How to Plan Virtual Film Events for Patrons

Create engaging movie screenings and discussions online during quarantine 


The social distancing mandate may have postponed in-person events, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop hosting them. This unusual time is the perfect opportunity to try some new, out-of-the-box film programming online. One of the ways to still engage with your patrons would be to host a cinema connection program, a virtual community to study and discuss films selected by your library. Whether it be a new movie each day or several a week, encourage your patrons to watch a particular film at home on their own time and on the device of their choosing—making sure that each film is available on a popular streaming service or one provided through your library. 

After the films are selected and announced, plan to set up videos on your library’s Facebook page to introduce the film, talking about its history, background, and reception. It may be useful to collaborate with local professors who study cinema or the film’s area of interest to get involved or host the screenings; they would be able to recruit their students to interact with your content. Also, post facts and trivia about the selected films to generate excitement. Patrons can then discuss the film via Facebook comments or tag their comments on Twitter to your library’s handle. If your library has an Instagram, encourage patrons to take photos of themselves watching the film from home, or video their own reactions and thoughts! 

Extend the conversation by asking more post-film questions and examining clips, photos, and more from the film via your pages. On any of your social media, you could also share documents or a power point that features behind-the-scenes info or analysis of the film. The videos and comments will be available on the page for everyone to enjoy at their convenience

Social media is an incredible tool that can unite us during this uncertain period of isolation.  We can use it to our advantage to generate fun, interactive cinematic content that sparks thought-provoking conversations. Hosting virtual film screenings are an intriguing, unique way to continue your programming and love of movies with patrons during confinement.

Press Release 4-2-20

Video Librarian Continues Mission Online as the Premier Video Review Resource for Librarians


WARREN, NJ, (April 2, 2020): Allen Chou, President and owner of Passion River Films, a film distributor recently acquired Video Librarian, the premier video review resource for public, school, academic, and special libraries, which has transitioned into Video Librarian Online (

Continuing the focus of the recently sunsetted Video Librarian magazine, Video Librarian Online provides professional reviews that will better equip video librarians to make new acquisitions that help to inform, educate, and entertain their patrons.

According to Chou, “Libraries are incredibly important in serving the entire community, and we need to help librarians with the challenging task of discovering new films for their collections. The power of a story and the moving image is limitless.”

Video Librarian entered the market in 1986 when founder, publisher, and editor Randy Pitman introduced a 10 page-newsletter providing a unique and necessary resource for the library community. Its mission was to become a singular video resource for librarians overseeing the building of video collections.

Now retiring, Pitman says, “I am thrilled that under the leadership of Allen Chou and guidance of new editor Vanessa Bethea, Video Librarian will make a welcome transition to Video Librarian Online, which promises to be a vital online resource for librarians, continuing to offer professional reviews of documentaries, independent films, and classic movies, but on a more timely basis, thanks to the immediacy of the web.”

Written by staff, librarians, teachers, and film critics, Video Librarian Online continues the main mission of Video Librarian but with more enhanced services such as 75+ new film reviews each month, regularly updated news briefs, access to a searchable database of over 40,000 full-text video reviews, and a searchable database of nearly 1,000 video distributors.


What librarians have said about their experiences with Video Librarian:

“I have enjoyed the intelligence of Video Librarian’s reviews for many years. Some of the titles reviewed would not suit my library’s demographic, but I was glad to be aware of them. I purchased many quirkier, non-mainstream titles based on VL reviews and they have circulated well. My intent was to broaden horizons, offer different perspectives. The Video Librarian reviews are an invaluable resource for building a deeper collection.” Catherine Cooper, Lee-Whedon Memorial Library


“Thanks for the great service Video Librarian has provided for so many years!!! Specifically, we use your compiled reviews for selection and when a non-print item is challenged by a customer. Your reviews give us professional input that is valuable.” Kendal Hopkins, Carroll County Public Library


“It is the only resource that I use to develop our video collection. I have come to depend on the brief reviews, audience categories, star ratings, and more. This resource is so good that I never feel the need to look for other places that give similar information.” Frank Bridges, Mount View Middle School & High School Library


“An invaluable resource, especially to those of us from small libraries with extremely limited shelf space and budget.” Cynthia R. Exterkamp, Wilton Manors Public Library, NY


