How it all began
The North West Film Society (NWFS) began around 1990 in Ulverstone. It was born out of a public meeting & film show organized by the Launceston Film Society. The aim was to re-establish film society activities across the north-west of Tasmania given there had been local film clubs and movie appreciation groups in the area before. These were sponsored in the 1950s and ‘60s by the State Government as part of its Adult Education services.
The North West Film Society was set up with funds from Launceston Film Society and soon had a growing membership. Regular screenings began at the Leven Theatre in Ulverstone on the third Wednesday night of each month. Films were supplied by various film distributors, and also the National Film and Sound Archive. These were usually chosen either following suggestions from film club members or after intensive committee discussions.
Members, who lived along the coast from Wynyard to Port Sorell and inland from Yolla and Sheffield, were able to enjoy a range of classic, popular, and current films from around the world. The monthly film shows, using the old projectors that were in the Leven Theatre at the time, were always followed up by convivial conversation sessions over wine and cheese.
In addition to these monthly screenings in Ulverstone, classic cinema-style film nights were held in the Senior Citizens room at Latrobe. These showed 35 mm films from the National Sound and Film Archives as well as some from the projectionist’s own personal collection of historic and other older films.
Occasionally films did not arrive on time due to plane or freight hold-ups or airport fog. So, before the days of mobile phones & email, committee members would have to make frantic last minute phone calls via a “telephone-tree” network to let members know that the film had been cancelled, or would be delayed until the following day. An extra problem occurred when, during one memorable movie showing, the film began to overheat, then to melt and, shortly afterwards, burst into flames!
The technology was invariably old and required constant attention from the society’s projectionists. Their role was to ensure the reels were synchronised, focused, and viewable! It was quite a delicate job. The projectionist had to carefully calculate when he needed to start up the society’s second projector which was as soon as the film’s first reel was getting close to running out on the first one!
The move to Devonport
Following the demise of these old film projectors and the loss of a projectionist, the North West Film Society decided to move to the what is now Reading Cinemas (formerly CMax) in Devonport around 2005. The move immediately proved to be popular with members, especially given the large screens and modern cinema facilities.
With Reading Cinemas (formerly CMax) ordering the society’s films and also supervising all related freight & handling matters, everything has become much easier for our film club. As a result, the society has gained access to a much broader range of film distributors than previously.
The North West Film Society keeps growing
Today, NWFS continues to grow, with over 200 members at 2018’s year end. New members are especially welcome and a membership recruitment desk always operates between 6.30 and 7 pm at each one of our film shows for anyone who wants to join us.
Our film screenings average an attendance of around 110. Attendance is by membership only and there are three types of members - Full or annual members; Part members for 5 films each; and Corporate members. Corporate membership allows a local business to support our film club as an active local body providing a popular local service. At the same time, corporate membership enables members of a company's staff to attend whichever of our society’s movies they want to see while their company’s membership still applies.
The North West Film Society screens movies to members only at 7 pm on 13 Wednesday nights a year - usually on the first Wednesday of the month between February and December. As part of our regular program, the society participates in the annual state-wide Seniors’ Week in October and screens a film carefully selected for this occasion. LIkewise, a special offering is also timed to coincide with Youth Week between late March and early April. In addition, our December film night is preceded by our annual Christmas party for members, during which members can assess and vote on the year’s film choices.
The kind of films we show
The movies the North West Film Society screens vary from year to year depending on what’s both new and available. The films chosen are mainly foreign, but every year a number of Australian movies are also shown. The aim is for each film to be exceptional - of the sort that both entertains and at the same time appeals to a thoughtful audience - while avoiding being one that film viewers will be able to see as part of any mainstream cinema’s normal fare.
The North West Film Society is now 28 years old. After more than a quarter century of bringing film enjoyment to our members in Tasmania’s north-west, we look forward to another quarter century of giving members the same pleasure by screening movies which are always carefully chosen, thoughtful, and interesting.