A party in which guests contribute a favorite short clip from a movie, which are then screened in a random order, creating a collaborative That's Entertainment potluck of cinema history.
The format works for parties both where the guests don't know each other or know each other well, as movie clips can serve as icebreakers for conversation. Cinephiles and casual movie fans alike can play, and the party can be as elaborate as a trivia contest (Guess the movie/guess the actor) or as simple as a random screening of fun scenes.
Tips for success
1. Set up rules.
For clip eligibility: It could be as broad as "Must have been from a theatrically released film."
You can, however, make a theme party, by limiting clips to a genre of film (sci-fi night, film noir night), particular image (must contain a monkey, or explosion), or type of scene (scene without words, scene featuring special effects). Also, set up content limits if you think that's appropriate (e.g., you might exclude slasher movies if you know that your crowd is mostly a Disney type). Let your guests know which formats you're equipped to handle: DVD, VHS, Laserdisc, PAL, etc.
Time limits: This is not a marathon film watching event. Depending on the number of people who will be at the party, a 3 minute time limit per clip usually works. With a small crowd, 5 minutes works too (but 5 minutes can seem endless for a bad clip).
Number of clips per person: This will depend on the number of people you plan to invite, and their tolerance for watching videos. E.g. 10 people X 3 minute clips = 30 minutes of total video if each guest brings one clip, or 60 minutes if each brings two.
2. Preparing for the party.
Host: Position your movie players so that whoever is inserting their DVD or videotape does not block sightlines of your guests. If rotating your machine does not produce the desired result, invest in a set of extra cables to move the players farther away from the viewing monitor. You'll also need pencil and paper handy, if you're using a projectionist (see below).
Guests: Ask your guests to cue up their VHS tape to the start of the clip before coming to the party, or for DVDs, note the minute and second the clip starts.
3. Party Etiquette.
Projectionist: People can take turns showing their clips, but you can add to the fun and excitement of randomness and anonymity by having one person be the projectionist, who randomly chooses the next clip to be shown and runs the movie players. In this case, when guests arrive with their film, they should write down the moment that the clip should stop (so they don't have to shout out "Stop!").
Advisory warnings: Ask your guests if their clip comes with any warnings.
With an open theme, surprises abound. One host felt her party effectively ruined when an a succession of mostly romantic comedy clips was interrupted by a particularly gruesome scene from Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Another party went better when the parents of the 4 year old who brought his favorite scene from Toy Story were able, thanks to a warning, shuttle the tyke out of the room for the chainsaw fight sequence from Royal Warriors. Solution: The post-it note or memo that includes the stopping point, should also include any advisories for violence, profanity, sex, or particulary bad acting. This doesn't have to spoil the trivia contest, if you're playing that way: the projectionist might announce, "Okay, this one has gore, cannibalism, and nudity," or "Warning: Jerry Lewis alert," allowing the squeamish to leave the room.
Courtesy. Shut your mouth while the film is on. In addition to the distraction of noise, if you're trying to guess the film, hearing someone guess the title before you is annoying. Talk between clips. Hosts: schedule breaks every 45 minutes or so to have guest stretch their legs, get snacks, and talk.
4. More fun.
Serve popcorn, Junior Mints, or whatever the traditional movie going refreshment is in your culture.
Have the audience vote on a favorite clip, and award the person who brought it a small prize.
Choosing a movie clip
To start, choose a favorite movie, and see if one particular scene stands alone (Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Can you understand what's going on without seeing the rest of the movie?). Think of a favorite actor, and rent a few of their films to find a memorable moment. Also, think of the worst movies you've ever seen. A good 3 minute scene doesn't have to come from a great movie. Some terrible movies improve when served up in small doses. Comedies and musical
s both work well for these parties, as they have built-in small performances. Drama
s are more difficult, because of the time needed to set up character motivations, but can be worth the challenge. The Web can provide suggestions too, as the American Film Institute
(www.afi.com) and Greatest Films (http://www.filmsite.org/scenes.html) both have lists of classic films and classic scenes.
I've been lucky enough to attend several successful clip parties over the years, where the crowd of movie buffs has included animators, independent filmmakers, a New York film critic, and a rep house theatre programmer, in addition to the usual assortment of graphic designers, paralegals, copy editors, and product managers. The assortment of guests made for a delightful variety of film: Westerns, movie musicals, science fiction, world cinema, silent films, comedies, Oscar winners, cult classics. Some were chosen for cinematography, some for performances, some for a great sight gag, some for astonishing opening credits (and some just for a gross-out factor). In each case, I went home with a list of films, old and new, that I added to my list of "must see" movies.
For more ideas of film clips and more formal rules, consult the following:
Ereneta, Chris. Chris E's Movie Clip Party. 1998-2002. <http://www.movieclipparty.com/> (May 1, 2012)