EYE-POPPING posters, awe-inspiring movie trailers, and an excited audience scurrying to their seats are what anyone would expect to see only in the cinemas. In Yonsei University, a smaller version of this can be seen every week as students fill in the Multimedia Room located on the 3rd floor of the Office of Library & Information Technology Services, eager to watch carefully picked movies that follow a central theme. In charge of these events is Yonci, a student-run cinema club that hosts various film screening programs for all Yonsei movie-lovers. To find out more about how they reach out to cinephiles* like themselves on campus, The Yonsei Annals met with Yonci President Kim Dong-eun (Jr., College of Communication) and Vice-President Park Se-min (Sr., Dept. of Materials Science & Engin.).
Annals: Could you briefly introduce Yonci?
Kim: Yonci is a cinema club formed in 2008 by students from various majors who all shared a common love for movies. One thing that makes Yonci stand out from other student clubs is that we are directly affiliated with the Office of Library & Information Technology Services. This means that the school manages our club and provides us with the facilities and equipment we need for our programs. This also allows our recruitment or program advertisements to get posted on the official website of the school library and even on YSCEC**. We like to call ourselves “the little cinema house of Yonsei,” where anyone is free to come to take a break from their busy lives.
Annals: How is Yonci organized?
Park: Since we do not have any preferences in majors, anyone who has a passion for movies is free to apply to Yonci. However, unlike most student clubs, we only recruit new members once a year in March. On average, around 15 people are recruited every year, and they will be required to stay for at least two semesters. We haven’t had any international students yet as none have applied since Yonci was founded. Also, unlike many student clubs where previous members take a leading role in the organization, the President and Vice-president of Yonci are chosen among the new recruits. We do this to encourage current members to actively participate in our programs, since many members that already graduated take part in official Yonci events as well.
Kim: There are two reasons we only recruit once a year: the size of the organization and the program schedule. Because our organization is not that big, it would be hard to effectively manage Yonci if we have too many members. In the past, we brought in new recruits every semester, in March and September, but previous members deemed that this would be difficult to manage as the second semester recruitment schedule would then overlap with our biggest program—Rooftop Film Festival—in September.
Annals: What are some of the programs run by Yonci?
Kim: We have three main programs that we host regularly: the Rooftop Film Festival, Regular Screenings, and the Talk with Yonci. As I mentioned earlier, the Rooftop Film Festival, which is held annually in September, is Yonci’s biggest program where students gather at the rooftop of the library for a night screening of movies. Not only do we show films, but we also provide snacks and busking performances for the audience. On average, around 200 people participate in the program every year.
The Regular Screening is what we have every Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6:10 p.m. during the semesters and 5:10 p.m. during the breaks. We come up with a theme every month and then select movies that follow the topic we have chosen. Unfortunately, unlike the Rooftop Film Festival, only an average of three to four people attend the Regular Screening. Additionally, we provide subtitles in both Korean and English for all movies that we play in our programs, so that international and Korean students alike can enjoy the films.
The Talk with Yonci program is an extension of the Regular Screening where the audience can freely discuss the movies with our members after watching them together. However, we host this program only in May and November.
Besides our main programs, we also collaborate with other organizations to host special screenings. One example was the Human Rights Film Festival, which we recently held during the Third Annual Human Rights Festival in Yonsei. As a whole, we selected several films that talk about human rights which we wanted to share with our audience.
Annals: How are the themes selected every month? Are there any criteria in choosing the movies?
Park: It is hard to say what comes first: the theme or the movies. Sometimes, we come up with a theme for the month then choose films that fit the topic, but there are also times when we do it the other way around. Also, while there really isn’t a standard for the kinds of movies we should be choosing, there are certain guidelines that we follow. First, we exclude films that we screened at least once over the past three years, and second, we try not to choose movies that we are planning to show at the Rooftop Film Festival.
Kim: We try to incorporate each month’s respective seasonal atmosphere and overall vibe when choosing the themes. For example, we chose the theme “Drifting” for August, because we imagined how everyone would be lazily drifting away during the summer break. We encourage our members to freely lay out their ideas in the meetings where we brainstorm together to choose the movies. Apart from this, we don’t have a particularly strict standard in selecting the themes.
Annals: What is the overall atmosphere of Yonci like?
Kim: I would say thateveryone in Yonci is very relaxed and open-minded.Members don’t really know or ask each other’s ages, which is quite uncommon in Korea. Because of this, members become friends with each other quickly. In my case, I have an older friend who I just call by name without any honorifics. At first, I thought this kind of atmosphere could only be found in our batch, but surprisingly, this is a common occurrence with all the other batches of Yonci. Although previous members whohave already graduated often participate in most of our programs, the events never get awkward because the older members also prefer not using honorifics or treating each other differently because of age.
Annals: Could you share some of the most memorable moments in Yonci?
Kim: I find preparing for the Rooftop Film Festival the most memorable, because that was when I became really close with all of our members. When I first became the President of Yonci, everything was still awkward and unfamiliar to me, so I found it especially difficult to visit our club room to rest or just hang out with everyone. But when we started to prepare for the film festival, I had to visit the club room and ask for help despite the awkwardness. It turned out that I didn’t have to worry at all, because everyone gladly came to my aid. That was the first time I felt a sense of solidarity among our members.
Annals: What are some of the future goals of Yonci?
Park: We would like to reach out to a wider audience. We always face a dilemma between screening what we want to introduce to the viewers and giving the audience what they want. So, I think one of our most important goals is finding the right balance between the two. We also hope to have more people come to our Talk with Yonci programs and share their valuable insights with us.
Kim: Although we do have a Facebook page and Instagram account, only our fans seem to know about them. Because of this, we started a new KakaoTalk Plus Friend*** channel to reach out to more Yonsei students. We don’t have specific details or plans yet, but we are also trying to increase audience participation through a program where the audience can send in letters or suggestions for the movies that they want to watch.
Annals: Do you have any last comments for our readers?
Park: We actually have our own coupon event, like what you would see in cafés or restaurants. Anyone who attends our programs five times and gets a stamp on the coupon each time will receive gifts, like the DVD or soundtrack album of their movie of choice. Some of our audience have already received the prizes.
Kim: Although Yonci is not a widely known or sizeable club in Yonsei, we would like it to be thought of as a subtle but memorable part of everyone’s campus life. Whenever you are tired or have nothing to do, come visit Yonci and watch a movie with us; we are always open to anyone who loves cinema.
*Cinephile: Someone who has a passionate interest in movies
**YSCEC: Acronym for Yonsei Creative Education Community, an online service for course programs and notices for Yonsei students and faculty
***KakaoTalk Plus Friend: A feature in the online chat platform KakaoTalk that allows users to add artists, companies, and more to receive newsletters or advertisements