Planning and Presenting A Video Screening With Discussion


National Video Resources (NVR) has developed and provided the materials you'll need to host a screening: the videotapes (in some cases DVDs), the essays (to be downloaded from the NVR Web site and photocopied for participants) and publicity materials. You will identify your audience, choose which videos your library will screen, set up the meeting space and equipment to screen the videos, engage a discussion moderator, and publicize the screening(s).

Planning helps you define what constitutes success for your project and what steps are necessary to achieve this success. Planning will answer the questions:

  1. What is the purpose of hosting the screening(s) in your library?

  2. What audiences do you want to reach?

  3. How will you go about reaching your goals?

Public discussion programs are partnerships and everyone has an important role to play. You as the coordinator will keep everything running smoothly so that the participants can do their job, which is to give thoughtful consideration to the ideas and information that they are discussing.

Steps to follow in your planning:

1. Determine the need and interest.

Why would you want to host screenings like this in your community? Are your patrons and other members of your community interested in the project topics? Are they interested in film? What facts support your answers? How does this program fit your library's mission?

2. Determine the goal of your series.

What do you want to accomplish? How will you define a successful series (by the size of the audience? the level of participation? what else?) What will people gain from participating?

3. Define your target audience.

Who do you want to come to the program, and how does this meet your library's mission? What groups of people or organizations would have an interest in this program? Why? How can you reach them?

4. Recruit community partners. Why bother?

The Human Rights Video Series urges partnerships between libraries and advocacy groups in their programming initiatives. Partnerships require an investment of time and effort. You do have to recruit, work with, and meet with partners-you're building lasting relationships that have long-term benefits

for both of you beyond this one program. Even if you never work with this particular partner again you will have learned something about partnering, its benefits, and its pitfalls.

5. Select the day/date/time for your series.

When is the best time for your target audience to come to programs? Consider the following:

  • An evening program may not be attractive to people who do not drive after dark or for whom transportation is not easily available.

  • Daytime programs during the week will eliminate many working people from your audience.

  • Weekend programs (Saturday midday or Sunday afternoon) are good choices for people who work during the day and others who don't drive after dark. (On Sunday afternoons in small towns, people have been to church, had lunch, are still dressed up, and are looking for some place to go!)

  • Be sure that the day of the week you choose does not conflict with some community activity that may affect your audience.

6. Prepare the budget.

What are the direct costs (videos, books, printing, postage, rental of AV equipment, moderator's honorarium and travel, etc.) and indirect costs (staff time, photocopying, use of the meeting room, etc.)? What funds are available and where can you get additional funds? Consider these resources for additional funds:

  • the library's budget,

  • local sponsors/partners, and

  • Friends of the Library

7. Evaluate the project-and plan ahead about how you'll do this.

How will you know whether or not you have met your goals? What information will tell you this? Who will do the evaluating-one group or everyone involved (i.e., the moderator, librarians, community partners or the participants)? How will you use this evaluation?

What You Need To Host A Series

Here's more of what you need for a series: materials, audio-visual equipment, staff support, meeting space, and an audience.

1. Materials

The success of a discussion program depends on participants having the common experience of reading the same material, viewing the same film, hearing the same moderator, and bringing their individual experience to this reading/viewing/discussion program to provide lively discourse, which is the focus of the program.

  • Videos. Most of the films in the Human Rights Video Project collection will be made available to libraries on ½" VHS videocassettes. One of the films is available on DVD (the Media That Matters Film Festival DVD.)

  • Essays. Brief essays written by project advisors, interviews with the filmmakers, and additional resources lists provide context for the programs. These can be downloaded from the NVR Web site ( and photocopied for participants.

  • Graphics. Logos, downloadable from the NVR Web site, are handy for promoting the series. Use them when designing press releases, flyers, bookmarks, and public service announcements. They are designed to be easily adapted for local use. (See the Promotional Guide for more information.)

  • Additional Books and Videos. Some libraries may wish to add a reading component to the series. Books, videos, and audiocassettes that might be of interest to participants should be on a book truck or table in the meeting room so that they can be checked out at the program, while the interest is fresh. Handing out a bibliography is helpful, but the vastness of some library collections can be overwhelming to patrons. Selecting a few library materials to have on hand makes additional exploration seem much more manageable. Reserve these materials for program participants for the duration of your series.

2. Audio-Visual Equipment

You will need the following for a satisfactory viewing experience for your audience:

  • a ½ " VHS videocassette player, OR in some cases a DVD player.

  • a video projection system or television monitors (2 minimum), and

  • an external sound system.

