Legal worries stymie movie group’s funding, bump showings off campus

Trash Film Debauchery will now have screenings at Oak Street Cinema.

Emily Kaiser

A student group that drew more than a hundred students to alternative movie showings is now moving off campus after it didn’t pay the copyright fees required.

Trash Film Debauchery, a group of students that previously was squished into a Ford Hall classroom on Friday nights, partnered with the Minnesota Film Arts on Wednesday to show midnight movies at Oak Street Cinema.

Under federal law, copyright fees must be paid before a movie can be shown on campus by a student group, said Mandi Watkins, assistant director of student activities.

Group members could incur a fine of $100,000 and a year in jail if they don’t pay, she said.

Anthropology senior Theresa Purcell said she knew the group was not following the law during previous showings of free movies.

However, the group never was refused a space until she attempted to get funding this year to be lawful with the movie screenings, she said.

“Because it is federal law, it is our obligation to make sure they are aware they are breaking it,” Watkins said.

Purcell said she is not upset Student Activities prevented future screenings because of copyright violations, but rather that it didn’t help find funds to keep the group afloat.

Attaining copyrights could cost the group $600 a movie, Purcell said.

The group tried to get funding, said sophomore and group officer Aaron Shapiro.

“No one ever told us where to go to get the help we needed,” he said.

University officials gave the group different answers about copyright as it related to the movie screenings, Shapiro said.

Watkins said the Student Activities Office offered the group funding options, but many were complicated .

“There is a definite lack of funding for student groups such as Theresa’s,” she said.

Watkins said the Student Activities Office is still willing to help the group find funding.

The group provides for a population of students who aren’t always recognized through other campus events, Shapiro said.

“Our group’s attendance proves people want alternative forms of entertainment on campus,” he said. “We fill a niche that the University doesn’t cover.”

The group is hoping to prove it is an important aspect of student life , Shapiro said.

“We are looking at our future with Oak Street and hopefully the University will back us with anything they can,” he said.

Emily Condon, Oak Street Cinema program director, said the cinema certainly wants to give the group a home.

Purcell and other members of the group will meet with a programming film committee to discuss movie options .

In the past the group has shown films such as “Say Anything Ö ,” “Army of Darkness” and “Harold and Maude.”

“We are a small non-profit, so it’s always a struggle,” Condon said. “This is a nice opportunity to bring people together who want the same thing.”

The midnight movies are tentatively scheduled to begin the first Friday in November and will cost $5 a person.