Sheffield Uncovered

Magic Lantern Film Club – a cinematic experience

From School Hall to Cinematic Venues, co-founder of Magic Lantern Film club, Mel, has turned her zeal for film into an underground, under the radar film experience that sets up screenings in quirky venues around Sheffield.

A Unique Experience

Two years ago Mel and her previous co-founder began with small screenings in a dusty old hall before the club were offered a small projector – and ran with it.

“The idea seemed to be a goer and somebody offered us a projector and we said, yes please! It was all very serendipitous.”

Ex-film maker Mel now runs the club with fellow film and art enthusiasts Alison and Jenny; together they source free venues where the films of choice can be screened.  “We wanted an intimate and friendly experience informal idea that felt atmospheric rather than just go to the movies, have you popcorn watch the film and wonder out.

We try to throw in games and discussions to get people talking as well. It’s all about a memorable experience.”

The Club has hosted screenings in a range of venues from intimate bars to cycle repair yards, and although the club is free those wanting to ensure a seat at more popular screenings pay an extra £5 a year. With regards to permission for screening the films, the club have a license, “We wanted to be under the radar but we still wanted people to come, but we knew it would have to be legal if we did this.”

Beg, Borrow, Steel

So how exactly do they afford all the equipment they need?

“Well along the way we have begged and borrowed what equipment we can. We have had some kind donations and managed to buy some stuff ourselves with small bits of funding.”

Mel explained how the club is now expanding into other areas of the Sheffield community, and having already put on children’s summer film screenings they want to expand into screenings in care homes.

However, such a commitment to the film community must transcend from a really dedication to film and all things arty. “It started off small” explains Mel. “At University I hung around with the arty kids and one day someone offered me and a friend a super 8 camera and that was it. Next stop film School. There was none of this technical stuff that we have now though.”

A Great Place to meet somebody…

“Our screenings have become better places to meet someone than online dating.”

Mel explains how the relaxed atmosphere has led to blossoming relationships.  “It’s not threatening because you’re going to watch a film, so it’s not like you have to do dinner or speed dating your all there for the same reason.  It brings people together in ways you wouldn’t think.”

So, surely being a mobile club has led to some mishaps? “Oh, you wouldn’t believe. We were showing Alien in and old warehouse once and it was freezing. The portable heaters tripped the electrics so we had to choose between heaters or film. Of course we chose film, as we sat there shivering!”

“One time we were showing in a closed down Argos. Of course we had one person after another try and come in thinking the shop had re-opened. One woman insisted she wanted to come in and buy something. That was a funny memory.”

Magic Lantern took inspiration from companies such as Secret Cinema who put on experiential film nights, and now want to expand into collaborations with film festivals, “We have a few big names interested in collaborations. We offer a grass roots element to collaborations and are flexible.”

Film buffs take note; if you’re bored of stale popcorn, dull cinemas and rustling sweet packets ruining you film, then you might just want to head down to a Magic Lantern Screening.  You’ll feel like you’re in the movies, literally.