today is the day i get caught up. caught up on my life, my blog, my laundry, my friends, my art, my housework. all have been backshelved for the past 4 weeks or so due to my obsession & involvement in the animation festival and television animation conference that took place from September 17th to the 21st here in my lovely city.
by most accounts it was a hit; emergencies and catastrophies remained unknown to guests, minor crises were solved and apologized for in a professional manner. All left happy.That's all one can ask from a non-profit festival running the largest animation festival/conference in North America on literally threads of funding that are being cut more and more in our conservative times.
i have an appreciation for anyone involved in festivals at any level. the dedication required from the core workings must parallel anyone who has been in the warroom in a political campaign, or been involved in events management at the management level. 10 days of 15 to 18 hour days. i'm sure others endure worse, but for some reason this event had a life of it's own and it had a joke to tell. SO many things happened that were out of the ordinary crazy that the artistic director himself noted so in his Closing Ceremonies address to the audience, something i was relieved to hear. I was proud of us - pulling off so many close calls. You'd have to have truly been there, for it was a pure roller coaster, to really get how nuts it was. As the managing director said the day after it ended "we should have taped the festival - it would have made an excellent reality show!" and it would have. Let's see how I can outline the events. I'm still decompressing and unwinding about them - SO many great and awful things happened consecutively - it's hard to really get across well. Hmmm. Have patience...
Ok, so my role in all of this, which might be important to the reader, was the coordinator of guest services. I coordinated flights, sending out letters of invitation for Visas, booking hotels and festival drivers for anyone invited to the festival (speakers, filmmakers in competition, sponsors, jury members, vips etc.... everyone.) in addition to dealing with the travel agent, hotels, pr folks, assistants, spouses and parents of anyone attending, i was responsible for managing the drivers (gawd love them) as well as that schedule for the week of the conference and festival. I also included in my schedule the print traffic (films literally moving from venue to venue) for the amazing programmers and volunteers who needed to get to venues offsite. My role required i be in the office - something i was totally fine with. The office manager would be around, and so would our newish receptionist, so that would be fine.
I was totally excited by September 1 - the office had taken on a true festival tone; we were coming in on weekends to get stuff done, cool cartoon related sponsor trinkets arriving daily that would eventually be divvied up in delegate bags, people were sending in flight details for my database, people were excited to be coming to Canada, coming to compete in what is deemed the hardest (and best) festival to get accepted into in the animation world. the energy was contagious. luckily. if it weren't for the adrenaline i never would have made it. by the end of the 22nd when my last guests were leaving for the airport I was super cranky. I took off most of this week and we're shutting down on monday (yay!) to try and get this old 35 year old body to bounce back. I actually have been feeling pangs of sadness that it's all done. All over. But wow - what a ride!
In the midst of general office madness (picture 1 open room with 10 people working, desks facing walls, a couch with a coffee table, a semi kitchen (no water) in the corner and 2 small offices that house multiple people tucked on the end). we had just weirdness, as i mentioned above. i realize some of the madness was my own creation, since my excel spreadsheet for the 16th (the day when all the jury members and people taking part in the first day would be arriving) sorted without expanding at some point and my flight numbers did NOT match and some people who were arriving on the 17th were on the 16th schedule... yah. awesome. next time - in pencil. So that was a disaster for me, since i had this amazing process etc. Hmm. The database had an error from time to time that led me to believe that some updates may have been lost over the summer... again, wish i'd done it in pencil instead! The walkie talkie style phones we'd been given by our sponsor were making the office that much more hectic - beep beep - anyone there? - every five minutes on top of the ringing phones (where is that receptionist anyway?) was making me nuts 20 minutes into the 16th - the day before the festival officially began!
(Crisis 1) Our Executive Director, fearless leader, amazing boss and one tired mom/wife/woman, crashes her car on the way back from driving the drivers to pick up the rental vans they will use all week long. Totals it. When I heard the news I truly panicked. OMG> is she ok?? Ok... she's fine. Scared and freaking, but ok. Off to the dealership - Where is the receptionist??? - By the time our fearless leader makes it back to the office the adrenaline is officially pumping and we roll with the punches. She checks the voicemail for the office (we have one voicemail box for the entire office) and announces our receptionist has decided the festival would be too much stress and pressure and therefore is quitting. Awesome.
