A District Cinema Society Production: the newly revamped club combines community and filmmaking
The club takes a relaxed, fun approach to filmmaking
For American University’s District Cinema Society, making movies is just part of the package. When students join the club, they enter a community of film lovers and creators eager to share their passion and skills.
District Cinema Society is a filmmaking club at American University that focuses on movie production. Meetings entail a short film-making activity or workshops that hone specific skills like directing or cinematography.
All levels of experience are welcome, and members range from film majors and experienced filmmakers to people who have never participated in the creation of a movie.
“We have a lot of Kogod majors as well as [School of International Service] and [School of Public Affairs]. It’s a wide range, which I love because I think that’s the beauty of this club,” said Communications Chair Samara Slingbaum, a junior in the Kogod School of Business. “You get different perspectives and different levels of experience and get to teach people. It’s really an opportunity to learn.”
The club’s membership has greatly increased this semester, in large part due to AU’s club fair on the quad, the board said. The Society’s current board, consisting of four juniors, is excited about the diversity of interests.
“We have some really talented people in here, and we were so excited because, you know, everyone had a different view and a different story,” Skylar Aronson, the Society’s president and a junior in the School of Communication, said.
This semester, the team will host workshops, begin planning a series of short films and premier “The Experience Machine,” a feature film by Vice President Nolen Stevens, a junior in SOC, created with help of the Society. They finished filming for the movie in April and are editing it now. The fine cut of the movie, or nearly completed draft, will premier in early December.
“It’s about a girl who uses sci-fi magic that allows her to live whatever life she wants to,” Stevens said about the film. “She uses it to supplement her failing college social life, and realizes that’s not a good thing to do.”
The club used to focus on producing a new film each semester, but the board has created a fresh structure that aims to be more relaxed and give members more education in the process.
This entails asking members to submit scripts for three to five minute short films. The board will select a few of these, with production set to start in the spring semester.
“It’s low stakes, these three films, they’re really short,” Stevens said. “I don’t have to touch a camera and we can let three of the new people do cinematography and let people do those higher level positions that would usually take more experience.”
The club uses actors who come from AU and the surrounding area, usually volunteering their time to gain experience. Members of the club are responsible for pre-production planning, cinematography and post-production editing.
District Cinema Society officially began in 2021 but has had a much longer history. The club started off as a chapter of the national professional film fraternity Delta Kappa Alpha. In 2021, the board of DKA decided that the club would be more productive, inclusive and free if they separated from the national society. American’s DKA chapter became the District Cinema Society.
“I was a freshman, so were Nolan and Ethan,” said Aronson, who was part of the club as it transitioned from DKA. “You know there were a lot of things you had to have done and had to do to stay affiliated. So everyone was like, this is a lot of pressure. Let’s take off the pressure and let's transfer this over.”
This transition created a lot of change and new opportunities, but many responsibilities as well.
“We are starting pretty much from scratch,” Stevens said. “We don’t have a lot of money carried over, we have almost created a new club.”
Through the process of re-inventing the club, the board members became close, bonding over challenges and making each other better.
“We work with each other and we are very close friends. But it’s really interesting because at this moment, I would not make a film without these three people,” said Aronson. “I’ve met my three closest friends at school because of DCS.”
The four of them want to inspire underclassmen and current members to step into leadership roles in the coming year. They are working on creating a strong foundation for the club, one that can be built upon in the next few years with a new board and new students in charge.
“We really want to outreach and develop this club and show the potential that it has because we really care about it. When we do graduate all in 2025, we want to pass it down and have it live beyond us,” Slingbaum said.
The Society’s activities this semester are designed to teach members about the film-making process, no matter their level of experience. But ultimately the board wants to create a community, and just have fun.
“I wanted everyone to have that experience of just the enjoyment of being with these people, the enjoyment of making a film, enjoying having the experience,” Aronson said. Even if you are not going to do this for the rest of your life, you just love being there.”
This article was edited by Bailey Hobbs, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.