Hosting a Film Screening

Last Updated: 10 May, 2021 | Provide Feedback


Screening films outside of the traditional classroom can supplement what instructors cover in their courses; but knowing where to begin and what steps to take to organize a screening might seem confusing and expensive. Here's a how-to for Mason faculty, students, and other members of our community on how to begin the process.

Planning a Film Screening

Start by reaching out to related classes, events, and colleagues. Having a partner right from the start will help you create a screening event that will benefit more campus groups, increase attendance, and possibly lower costs.

You will want to plan and budget for the following:

  • Type of event, such as an informal discussion following the screening, having a panel of experts debate the film, or just a film screening.
  • Number of people expected
  • Cost of the film, including public performance rights
  • How the film will be shown, for example: DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming. Consider if Events Production will be needed for playing the film, or for other equipment.
  • Guest speaker(s), if desired
  • Promotion of event
  • Refreshments


Here are just a few sources you can try:


  • Think about how many people you are expecting. For example, if you want to have breakout conversations after a screening, then consider a classroom.
  • Check the University's scheduling website, 25Live, for room availability.
  • Book equipment, e.g., DVD player, with Events Production.
  • Contact the Office of Events Management for help or advice.

Finding a Film

The University Libraries' Collection has over a thousand films with public performance rights (PPR). Search for a film in the catalog and look for public performance rights information in the notes field. If you don't see it, contact Media Services for assistance.

Here is an example from the library's catalog:

Sample PPR Note

Alternatively, authorized Mason users (Mason employees and/or students) can stream media from the Library Databases for public performance from DocuSeek2, Kanopy, and Films on Demand as long as the screening is not for commercial benefit. These streaming services can be found from the library homepage by navigating to Databases (link under the Quick Search box) and then to either the Film & Media Studies page, by Title, or by the Search Database Titles & Descriptions box on the right hand side of the screen.

Navigating databases screen

Promoting Your Film Screening

  • Submit an announcement to Around Mason at least a week before your screening.
  • Make sure you include a listing for Today@Mason Calendar when you submit your event to 25Live.
  • Flyers
  • Social media
  • Create an ad for Mason's video screens.
  • Ask other academic units or university groups to promote your screening.
  • Faculty: incorporate the screening into your course, e.g., requiring attendance, creating a learning objective, offering extra credit

Asking for Feedback on Your Film Screening

Follow-up with attendees immediately after your film screening. One way to do this is to simply leave surveys on each seat and collect them after the event.

Here is a survey used from a past film screening:

Film Screening Survey

More Information

Discussing Your Film Screening

Consider having a speaker introduce your film or lead a discussion following your film. A post-film discussion provides an opportunity to unpack powerful ideas shown in a film, build community, or start a dialogue that extends beyond the screening.

  • You can lead the discussion by creating questions based on your own viewing, and/or seeing if the film's website offers a discussion guide.
  • If you're not sure who can lead your film discussion, try asking a faculty person or another campus expert on your film's topic.
  • Make sure to build in the discussion time to your room booking. An introduction might take five minutes, but a discussion might take ten to twenty minutes.

Acquiring Public Performance Rights (PPR)

If you want to screen a film outside of any Mason classroom, you will need to make sure that you (e.g., Mason faculty, staff, student) have the right to publicly display the film, commonly called "Public Performance Rights" (PPR). Often that right costs an additional fee that can be $200 or more.

Showing a film "publicly" is defined in U.S. Copyright Law as:

  • "to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." (17 U.S.C. § 101)

So if you open up a free screening to the general public, or run a student film club, your event is classified as a public event.


This tutorial is based on:

Jenemann, L., and Petin, M. (2015, September). Outside of the Classroom: How to Show a Great Film at Mason! Poster presented at the Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Retrieved from

Get Help

Need help planning your film screening? Contact Heather Darnell for more help. If you have questions or need more help try Ask a Librarian or explore the subject guide for your discipline.

Creative Commons License Hosting a Film Screening by The Teaching & Learning Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.