It's too easy to not give full attention to a movie.
If a shot lingers too long, the dialogue begins to drone, or when the unexplainable urge to scroll through TikTok possesses us, the movie inevitably fades into the background as we pick up our phones.
In the age of streaming, watching movies has shifted from an activity that once almost exclusively took place in cinemas to something we primarily enjoy in our own homes. But those homes are filled with distractions; namely, our phones.
With the emergence TikTok and Instagram reels, if something doesn’t pique our interest immediately, we have the agency to choose not to consume with a quick scroll. When a movie is on the screen, however, we have zero control over whether something immediately entertains us. The team behind the movie curates our experience—in return, we must give our focus.
Despite being a self–proclaimed film buff, I am also guilty of watching movies in chunks at home because I'm too restless or will check my notifications during a movie. Sometimes, I even have to rely on other people’s analysis to retroactively appreciate a movie I’ve already “watched.” Mediated by the streaming and TikTok culture, my own attention span limits my ability to truly experience a movie the way it was intended.
In spite of this, we cancurb the effects of the easy entertainment my phone offers by engaging with film communities. Communicating with passionate people inspires us to learn more about the intricacies of the topic so close to their hearts.
Peyton Falconer (C '27) encourages students to join SPEC Film. No matter the level of knowledge one possesses about film and how much time they have available, SPEC Film can be a space for students related to all things film. The club has opportunities to view early screenings and other events such as trivia nights. “My favorite part is all the screenings that they offer, because you can go with friends and other people who are interested in film," says Peyton, "If you want to discuss the film later, or if you want to have a theater–like experience, there is the opportunity for community at the screening.”
Dina Zhanybekova (C '25) who is double majoring in cinema & media studies and political science has found film communities both for casual interests and on the production side. Within Penn, Dina recommends joining screenings of the Penn Film Society. The film community at Penn is quite tight–knit and small. As a result, joining a couple of events allows you to meet friends who will likely introduce you to even more events and like–minded people.
“You go to one screening, you're probably going to meet someone who sits right next to you who makes small talk. Tomorrow, that person is going to introduce you to all the rest of the Penn film community,” explains Dina.
Furthermore, even though Philadelphia is a smaller city (relative to New York and Los Angeles) with less publicized film–related opportunities, students shouldn’t feel limited to just engaging with Penn. Philadelphia has numerous universities, each with their own niches related to film.
For those interested in production, Dina recommends “reaching out to Temple people.” As she points out, “Temple is very rich with their film community and their program is taken more seriously from the production side as opposed to Penn, as Penn focuses more on film studies with a lot more reading.”
If one is more interested in discovering more unique films, Dina suggests viewing screenings during the Philadelphia Film Festival. Outside of the festival, volunteering at the Philadelphia Film Society also gives one a chance to be surrounded in an environment concentrated with people who love film, while simultaneously escaping the Penn bubble.
It's daunting to take the chance to open up and truly invest in an interest in film. By taking the chance to meet like–minded people, film doesn’t have to just be part of a roster of distractions. It can blossom into a life–long sense of community and passion.