San Francisco’s Frameline35 Film Festival by the numbers: 35 years of history and eleven days of over two hundred LGBT feature films, documentaries and shorts shown at four different cinemas. A dedicated staff plus over four hundred volunteers make it all happen. This was my third year helping out. It was my first time as a volunteer captain, which had me supervising ushers at the historic Castro Theatre. I wasn’t sure I had the skills or the stamina to do the job well, but I survived all my shifts and made an appearance at the closing night party. I even managed to see a couple of films!
It all began with the volunteer orientation meeting. These meetings are really entertaining. The first time you volunteer, all the information and staff are new to you. After that, it’s interesting to see the changes from year to year. What will the volunteer tee shirts look like this time? Who’s doing the same job this year, and who is new? Which volunteers will you see from before? I always look forward to the new crop of interns, especially the ones who come from overseas. The volunteer coordinator is Lares Feliciano, and she’s a lively, outgoing person who always makes us feel appreciated and important. She leads the meetings, and her tutorial on composting is one of my favorite parts of the evening.
My first year at Frameline, I tried a number of different volunteer positions. The best fit for me was staffing the guest services table at the Castro Theatre. The Castro is the largest of the four cinemas where the film festival takes place, with about 1400 seats. It’s a real movie palace, built in 1922. I love just being in the building. At guest services, the hospitality team takes care of the visiting filmmakers and representatives from other film festivals. It’s where guest welcome packets are picked up, questions are answered, and tickets to the screenings are handed out. This year the team was led by Alexis Whitham, with interns Lianne and Clemence, who came over from France. I guess I like hospitality the best because I get to meet the filmmakers. This year, I was particularly charmed by the two young Brits who made the short We Once Were Tide.
It was also a thrill to meet Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider and a producer of the film made from his novel. He was there with the producer and director of Kawa, a movie based on his recent book Nights in the Gardens of Spain, about a married Maori man with two children who comes out to his family. This was one of the films I got to see, and it was beautiful and very moving. I especially liked the two young actors playing Kawa’s children. One of the other actors, Dean O’Gorman, is playing a dwarf in the long-awaited movie The Hobbit. Before and after the screening, Ihimaera and his filmmakers went onstage to sing in Maori and talk about their film.
I also saw Spork, a film about a girl-identified 13 year old with an intersex condition. She lives with her brother Spit in a trailer park and copes with the horrors of middle school. The young cast was brilliant, and the script was funny and irreverent. The writer and director J.B. Ghuman Jr. answered questions during the Q & A, and he was as delightful as his movie.
Along with my shifts at the guest services table, this year I tackled the job of volunteer captain. After shadowing an experienced captain who showed me the ropes, I was put in charge of the volunteer ushers for six different screenings. Wearing a very attractive radio headset that did wonders for my cowlick, I communicated with the house manager and other staff members. Once my volunteers arrived, I assigned them duties and gave a brief orientation. Then I supervised them before and after the screenings as they took tickets, did line control, passed out ballots, and cleaned the theatre. The most important lesson I learned is that things that are supposed to happen often don’t, and things that aren’t supposed to happen often do. As a volunteer captain, you just have to stay calm and roll with the punches. I mostly rolled, and I certainly learned a lot. Will I do it again next year? I don’t know, I guess if they let me!
The closing night party was held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a cool modern structure with all sorts of interesting architectural details. The special Gertrude Stein exhibit was open for the party. I really enjoyed the old photographs and the portrait of Stein made from “pixels” that were colored spools of thread. Another highlight of the party was chatting with Lisa Haas, who starred in the film Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Tomorrow is the Volunteer Appreciation Party, which promises to be relaxing and fun. I’m already missing the festival, so it will be nice to see everybody one more time.
A journalist for the Castro Courier, a small neighborhood monthly newspaper, interviewed me for an article about volunteering for the festival. It’s coming out in a few days, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. (Here’s the link!)
So, that was Frameline35, or at least my little corner of it. I really enjoyed myself this year, and I learned so much from the staff, the interns, and the volunteers I encountered. Now I just need to recover, and then I’ll start counting the days until next year!
My thanks to:
Frameline Staff: Lares, Alexis, K.C., Des, Sarah, Daniel, Jenn, Frances, Alex, Jennifer, Trista, Richard, and Texas.
Interns: Clemence, Lianne, Sam and Nissa.
Volunteer Captains: Holly, Cheri, Kim, Coyote, Andy and Edric.
House Managers: Gyllian, Molly, Ed, Jill, and JC.
Volunteers: The 2 Johns, Penni, David, Lambert, Joseph, Johan, Katie, Lori, Ralph, Scott, Deb, Maeve, Siofra, Jesse, Mandy, Dan, Donna, Paul, Ellen, Christine, Catherine, Renee, Carolyn, Nikki, Ezgi, Nan, Richard, Guy, LauraLee, Theo, Leigh, Madison, Heather, Roberto, Kurt, Noam, Kent, Derik, Kathleen, William, Steve, Mark, Allen, Ed, Chad, Drew, and Michael.