Atlantic City film society links local movie lovers together
Theresa Hawkins, coordinator of the Atlantic City Free Public Library Film Society, stands by the rack of films recommended by the society on display at the library, Monday August 10 2015. The Atlantic City Free Public Library Film Society celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
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Posted: Friday, August 21, 2015 7:00 am
VINCENT JACKSON Staff Writer
Not every city the size of Atlantic City has an active film society. But then, not every city has Theresa Hawkins.
It was nine years ago that Hawkins, who works at the Atlantic City Free Public Library, noticed that the most popular libray items with the public seemed to be DVD rentals.
Hawkins saw a void. And, because she has a degree in film production from Hunter College in New York, she had the skills to fill it. The library had no continuing programs for adults, so Hawkins started the Atlantic City Free Public Library's Film Society. At the time, it was believed to be the first film society in this state run by a library.
Since then, Hawkins has shown more than 100 movies. The films are shown on Saturday afternoons and then discussed in a Monday-evening classroom session. But she's just scratched the surface.
"There are so many films to show, so many classes to teach, so many subjects to teach things about. I have a list of future topics that runs two pages long," Hawkins said.
Hawkins, whose title is film society coordinator, has shown movies and taught classes dealing with such subjects as neorealist cinema, Soviet cinema, film noir, film criticism, film remakes, French New Wave, film language and structure, directors Ernst Lubitsch and Stanley Kubrick, film editing, costume design, storyboards, voice-over narration and theme, story and plot.
"I knew it would be a success before I even started it," Hawkins said. "We had so much programming at the time for all ages, except for your regular average adult."
Hawkins usually picks films that are not in the library's collection. She orders a new copy, and after it is screened, the DVD joins the film society's rack of movies on the library's first floor and receives a sticker that indicates it was a film society selection.
The library's website - acfpl.org - lists the movies screened and the lessons taught. There also is a separate list of books and DVDs about specific actors, films and filmmakers studied by the society.
Like other members of film society, Hawkins is still learning. Sometimes, when she's researching by rewatching a film she thought highly of, she'll find that she lowers her assessment of it and realizes she can't teach anything from it.
The film society works because Hawkins takes time beyond her official library work hours to watch and research films. But she gives the credit to the society's members.
"I really have to commend the members because without them coming every month, there would be no reason to have the program. The core members are not just the ones that have been with me since day one, but also the ones that have been loyally coming month after month after month and really, truly enjoy it," Hawkins said. "I'm humbled and flattered by the words they say to me. I get thank you cards. Just hearing someone say, 'I look at movies differently now because of coming to this program,' that's just a wonderful feeling.'"
City resident Doug Collins, 72, has been a film society member from the beginning. Collins said he has already seen 80 percent of the movies shown, but he keeps coming back because he will learn something new about a film.
"I have a son who lives in Rochester, N.Y., who would be in seventh heaven if there was a film society in Rochester. He is awed by the fact that we have it," Collins said.
"It's a blessing. I think of Theresa as a movie angel because she created this in Atlantic City. It's not just that we have casinos. We now have the film society. It's like an oasis in America that we have a film society. There are not many places places in America that have it."
In the beginning, film society membership was sporadic because people didn't understand that it was a commitment, Hawkins said. The regulars now number around 30 people. From this month until the end of this year, a recruitment drive will be held to bring new blood to the society, Hawkins said.
"People always say something during the discussion that I have never thought of before. I tell them I learn as much from them as they learn from me. It sounds cliche, but it's the God's honest truth because everybody is seeing things from their own perspective, coming with their own history, and they will say something about a film, and you will stop and think, 'Oh yeah, that's actually a good point,'" said Hawkins.
The next film that will be shown is "Wings" from 1927 in the first part of a two-part discussion of Academy Award movies.
A film society flourishes in Atlantic City
© 2015 Press of Atlantic City. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The following is a list of classes taught at the ACFPL Film Society.
The Atlantic City Film Society celebrates its seventh anniversary
The Film Society celebrated its 7th anniversary on July 15, 2013. The Press of Atlantic City covered the event and wrote an article<"Since 2006, the group has met one Saturday afternoon a month to view and discuss a film, reconvening the following Monday for a classroom lesson on the film taught by group coordinator and Senior Library Assistant Theresa Hawkins, who founded the Film Society. The group will watch "Monsieur Verdoux," a lesser-known Charlie Chaplin film, at 1 p.m. Aug. 10 and will discuss it at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12.The Film Society celebrated its seventh anniversary with a party July 15, with about 15 members of the group turning out for snacks, trivia and the chance to reminisce about the films they've watched together over the years. Many of those attending were, like Johnson, founding members, and they said one thing has kept them coming back, month after month - Hawkin
If you have a passion for discussing and learning about films, we invite you to join the Atlantic City Free Public Library Film Society. Membership is free and open to current Library cardholders in good standing, who are 18 years of age and older. Monthly screenings and discussions will be held on Saturday afternoons, and monthly tutorial classes on filmmaking and film history will be held on Monday evenings.
Since films of all genres and ratings will be shown, the Film Society is open to adults only and member discretion is advised. Each film's rating and running time will be posted prior to the screening on the Library website, flyers and other advertising. Snacks will be provided at screenings, and learning materials will be provided at tutorials. Information about the Film Society and each meeting will be provided on the Library's Official Website on the Film Society page.
- Membership in the Film Society is encouraged. To attend a meeting, you must be signed up prior to that day.
- Only current Film Society members can reserve seating to all meetings including special events.
- Attendees should arrive promptly for meetings.
- Use of cameras and video/audio recording devices is strictly prohibited.
- All cell phones and pagers must be turned off during meetings.
- Attendees are expected to be respectful of others during meetings.
- Due to limited seating, advanced registration is required for all meetings in which there is a special guest.
- Autographs and other requests for special guests will not be honored unless the guest has given permission prior to the meeting.
- All program topics and screenings are subject to change without prior notice.
- Attendees are expected to comply with all rules and guidelines of the Film Society and the policies of the Atlantic City Free Public Library.
If you would like to become a member of the Film Society, you may fill out the electronic membership form below or come into the Main Library and register there.