“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
-- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
There was a time when I thought my love of weird, uncommon films was unique in my area. And then:
“Dude, you need to meet my friend Blake. He’s into those foreign movies you’re always talking about.”
Blake and I’s first conversation that Sunday morning probably consisted of about an hour chatting about The Dark Knight, Days of Heaven, and which Netflix subscription option we each found most beneficial. Needless to say, to paraphrase Bogie at the end of Casablanca, this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. During our very first hangout session (which happened to be while viewing the 2012 Oscars ceremony), we each commiserated over the fact that our city had nothing in the way of a local film scene - no screenings, no indie theatres, little support for hometown filmmakers. Months passed.
One day, while having coffee, one of us (who knows who said it first at this point) suggested starting a monthly film series - free screenings of movies that were hard to find or which most people probably hadn’t seen, with the eventual goal of having some sort of indie cinema in Florence. This was, of course, a simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking proposal - both of us were amateurs and neither had any idea how or where to begin on a project of the sort. Nervously, we decided “What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.”
Flash forward: cold calls to indie theatre professionals, local entrepreneurs, and supportive friends led to a series of meetings and advice sessions (we’re still thankful for all the folks who answered calls from amateur strangers with an idea), and in fall 2013, the Florence Film Society was born. Since its inception, FFS has held over 20 screenings. In the early days it was normal to have 15-30 viewers each time. These days it’s more like 50-80. What started with a simple suggestion between friends became an actual community.
But the numbers are are only part of what speaks to the larger point: that it is possible to turn what seems like a personal, mundane interest into a foundation upon which community can be built. It’s always nice to hear things like “I had no idea Florence had a group like this, I’ve been looking for a place to talk to other film lovers,” and it’s even better to see new relationships form over a common passion.
If I’ve learned one life lesson from this venture, it’s been the fact that the thought “Can I turn this into a legitimate thing? Why the hell not? Let’s give it a try” can often result in beautiful things happening. I spent too much of my own life not attempting to build anything out of my passions because I believed either A) no one else would care, or B) it would be too presumptive/arrogant of me to try. Ever since I recognized both A and B as false through my affiliation with the Film Society, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some stellar events, see local art produced and exhibited, and built lots of new relationships along the way. It’s freed me to apply that lesson to other areas of my life and encourage friends and acquaintances to do so, as well.
Which brings me to my point: Substitute the word “community” for the word “friendship” in the C.S. Lewis quotes above and you have my sentiment, condensed. Community is that intangible substance which binds us together and gives life a deeper meaning than just surviving from day to day. Don’t believe for one second that you are incapable of building and being a part of community in your own area and with your own passions - I believed that once, but it was a lie.
So don’t just sit at home and geek out over movies, politics, music, sports, art, books, or whatever might float your particular boat. Because I’m doing the math right now….. carry the 9, divide by 14, multiply by 8….. and yeah, chances are about 3.26 million to 0.999 that you aren’t the only one. Get out there and share. Start a club. Organize a meeting. Reach out to acquaintances or strangers who you think may share your interests. You’ll enrich your own life, and at the same time help others build relationships. And who knows, you may even leave a positive impact on your community that will outlast your own involvement.
What’s the worst that could happen?
To learn more about the Florence Film Society, reach out and connect in the following ways:
@flofilmsociety on Twitter
@florencefilmsociety on Instagram
or say hi at email@example.com
- Tim Streit