Florence Film Society aims to cultivate community through new film series

From SCnow.com

Article and photo by Deborah Swearingen

Florence Film Society

Tim Streit, left, and Andrew Bates began the Florence Film Society in 2013 as a way to connect with other area film lovers and promote art.

FLORENCE, S.C. – Nearly three years ago, Tim Streit and Andrew Bates set out on a mission to cultivate an artistic community for film lovers through the Florence Film Society.

“We see a big opportunity to fill a void here in this city. You’ve got to travel 60 miles in any direction to find an art house cinema. We want to create that environment and culture here, places like the Nickelodeon (in Columbia), places like the Terrace Theater in Charleston,” Bates said.

To further its mission, the Florence Film Society is now hosting a quarterly art house film series in conjunction with the Florence County Museum and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance.

The first screening will be held March 26 in the Waters Building in downtown Florence.

Called “The Other Brother,” the documentary was directed by Kristy Higby and produced by Mark E. Flowers, both North Carolinians. It tells the story of two estranged brothers at very different spectrums in the art world.

“It’s really a wonderful look at sibling estrangement and what’s really beneath all of that. (It’s) a really well-told story,” Bates said.

The documentary has a run time of 71 minutes and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with both the director and the producer of the film.

The society previously held monthly screenings at Lula’s Coffee Co. in Florence, and Bates and Streit agreed that they could not have done it without the guidance and support from the coffee shop.

“It just developed into this very symbiotic relationship where they spent so much time pouring into us and cheering us on, helping us, to succeed in this town,” Bates said. “We kind of feel really extreme gratitude to Lula’s and their staff for being so generous with their resources.”

But Bates and Streit see the new partnership with downtown organizations as a way to connect with the greater Florence artistic community.

“We’re kind of trying to look for those sources where we can plug in and get involved with like-minded people and extend that influence,” Streit said.

The society’s co-founders agreed that they hope to build a community and foster education about film and art house cinema.

And ultimately, they would love to open an art house cinema in Florence.

When Streit discovered that the Nickelodeon Theatre in Columbia began as the Columbia Film Society, he said he felt hopeful that something similar could one day flourish in Florence.

Both Bates and Streit lived elsewhere for college but felt called to come back to Florence to enhance the city they grew up in and play an active role in its revitalization.

“It is what you make it, so we took that philosophy with the film society,” Bates said. “Like, we could keep going to Columbia and experiencing what’s already there or we could build something here.”

Most important, though, they want to encourage open-mindedness because independently produced films are not going to attract everyone.

But, Streit said, it’s important to give it a chance and remember that there’s always something new to discover.

“Even if you’re not a film buff or a film nerd, I always find that if you pay attention, there’s something in the movie that might strike you,” he said. “And it might not even be what the filmmaker intended, which, I guess, is the beauty of art, you know.”

Thinking about films opens up different conversation doors than other art forms, Bates said.

“It forces you to think, and I think in our culture and society today it’s so important to think for yourself,” he said. “And if you’re influenced by film that makes you think in a different way than you did before, maybe, it opens your mind to a different way of living.”

Saturday’s screening begins at 7:30 p.m. in the main room of the Waters Building on South Dargan Street. Admission is free and open to the public.

The other films being screened in the series are “Slow West,” “The Seventh Seal” and “The Great Dictator.”

For more information, email flofilmsociety@gmail.com, visit www.florencefilmsociety.com or search for the Florence Film Society on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.