The Celluloid Experience

by Heidi Dorman on November 1, 2008

Originally published in the Vancouver Actor’s Guide December 2005 newsletter.

The Celluloid Social Club is exactly what the name implies –except that the films are now in digital format, negating the celluloid aspect. However, if you take the figurative roots of the name, it really is about people who love films getting together to socialize, watch films, and discuss their passion.

Not to discredit the work of the films that are viewed, but the social aspect is just as important as the films in an evening with the Celluloid Social Club. It is a chance for industry professionals, aspiring filmmakers, actors, and film buffs to connect. And that is precisely the goal of Paul Armstrong, the Celluloid Social Club’s founder and producer.

Armstrong says he measures the success of each event not only by people’s reactions to the films, or the growing numbers that attend each evening, but by the ripple effects in the film community that can result from a Celluloid Social Club evening. Armstrong has seen the club act as a catalyst from which other projects emerge. “I like to watch what can happen when people meet and share their passion,” says Armstrong.

Armstrong started the Club in 1996 while working at the Vancouver Film School, as a way to showcase his film students’ work. As the students grew into filmmakers in their own right, Armstrong saw the need for a vehicle to showcase their work and started including “indies” before the term even really existed in the mainstream.

There are no themes in the choice of films for the evening. Originally, Armstrong did try to pick films with some sort of thread; however, he claims, “Ironically, despite the large increase in films available to choose from, it is more difficult to find films worth screening.” Armstrong showcases the best of local filmmakers, as well as works from film festivals around North America to round out the mix.

The Celluloid Social Club has weathered many changes in the industry and technology, yet it still maintains the “underground” feeling it had when it began. Located on the upper floor of the Anza Club just west of Main Street, one might walk by the entrance door without knowing it was there.

While the majority of the crowd are regulars who seem fairly familiar with the scene, first time visitors to the Club find it is an approachable introduction to the world of short indie films. Ken Hegan is a delight as the emcee. He brings humour to every Q&A session with the filmmakers after the films; whether he is commending the fonts used in the credits of the film or finding positive aspects of child torture in a film, Hegan manages to make every film seem accessible to the audience.

If you have a short film that just needs an audience, or are craving the company of fellow short independent film lovers, The Celluloid Social Club may be the place for you. Paul Armstrong is always looking for fresh new work and larger viewing audiences, so don’t hold back. Check out the website for more information.

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