My friend got me to attend the Cleveland International Film Festival a couple years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
The first year we went, it took a little getting used to. We didn’t know where to go, we didn’t understand how the vouchers/passes/tickets worked, we didn’t figure out how to line up for stand-by films, and we didn’t know where to go to find the answers. We also (I guess I should say I, not we) picked a really horrific movie to kick it all off. It was a midnight showing (boo), it was REALLY long (second boo) and it was incredible dark and about cannibalism (resounding third boo). I still can’t get the images from that movie out of my head, and the fiance constantly reminds me of the poor selection. I will never live it down.
However, despite all of those seemingly bad experiences, there were a lot of things we really enjoyed about the first experience. First, I don’t care who you are, you get a slight feeling of superiority watching a film with sub-titles. You feel cultured. You can’t help it. We watched some animated shorts that first year, and they were excellent. We were really glad we stepped a little beyond our comfort zone to watch a series of shorts in other languages, and it was a highlight that drew us back for our second year.
The second year we went, I wrote a couple movie reviews in exchange for free tickets, and I did a much better job selecting films we would enjoy. I was able to get a program far enough in advance that I could read about the films, figure out which ones were playing when and then purchase vouchers ahead of time for cheaper than day-of tickets. We also understood where to go and how to line up for everything so we were less anxious about all of that as well. Much better movies and much better overall experience.
This year, I decided to take my participation a step further and signed up to be a volunteer. Early in the year I attended a one-hour Saturday morning orientation, and then leading up to the event I received ongoing communications about the online ShiftBoard we could log into to sign up for dates/times of shifts we wanted to work. It was very well organized, and I was able to get all three shifts (you are required to do at least three, four-hour shifts) on the dates/times I wanted.
For every shift I completed, I got two free vouchers, so I traded those in to take the fiance and one of my best friends to a couple shows. I had to travel for work during part of the festival so it was quite a whirlwind of activity to get the shifts and viewings all in. The movies we picked were pretty good this year, but I didn’t feel very prepared. I wasn’t able to get a copy of the hard program ahead of time so I didn’t feel as prepared with my movie selections. The website is good, but it’s just not as good as having the hard program to go through and mark down movies and times ahead. Hopefully I can find some of the ones we missed on Netflix– I’ve had pretty good success with that in the past.
Overall, this year was the best experience yet, and I hope by volunteering I was able to help other people figure out where to go, better understand how the vouchers/passes/tickets work, figure out how to line up for stand-by films, and know where to go to find other answers. I hope I’ll be able to volunteer again next year.
If you’ve not been to the festival before, I highly suggest you go! I’ll probably be there so stop and say hi. :)