Saturday, April 29, 2006

Where the Students Lurk (Part Deux)

Junior Allison Helm writes in to answer my question at greater length, and makes some very interesting points:

I've been discussing the lack of students attending Ebertfest with some of my friends and here's some of the conclusions we've come to. People just don't know about it. The fest is hardly publicized on campus. As a student in the College of Communications, you'd think I would've gotten an email about this wonderful weekend happening a stone's throw away from campus. Nope. There's maybe one poster up in Gregory Hall, the building that houses the College of Communications, and a stack of programs if you enter the college office, which students only do if they have administrative business to take care of. I've done my part to talk about Ebertfest as much as possible, but the student body really isn't encouraged to attend.

Another reason why there's not that many students attending the festival is the price ($9 a pop). That could almost be looked at as the price of 3 (admittedly cheap) meals, but meals nonetheless. You may not believe me on this one since you're from the city, but you can actually find a pretty decent meal for 3 bucks in campustown. I have but 2 words of advice for Ebertfest in that respect: student discount. Make them $6 instead of $9, publicize that students get a discount and you'll be playing a whole different ball game.

Most local businesses recognize that students don't have a lot of cash to spend and offer at least some discount with a valid i.d. I've gone to the local art theater (Boardman's, not far from the Virginia) where the student discount is not more than 2 dollars less than regular price, if even that, and seen kids beg for the discount when they realize they've forgotten their i.d. Saving a couple bucks is a major concern for many students. In addition to helping students save money, giving a student discount would also recognize students as a valuable audience and show them some appreciation for their patronage.

I sort of wonder whether or not they really want heavy student involvement. I got my job volunteering because I saw a note about volunteers on the Ebertfest website last year, not because there was a bulletin for Comm students or anything. I almost feel that festival organizers and patrons don't really respect students or think they have the capacity to appreciate these films. While its true not everyone appreciates all the films (save for Ebert), students do enjoy art films and documentaries. We aren't just sitting around, twiddling our thumbs waiting for the next Ben Stiller comedy or Julia Roberts romance. I highly recommend you take a stroll to That's Rentertainment, less than 2 blocks from the Union. It's a really neat independent video store that's living proof there's a vibrant independent and foreign film consuming scene here.

That about ends my rant on why there aren't any students attending the festival. Sorry if that was more information than necessary, but I feel it's a problem that's rarely addressed amongst all the hubbub when Ebert comes to town.

Thanks, Allison. Anyone else want to respond in the comments section?


Blogger Dan S said...

I'm a community member, not a student, but this is a great question to ask. I wonder if it has to do with timing, since it is always the last week or so of school, and everyone is busy with lots of year end activities.

At the same time, the festival is already so popular and is alway sold out early. Maybe I'm just being protective of my own ability to get tickets, but I don't see a lack of students as a big problem, just an interesting one :)

12:10 PM  

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