The volunteer crew at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival is one of the largest and most fun festival vollie teams in Dublin. About 160 film enthusiasts get recruited annually to help out with the events, logistics and production of JDIFF. It’s been my third year this time and once the first film is up and running we’re all straight back into another action-packed season. Our job: helping out with the screenings, taking people’s tickets, handing out and collecting audience awards and helping to answer questions from audience members, such as where to find the toilets and how long the film is. Sounds all pretty straightforward, right? A bit of common sense, a friendly smile and a professional demeanour should generally go a long, long way. Unfortunately any combination of the following scenarios still ALWAYS happens. If you’re a movie fan, these might ring a bell.
Scene 1: The Ticket Dilemma
A cinema goer turns up on time, but left his or her ticket at home (oops). Alternative take: a cinema goer actually has a ticket, but for a film that is on at the exact same time in a cinema at the other end of town (tough luck).
Moral: ‘You’re smart enough to know that talking won’t save you.’*
Scene 2: But I Like This Seat…
When a screening is booked out, ‘bunching’ is often a good idea. This practice generally involves a volunteer politely asking cinema goers to NOT leave a gap between them and the next person as every seat will be filled eventually and latecomers tend to cause less havoc if they can be directed to empty seats at he end of each row. Unfortunately sometimes the unspeakable happens and a cinema goer refuses to move up a seat. At first the well-trained volunteer politely flashes his or her best ‘please don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be’ smile at the offending audience member and calmly explains the situation. If this doesn’t produce the hoped for result and the cinema goer still refuses to move over, it’s time to hand in the towel (to avoid losing face and so no one gets hurt). The volunteer says as brightly as he or she can muster ‘I’ll be right back’ and retreats to the temporary safety of the dark corner by the entrance. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
‘Moral: When I’m paid, I always follow my job through. You know that.’ * (thing is vollies aren’t paid)
Scene 3: Popcorn Perpetrator Patrol
As the turnaround between films can be quite short, vollies are also required to help cleaning up after each film. Rushing through the rows picking up half empty snack boxes this is the time when you start asking yourself what eejit came up with the clever idea of allowing popcorn in cinemas and fizzy drinks and ice cream…grrr…
Moral: ‘I’ve got six more bullets in my gun.’
Scene 4: Oops…
With more than 130 events happening in a short 10 days chances are things aren’t always going to go according to plan. Luckily the staff and volunteer crew are trained to be ready for every potential eventuality and get plenty of opportunities to use their innate talent for improvisation. When a microphone can’t be turned on or off, earrings are turned into a makeshift tool to fix the problem. When a vollie crew runs out of audience award voting ballots (also see Scene 5), a trustworthy soul is sent down to the main festival camp to speed-copy a few hundred more and race back in time for the next screening. Yes, the life of a film festival volunteer is all about adventure, even if that sometimes comes well disguised as a simple errand.
Moral: ‘If you miss you had better miss very well.’*
Scene 5: Audience What?
If you’re a film festival veteran you know the drill in your sleep: pick up an audience award voting strip on the way into the screening, decide on your rating for the film (1 is the worst, 4 is the best score), on the way out drop the selected piece of the voting strip in the box that says ‘audience awards’ and the title of the film you’ve just seen. The film with the most votes ends up getting the audience award. Easy peasy. Well, not always as there is bound to be:
a) someone who thinks the audience award ballot paper is a voucher for a free double cheese burger and a coke and is disappointed that it isn’t
b) someone who puts in the whole strip without chosing a rating
c) someone who spends a few minutes trying to figure out how to peel off one of the ‘stickers’, just that they aren’t actually stickers
d) someone who attempts to put in more than one ballot paper
e) someone who tries to take a ballot OUT OF the box instead of putting one in
f) someone who smilingly accepts a ballot paper from you on the way in and then unceremoniously dumps it into the nearest bin when he or she thinks you aren’t looking
g) any combination of the above…
Moral: ‘Idiots. It’s for you.’*
*All quotes are taken from ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ and none of them are meant to offend anyone. Seriously.
Red and Grey Design came up with this year’s creative and cheerful logo.
A few film recommendations if you’ve missed them at the festival:
Samson & Delilah – brilliant and haunting Australian Aboriginal drama, eerily realistic but not recommended for the faint-hearted
Videocracy – a behind the scenes look at Berlusconi’s TV empire and Italian celebrity worship, incredibile!
Women Without Men – Iranian novel adaptation about what it means to be a woman in Iran, for fans of magic realism
I’ve Loved You So Long – excellent French drama with Kristin Scott Thomas that was in the cinemas in 2008, worth renting on DVD
Same Same But Different – drama based on the true love story between a German student and a Thai girl, entertaining enough, but the real story is much more moving than this film
Colony – interesting and beautifully shot documentary on American beekeepers whose honey bees are affected by colony collapse disorder
His & Hers humorous Irish documentary interviewing about 70 Midland women and girls on how they see their life journey and their relationship with the men in their lives (won 2010 JDIFF audience award!)