This year, I volunteered at Columbia’s True False Film Festival as a Stage Manager at the Odd Fellows Lodge.
All within three days, I had the chance to watch six full-length films and 14 shorts. I heard the insights of directors who spent years with their film’s subjects, discussing what it means to offer a narrative that while subjective aims to inform to uninformed, to bring light to the hidden shadows that haunt different facets of our society.
I had the chance to literally discuss each director’s him with the actual director, which was less of a “star struck” moment as it was just something enlightening. How often does someone actually get the chance to meet someone so passionate about their artwork?
My job was not difficult. Sure, it demanded 32 hours of work within two days (insane yes, rewarding, extra yes). And yes, if I didn’t time everything perfectly—whether that be finding the buskers (what TF refers to as their musicians) and assuring they’re performing by the time the venue is opened or informing the director and Q&A host of when they need to be onstage following the film—the day’s schedule would swiftly fall apart.
Being a Juggernaut was definitely a different way of doing T/F, meaning you are committing to 40 hours of volunteering for weekend, so movies being shown at locations other than Odd Fellows were missed (“Montage of Heck” and “Going Clear,” I’ll see you at Ragtag soon and very soon) and exhaustion seemed to be the only thing that lingered about more than enthusiastic fans complimenting and discussing each film with it’s director.
But—even while seeing films I would not usually have picked out—volunteering put me in a position where I could witness how Columbia’s greatest cultural event comes together. I was able to see how this festival is possible, with the monumental amount of volunteers who sacrifice their time.
I finished the weekend WAY more tired than someone who saw a few films and called it a day. But I also finished the weekend feeling, for the first time in my life, that my small duty helped keep my venue afloat. And above all, I may never get to say again that I smoked a cigarette with a Polish director, or talked about scones with an Israeli director, or even just had the chance to sincerely thank someone for their art and see such a genuine look of appreciation.