About Allen Chou

Allen Chou is an expert in maximizing digital delivery and audience engagement strategies. Since 1997 Chou has been President and owner of Passion River Films, an independent film distribution company specializing in the release of films and documentaries to theaters, VOD, digital streaming, DVD, and libraries in public and academic markets. Allen manages a diverse catalog featuring Academy Award and Emmy-winning films and directors as well as films that have been recognized at festivals such as: Sundance, Berlinale, Cannes, SXSW, Toronto, Tribeca, Hot Docs and many other prestigious events. In 2005, he established a distribution partnership with Netflix, resulting in over 200 titles released on their site. Allen has also placed titles into accounts such as: Redbox, Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Walmart, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, FandangoNOW, HBO, Starz, PBS and more. In January 2020, he acquired Video Librarian. Chou was also adjunct faculty at New York University, teaching film marketing and distribution courses. He is a frequent speaker, moderator, and instructor on distribution and social media marketing at film festivals, industry conferences, and universities. Notable speaking engagements include Film Marketing in Academia at SXSW Film Festival and Professional Development sessions at the National Media Market library conference (company exhibitor & chair). Passion River Films is also a routine sponsor of VRT (Video Roundtable) and have frequently donated their films and set up events for the “Now Showing” series at the annual American Library Association conference.


Contact information:

Allen Chou, Owner 




Phone: 732-372-0300


Vanessa Bethea, Editor 



Phone: 732-372-0300

Teaching Children Through Film

The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has forced schools to transfer to online classes or extend their spring break, leaving many at-home parents with the taxing job of monitoring their children’s schoolwork or keeping them preoccupied during the day with educational activities. Film is a mind-stimulating and convenient educational tool that parents can use during this period of confinement. Many streaming sites offer intriguing documentaries or hundreds of instructional videos that can keep children engaged with the outside world and expose them to a myriad of subjects they may not have necessarily explored in school.

Kanopy offers an incredible resource called “The Great Courses,” a series of videos on virtually any subject. One of them is “How to Become a SuperStar Student” series, which would be perfect for children currently out of school to brush up on before returning to school. The series features helpful videos to improve classroom and learning skills such as “Thinking Critically” and “Writing Well.” There are literature courses about folklore and fairy tales, history lessons on Aborigine Art, or a “Your Body” class geared to kindergartners through third graders. The choices are endless in this incredible online resource.

Another engrossing documentary is Spellbound, available to watch on Tubi. The film follows the Olympic-level pressures put on eight kids from disparate ethnic, class, and regional backgrounds who travel to Washington D.C. for the National Spelling Bee Finals. A simple story about something that may be considered dull is actually utterly gripping and often humorous. Plus, children can learn a host of new vocabulary words. Read our Video Librarian review here

Dream Big: Engineering Our World is a fascinating peek into the incredible world of engineers and the marvels they make—big and small—from the Great Wall of China to underwater robots, the world’s tallest buildings, solar cars, and sustainable cities. These rousing stories reveal STEM-workers’ grit and intelligence, and the hard work it takes to create better lives. The documentary motivates future generations to change the world. This film offers real world examples of science put into action so parents can plan their next science class around this film on Netflix. Read our Video Librarian review here

To read more content like this, click here to subscribe to Video Librarian.

Documentary Educational Resources Offering Free Streaming of Curated Collection Through June 1, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Documentary Educational Resources (DER) is offering free unlimited streaming access through June 1, 2020 to a curated selection of films—a mix of new releases and classic titles from their collection. The 24 titles available include An Autobiography of Michelle Maren (VL-3/17), Live from UB: Rock & Freedom in the New Mongolia (VL-3/18), Tashi’s Turbine (VL Online-11/17), Tender (VL-9/16), and Visible Silence (VL-7/17). A Vimeo account is required (it is free to sign up). To watch any film, click on “Rent” in the top right corner of the video player and log in to your Vimeo account. On checkout, click “Apply promo code” and enter: WFH2020. For a listing of films and more information, please visit DER’s “Watch From Home” page at

Video Distributors Respond to COVID-19 with Special Streaming Deals

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, many video distributors are offering reduced digital streaming costs as well as lower prices or free streaming for titles owned by libraries on physical media. Gisèle Tanasse, Film & Media Services Librarian for UC Berkeley, has put together a continually expanding list of distributors (currently 30) with information on special streaming offers. Here’s the link to the Google doc:

