each other throughout the entire film. Now, that can be annoying, but that won’t happen at a Film Society screening.
“We have rules that prevent that,” John explained. “Our rules say that you can’t have any food or drink, no computers out, no phones out. If you must talk on the phone we ask that you take it outside and don’t answer in the theatre.”
So, the bottom line is that the Film Society is geared towards the SAG-AFTRA members. “It’s a sense of being in a special theatre just for you, so it makes you feel special. It also encourages our members to get out and go to the theatre. They can meet up with their friends and go to dinner afterwards. Or for our members who have 9-5 jobs they can catch the late film,” John concluded.
So, SAG-AFTRA members, there you go and if you haven’t taken advantage of this perk yet, now is a perfect time to join. All you have to do is log onto the film society part of the web site and you’ll be walked through how to sign up.
If you want more information about SAG-AFTRA and some of its other perks go to: SAG-AFTRA.