The Criterion Collection

Capilano University student hosts community movie nights

Carlin Parkin // Contributor

Sean Sallis-Lyon is more than just your average Capilano University student. In his spare time, the third-year Communications student runs movie nights at the Mount Seymour United Church. The movie night crafter sat down to discuss his role in the community, along with his collection titled The Criterion Collection, while noting the importance of the eventful evenings.

How did it come about that you started holding movie nights at your church?

I began volunteering at the church a little over a year ago. From there they decided to actually hire me and have me on a little bit more, and from there I got to know the staff. What that essentially allowed me to do was to rent out [the space for] the event essentially for free, in exchange what I’d do is any proceeds, like voluntary donations, I’d just give back to the church. Now, obviously you don’t have to pay to get in, it’s just a “if you feel like donating” kind of thing, and you know, a lot of people do so that’s nice.

What’s the process for selecting a movie to screen at these nights?

As for the movies themselves, I make sure that they’re all from The Criterion Collection, and we usually have three movies to choose from. I select the three of them; I make sure that they’re all very diverse. I make sure that they’re all appropriate for the church and they also have to be interesting. Now what we use for voting is single transferrable vote, unlike the federal government, which is a fun little add-on that I think adds a neat little element to the movie night.

Can you explain what the Criterion Collection is and why you choose your movies from it?

The Criterion Collection is a collection by Janus Films of movies, as the name would imply, where they seek out really important [classic] and modern films, and they want to present them to movie aficionados. They are typically really important in that they include a lot more extra features that you wouldn’t normally see included. Their transfers are always from the film directly, not any of this secondary transfer kind of bullshit, you know?

The reason I got into it actually [is] with Laserdiscs. The very first Criterion Collection films were released on Laserdiscs and that’s where they actually pioneered the secondary audio tracks, like director’s commentaries, for the first time in the home, as well as widescreen for example, like letterboxing. They were the first to do that as well.

What’s your typical audience at these movie nights and how have they reacted to the films that you’ve screened?

The very first movie night we got a total of nine people and I was very happy with that turnout to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect and I was really glad that there was so much appreciation for it. However, what happened was through single transferable vote we ended up voting for Touki Bouki, a very important film from Senegal, that, though it is as I mentioned a very important film, I didn’t quite know that it would be church appropriate.

This taught me the lesson that I should always screen the movies beforehand. Within the first ten minutes we decide to turn it off because there was this huge bloody slaughter of a cow… suffice it to say we ended up watching Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be instead with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. That was a delight.

What made you want to start these movie nights?

I’ve always loved hosting small movie nights at my own house and I do have my own little home cinema thing, but that’s always been very limited not only in the amount of people I can have but what people are willing to watch. Most of the time when people come over for a movie night they’re really kind of interested in something mainstream, something just for fun, or something – worst case – to have on in the background. I really do like movies; I like watching them, I like watching very important ones, I like discussing them.

I’m not in the film program but this is something that I really am passionate about. Since starting work at the church I sort of came up with the idea that, “Hey, I’ve got access to this space…[I’ve got] these contacts right? Why not host a movie night here?” It sort of came out of that; everyone was very supportive of it.

The people from the church who I volunteer with, a number of them have come to the nights along with my friends and it’s really been a lot of fun. I’ve discovered from a lot of my friends who I didn’t even know were big movie buffs [that they’re] really into movies, and it’s really just worked out in the best possible way.

What does the future of these movie nights look like to you?

We are planning on moving to a slightly different venue, right now we’re just at the Mount Seymour United Church, but we are hopefully planning on moving maybe to the atrium [across the street] but that’s all to be determined. Essentially my focus right now is hopefully on improving the acoustics, though it is one hundred percent watchable and listenable right now, it’s a church, so it’s a little bit echo-y, so dialogue can sometimes be a little bit difficult to hear.

As for the actual movie nights themselves, we’re just looking to get more people, more involvement, more movie enthusiasts coming to them, and of course we always like to have the “cookies”, the talking about the movies, the after-movie discussion, that kind of thing. I’m just looking forward to more of that; just keep going forward.

Sallis-Lyon’s next movie night is Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at Mount Seymour United Church. Though donations are appreciated, they are not required and all are welcome.


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