MVD to Release Doc on Pauline Kael on June 16

On June 16, Juno Films and MVD Entertainment Group will release filmmaker Rob Garver’s What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (DVD: $24.95).Tagged by Roger Ebert as the most influential film critic of the late 20th century, the documentary tells the story of Pauline’s turbulent life and work through never-seen archival footage, her published writing and personal letters, and interviews with both friends and foes of her pen. Pauline is voiced by Sarah Jessica Parker, and participants include Quentin Tarantino, Camille Paglia, David O. Russell, Molly Haskell, Francis Ford Coppola, and daughter Gina James. Pauline Kael (1919-2001) was likely the most powerful, and personal, movie critic of the 20th century. Writing for The New Yorker and publishing a dozen bestselling books, she ruthlessly pursued what made a movie or an actor’s performance work, or not, and why. Her passion made her both admired and despised amongst her readers and her subjects. Pauline’s own story is one of struggle and obsession: the fight to establish her voice and have it heard, and to raise a daughter on her own in a time when the obstacles were high. The latter golden age of movies of the 1960s and ‘70s are the focus of this film that pursues the question of what made Pauline Kael’s work so individual, so controversial–and so good. Bonus features will include a never before released interview of Pauline Kael with Alfred Hitchcock, deleted scenes, and interview excerpts with Tarantino and Paul Schrader.

Taxidermy as Art Doc “Stuffed” Arrives March 10 from Music Box Films

On March 10, Music Box Films will release Erin Derham’s documentary Stuffed (DVD: $29.95), which looks at the fascinating and surprising world of taxidermy, as told through the eyes and hands of acclaimed taxidermy artists across the world. The film plunges viewers into the remarkably diverse subculture of taxidermy, a world where its practitioners must be masters of a collection of unique disciplines. Along with having an understanding of sculpting and painting, they also need to have a grasp of chemistry and biology, animal behavior and movement, and they also must know hundreds of species’ habitats. From an all-female studio in Los Angeles that has elevated taxidermy to the forefront of fashion and modern art, to a handful of fine artists in the Netherlands, to a big game taxidermist in Ohio and an anatomical sculptor in South Africa, the taxidermy artists of Stuffed are a collection of passionate experts who constantly push the creative boundaries of their profession.


First Run to Release Immigration Doc “Colossus” on March 10

First Run Features is releasing filmmaker Jonathan Schienberg’s documentary Colossus (DVD: $24.95) on March 10. Told through the eyes of 15-year-old Jamil Sunsin, this is a modern-day immigrant tale of one family’s desperate struggle after deportation leads to family separation, and the elusive search for the American dream. Jamil is the only person in his family born in the U.S. His parents and sister came from Honduras and lived in America for a decade before Jamil’s father was arrested for being undocumented. The entire family was forced to return to Honduras, a country wracked with violence. After a knife attack traumatizes Jamil, his family makes an excruciating choice to send him back to the America – alone. This intimate portrait offers a rare look into the aftermath of deportation and family separation, amidst the current backlash against America’s immigrants.


ALA-FMRT Notable Videos for Adults List Announced

The American Library Association (ALA) Film and Media Round Table (FMRT) Notable Videos for Adults Committee has compiled its 2020 list of Notable Videos for Adults, a list of 15 outstanding films released on video within the past two years and suitable for all libraries serving adults. Its purpose is to call attention to recent video releases that make a significant contribution to the world of video. The list is compiled for use by librarians and the general adult populace. The complete list can be found here: Several of the titles were reviewed by Video Librarian, including Crime + Punishment (VL-9/19, also a VL Best Docs selection), Dawnland (VL Online-11/19), Hail Satan? (VL-9/19), Kusama: Infinity (VL-3/19), Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (VL Online-12/19), Maiden (VL-11/19, also a VL Best Docs selection), Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins (review posting soon), and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (VL-11/19, also a VL Best Docs selection).

Sex! Gossip! Scandal! Magnolia to Release National Enquirer Doc “Scandalous” on February 18

Sex! Gossip! Scandal! For over 60 years, the National Enquirer has pumped out salacious, shocking stories, stretching the limits of journalism and blurring the lines between truth and fiction. On February 18, Magnolia Home Entertainment will release filmmaker Mark Landsman’s Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer (DVD: $26.99), which tells the sensational true story of the most infamous tabloid in U.S. history, offering a wild, probing look at how one newspaper’s prescient grasp of its’ readers darkest curiosities led it to massive profits and influence. From its coverage of Elvis’s death, to the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the National Enquirer rattled the foundations of American culture and politics, sometimes allegedly using payoffs and blackmail to get its scoops. Drawing on rare archival footage and featuring comments from former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein and New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, the film examines our obsession with the rich, famous, and powerful, as revealed in the tabloid that has fed those obsessions for generations of Americans.