(Enter Crisis 2) Thanks to one of our highschool interns, the amazing "david A++" the office did not crumble to bits. Close, but my gawd, this KID held down the fort when a 50 year old woman said it was too stressful. He worked 120 hours that week. I was so glad his highschool teacher came in to chat and see how mr A++ was doing. He was my savior answering phones and fielding calls for me - essentially doing dispatch for me at the same time as dealing with people coming in to see the office, see the artistic director etc. He ran films and bottles of water between venues, something far beyond his actual call of duty, and calmed me down far more than i should have allowed. Especially when the security breech happened at the airport. I had a couple people calling from the planes sitting on the runway saying "we have been told their was a security breech and they aren't letting anyone off the planes - it could be hours. they won't tell us what is going on." Then the reports from the airport Greeters representing the festival of streams of ambulances and fire trucks racing to the airport. Awesome. Car crash, quitting receptionist, security breech at the airport. What next?? Oh yah, one of my 3 (three) drivers quit halfway through his 3rd day... that was a meltdown for me. Turns out he hurt his back or something, but he literally walked in and dropped his keys, said I'm done, and walked out.
(Crisis 3) Wow. 1/3 of my workforce just walked out. My workforce, and friends as it turns out, were the only thing helping me out this whole time. They were pros, knew what they were doing, and calmed ME down. What NOW??? Ok, so luckily one guy was a super fast thinker and got someone we know well, mr marc bighouse, to take over that job. Wow - talk about step up to the plate - crisis once again avoided.
What a community: most old friends and co-workers, some new friendships forming, and yet from all over the entire globe. A real community this animation world. The energy was amazing in that place. So many amazing minds. I was sad I didn't get to see much of the actual festival, but i had my own perks - mostly meeting all these people. I loved how i'd sneak down to reception from time to time (to put additional tickets in someone's pass order envelope, or because one of the drivers told me someone was going to get their passes and then being dropped at their hotel) and get to meet all these amazing (and mostly jetlagged!) artists I'd been liaising with for months. At one particular moment I can remember meeting a great guy from Paris who had never been to North America before, standing smiling at me was another great guy from Paris, and then another filmmaker from Australia was standing there a grin as well! I then realized how FUN guest services can be. For those that have a good experience, I am their friend and perhaps only contact in the city/country/continent! Awesome! Hello - welcome - how was your flight??!! Luckily I didn't have too many sour faces - and not one irate irrational person.
And the people I met. OMG. There are a few that stand out for me, like Mr Karl Cohen, a man whose e-mails i will forever cherish, a man who wrote a book on propaganda in animation (hello?!), is an art historian & has a great wife Denise who i wish i had gotten to spend more time with, and whom i hope to remain in contact with (I may even take them up on the invitation to stay with them if ever in SF!) Duscha Kistler from Switzerland (and Fantosche sp??), Noreen from the South Beach Animation Festival, Jonas Odell, Marco deBlois, Heather Harkins, Christopher Mills, Amica Kubo, were all regulars in the festival office, and I loved the conversations I got to have, and listen in on, however brief. I mostly asked what people thought of YouTube.
John Canemaker was a highlight of my experience as well as Karl Cohen, who I talked about. He and Richard Williams and his wife Mo Sutton were a pure joy to meet in person. The second day, when John Canemaker gave me a little half armhug when i ran into him, i glowed for hours. The warmth of some people is undeniable. The folks from pixar were great, Seth Green and Matt Seinreich were great both as guest speakers and as people. I was too tired, but apparently they had a blast at that night's party in the Jail Hostel next to the festival office. I ran (literally) to the hotel they were staying at to say hi to them before their flight left, and I was glad I did. The office was buzzing for weeks about them coming, I had been dealing with their PR person for months, and I was going to at least meet them and say hi. That was one of my geekier moments, but you would have done it too! The other moment was when I told Michael Sporn how his earliest animated work for Sesame Street were some of my earliest memories of animation and how I loved them. GEEK!!! I had to. He was really nice about it. And Candy Kugel - she was super nice too..... so many great folks.
I loved having a staff pass. I have to admit it. It was cool. It was fun.
OH - Can I brag a bit? I did get a great Theodore Ushev multimedia piece that were part of an exhibition at the SAW gallery downstairs, that has a sketch of Ryan Larkin on it! The Artistic Director was launching a book on Larkin at the same time, so I plan on reading that soon. I had no idea the extent of his involvement with Larkin over the last years of his life. (You may remember this animated short won the academy award a few years ago). So that is something I will forever treasure, as well as remember the festival by. It was very cool to get it signed when Ushev came in to pick up the remainders of the prints! So fun...
Just typing this out in some sort of cohesive fashion is making me tired. I'm glad I got some of it down here, but I still think there is so much I left out that is can't even touch on the actual experience itself. It was a ride, that's all I can say, a crazy rollercoaster ride.
If you actually read all this, wow. I'm impressed.