Club-Along Film Club
Warren Couvillion and Omar Hilario don’t need to warm up the crowd for the Tuesday night movie club, Club-Along. At least 50 people fill the seats of The Screen for the club’s showing of Sweeney Todd, the 2007 Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp. Theater rows fill up with cliques of varying sizes. Shouted conversations assault the ears before the emcees even begin their introduction.
Couvillion and Hilario look like they could be brothers, both sporting trendy black hipster glasses. They stand in front of the audience and run through the standard list of “don’ts” at The Screen: don’t have sex; don’t drink alcohol; don’t do drugs. Ironic groans spill forth from the crowd. At the last moment, Couvillion adds, “Oh, and no masturbation.”
“But it’s Johnny Depp!” someone screams, earning approving laughter.
The club runners head to the projector booth to start the film. The houselights fade and the DreamWorks logo appears on screen, menacing organ music blasting out of The Screen’s speakers. Conversations continue at full volume, scattered throughout the theater. Though the voices die out as the opening credits roll, it is clear that Club-Along is unlike any other film club at SFUAD.
The original concept for the Club-Along centered on quoting favorite lines along with the movie, but it dawned on Couvillion that sing-alongs might be more popular. Every other film club prohibits audience members from singing along, so that everyone can hear the movie. “I jokingly say I started the club to spite the other club runners,” Couvillion says. “The first club I ever went to here showed The Lion King and I wasn’t allowed to sing ‘Hakuna Matata.’”
When the WTF Film Club played Mulan at the beginning of the school year, students received the standard warning against singing along with the movie. Some students sang anyway. “That was the moment I realized our club might actually be popular,” Hilario says.
Film clubs typically stick around SFUAD until the club runners graduate. Couvillion and Hilario say the arrival of Film School almuna Charlotte Martinez as The Screen’s new manager opened up new possibilities. They approached Martinez at the beginning of the school year with their idea. Along with Simple Film Necessities, Club-Along is the second new film club established this year.
Is it annoying to sit in a crowd of strangers and hear them singing and quoting along with every line of the film? That may depend on one’s temperament. Studio Art major Hannah Gardner came to the Club-Along to see Sweeney Todd for the first time. “My friends laughed at me when I got here, because I didn’t know it was a sing-along,” Gardner says. “I’m pretty serious when it comes to watching movies. I normally don’t like people talking, but it could’ve been worse. There were no horrible singers.”
Yellow subtitles scroll at the bottom of the screen in case anyone forgets the words. As Johnny Depp and Jamie Campbell Bower sing the opening lines of “No Place Like London,” at least half the audience backs them up. The voices are remarkably in tune. More than a few Musical Theatre majors attend the Club-Along. It’s like sitting in the midst of a choir.
Those singing have obviously listened to the motion picture soundtrack ad infinitum as they speak in unison with the dialogue that precedes the songs. They gasp along with Helena Bonham Carter just before belting out the lyrics to “The Worst Pies in London.” When Johnny Depp extends his arm, his razor blade shining, the audience shouts out with him, “At last, my arm is complete again!” The voices are a scattered mess. Some have memorized the film dialogue, and others have committed the slight variations of the movie soundtrack to memory. Everyone giggles.
“It’s no secret that this club is the most lenient,” Hilario says.
“We do make sure that everyone respects each other and don’t just yell out, ‘dick,’ for no reason at all,” Couvillion adds.
Sometimes movie-goers think the club is their chance to try out their Mystery Science Theater 3000 routine, which is precisely the reason why most film clubs are so strict when it comes to talking. Three cast members of Sweeney Todd starred in the Harry Potter films, so there is no shortage of Professor Snape and Wormtail jokes. “Turn to page 394,” murmurs one member of the audience when Alan Rickman shows up in the film. Someone else cracks a joke about the enormous bulge in Rickman’s trousers. The occasional one-liner can be fun, but not always. At least one student provides running commentary, his jokes falling flat on the carpet of The Screen.
Nevertheless, the crowd enjoys the experience. Most of them knew what they were getting into when they stepped through the door. The crowd shouts, “Benjamin Barker!” along with Johnny Depp at the film’s climax. The movie comes to a close in an ocean of paint-red blood, and students exit the theater in a joyful mass.
“This is the smartest idea for a club that has come out of the Film School,” says Creative Writing major Anna Holland as she steps into the lobby. She says that while 10 p.m. is “really late to show a movie, the activity really keeps you awake.”
Freshman Lainagh Anderson says, “It was my first time seeing that movie in a theater. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Couvillion and Hilario declare the evening a success, having drawn their largest crowd since showing Grease at the beginning of the semester. In the coming weeks, the duo plans to screen Little Shop of Horrors and, just in time for Halloween, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Students can sing, quote, and generally let their hair down at the Club-Along Film Club every Tuesday night at 10 p.m.