New methods for fans to talk about movies have gained prominence as a result of the new stay-at-home culture this year, and one of the most widely used has been Zoom.
The learning curve for using Zoom wasn’t as steep as I expected, though organizing a meeting was harder to master than merely attending one. Once I got the basics down, I had to teach my mother, a notorious technophobe, how to use it. She’s gotten somewhat comfortable with it by now.
I remember when reports of strangers crashing private meetings became a thing. I’m satisfied, based on my and my mother’s and Virginia’s experiences, that steps have been taken to prevent that from happening. I have yet to experience any “Zoom-bombing.”
When there’s three or more people involved, Zoom puts a time limit of thirty minutes, which has made discussions shorter than most of us would like. I’ve suggested we should each contribute towards paying for unlimited time, but so far Vija seems content with things as they are.
We mostly connect from home, though occasionally someone will join while outside. The conversations are unstructured; Vija acts less like a moderator and more like just another friend to talk to. Recently we discussed Of Human Bondage (the Bette Davis version) and subjects included Somerset Maugham, the role of women in the late 19th-early 20th century, and reading the book in school.
By contrast, I recently discovered a Zoom group a bit more organized. Jocelyn from the blog Classic Film Observations & Obsessions recently mentioned her Meetup group Reel Classics of Greater Boston, who meet online now to discuss old movies.
Their operation is much more structured: slides, questionnaires, sub-groups within the larger Zoom meeting format. When I sat in on their recent discussion of Scarface (the original), I came with a couple of pages of notes I took as I watched the film in advance. This group struck me as consisting of more hardcore film nerds who’d be less inclined to go off-topic—and I was right.
It took me a little longer to adjust and fit in. The notes were less necessary than I thought they would be, but I don’t regret having them along. It was a larger group, so breaking into smaller groups for a brief period was a good idea. That was something I had never done in any previous Zoom meetings and it made discussing the film easier.
Either way, Zoom as a facilitator for connecting people is good to me: one can control the audio and video (helpful if you’re having a bad hair day), one can send text messages within the group, sub-groups within a meeting are nice when you’ve got a big group and want a more intimate conversation, and you can talk to people from around the country and the globe. I don’t have much experience with other video conferencing apps so I can’t compare and contrast; some might be better, some might be worse. Until we can all go to the movies together again, though, this will do.