If your library doesn't already own what you need, perhaps your friends, school district, or community partners will provide the equipment or provide funding to rent equipment.

3. Staff Support

Be sure that your staff knows about the screening(s) and how it works so that inquiries are handled efficiently. Many patrons have contact only with the staff members at the circulation desk, so it's critical that these people know how to answer questions about the screening(s).

4. Meeting Space and Audience

Also see the "Guidelines for Public Screenings" below.

  • Talk the screening(s) up within the library. Staff can make a big difference in generating patron interest!

  • Use a registration form. Registering for the screening(s) helps people make a commitment to attend and lets you know how many are coming. Keep the forms in a prominent place so that staff and patrons will be aware of them. Forms can be kept in a three-ring binder for easy access.

  • Remind them. Phone participants the day before the programs to remind them. Friends of the Library are a great resource for making these reminder calls.

  • In the Promotion section you will find extensive suggestions for promoting and publicizing a discussion screening. Series-specific suggestions are included in the Program Guide.

5. Materials to have at the programs

  • Sign-In Sheets and Nametags. Provide these at each session. The sign-in sheet gives you an accurate count and information on who attended the programs. Nametags are helpful for moderators as well as participants (and librarians). Refreshments. Coffee/cold drinks/cookies are a nice touch and a natural for the Friends of the Library to handle.

  • Evaluation Forms. You need participant feedback about the series. What worked well? What would they like to see changed in a future program? Did they borrow library materials for further reading/viewing?

  • Additional videos and books that might be of interest to participants. Put these on a table so that they're accessible to participants as they enter and leave the meeting room.

6. Ancillary Programs

Most libraries find that a series is greatly enhanced by offering additional programs and activities. These can include exhibits, lectures, live performances, or presentations by local experts. You might have a "special" program as a kickoff to the screening or series of screenings. Perhaps you'll want to create an oral history project in conjunction with the program. The series also will be an opportunity to promote your library's book, video, and audio collections.

Guidelines For Public Screenings

The use of video in public programming offers opportunities and challenges to both the library programmer and to the moderator. Here are some questions that planners should consider in designing their screening(s):

  • What strategies will the local programmer use to make certain that everything goes smoothly with the showing of the video(s)? (See tips on using video below.)

  • Does the library want to make the videos in the collection available for viewing by participants at times other than during the screening(s)-either in the library or at home? If so, what are the implications for planning? One way to achieve this is to set up a reserve system so participants can view the videos at the library or can borrow them for overnight use. If funds permit, you might purchase an additional set of videos.

  • How will the moderator integrate the video content into an overall program; that is, how will the moderator build on and expand the content to achieve the goals of the screening(s)?

Tips for Local Program Planners on How to Use Video

Using video as part of a program is relatively simple, and listed below are some basics on preparing the meeting room setting up equipment for a program. One major factor that is not a concern in reading and discussion programs will affect planning for a screening: attendance may have to be limited to ensure that all participants will be able to view and discuss the video comfortably. This will affect registration procedures and overall planning.

Listed below are some tips for screening video(s) at your program. Whether using (1) television monitors or a video projection system, always cue up a videocassette in advance. Put it in the VCR and run it past the color bars and FBI warnings so that the video begins with the start of the film credits. (This is not an issue with DVD.)

If you use a monitor:

  • When possible, place a television monitor on each side of the room for comfortable viewing. (Cables can easily connect two monitors to one videocassette player.)

  • Place each monitor on a stand high enough to be seen easily by people sitting at the back of the audience.

  • If using only one monitor, place it at a slight angle to the audience rather than squarely in front. It makes viewing easier.

  • Dim the lights in the room if possible. If you must choose between the lights being completely on or off, turn them off.

  • Adjust the angle of the television screen so that no light is reflected.

  • Make sure the room has a built-in sound system or arrange for external speakers.

  • Do not try to accommodate more than 30 people with one or two monitors. If there are more than 30 people it is best to add monitors halfway back in the room or to use a video projection system.

If you use a video projection system:

  • Place the screen high enough for easy viewing from all parts of the room.

  • Arrange seating so that latecomers don't have to walk in front of the projector to be seated.

  • If possible, use a video projection system in a room that can be darkened completely.

  • Make sure the room has a built-in sound system or arrange for external speakers for the projection system.

All of the videos recommended for screening(s) as part of this project have been cleared for public performance. The Human rights Video Series is designed so that programming can include one video, a selected set of videos or all 12 videos in the series.



Human Rights Video Project is presented by National Video Resources
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Page last updated on April 2009. Comments or suggestions please email