The 32nd Annual Athens International Film + Video Festival
April 28, 2005
By Susan Green
Everyone knows actor and independent filmmaker Steve Buscemi, but not everyone knows the hard-working and dedicated Ohio University students who help produce the weeklong Athens International Film + Video Festival, which runs from April 29- May 5.
With 120 competition films and 18 feature films, producing the event without them would be impossible for Ruth Bradley, director of the festival. "They're excited to be here," she says. "They provide the backbone, the energy and the grunt work."
But they learn something from that unglamorous grunt work, such as how to be part of an information flow and how to work collaboratively. Students do research on potential feature films, create e-mail listservs and databases, provide marketing and promotion for the festival, create the program book, answer telephones and assist with fundraisers.
Bradley says the students were part of the reason the festival's annual fund-raising event was so successful. Sponsored by the Friends of the Festival, the second annual Oscar Night raised $7,500.
"They provided a lot of the physical labor for Oscar Night in addition to serving as wait staff, bartenders and ticket takers," she says. "And they were amazed at the Oscar party, how members of the community are committed to the festival; they got a real sense of the work involved to create a successful event. At their best moments they learned something that reflects the core values of the community."
This is senior Greg Udolph's second year working for the film festival, and in addition to handling basic office tasks, he's also working with film distributors.
"I love coming here to work. It's a great experience, and it doesn't matter what your major is. There are so many things to do and to learn about," he says. " People like me in video production think they're going to go off and shoot a movie our something, and we don't think of all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to get things done. The film festival has a great reputation, and working here has been a good opportunity."
Udolph's the print traffic manager, which means he collects the films that have been accepted into the festival, sorts them to make sure he has the correct copy to be shown, delivers them to the proper festival location and at the festival's conclusion, sends them to the next destination.
It's a big responsibility, but Udolph loves it.
Udolph's job should be a bit easier this year since everything is being shown in one place, the Athena Cinema in Athens.
In previous years, film devotees had to travel to three locations to watch the eclectic mix of feature and experimental films shown during the festival, and only the most die-hard fans of experimental film made the trek up to The Ridges to indulge their passion.
"This year the competition films will run free of charge during the day at the Athena," says Bradley. "Showing these films at the Athena Cinema makes them available to even a casual passer-by. And feature films will be shown in the evening. It's nice that everything is in one spot."
Well, almost everything.
A few films will be shown in Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium, including "Lonesome Jim," the latest feature film directed by guest artist, Buscemi, who will be presenting the film, and local filmmaker and guest artist Blis Hanousek-DeVault's documentary, "Passion Works: A Story of Flying." A two-hour video performance by controversial performance artist Linda Montano will take place at The Ridges.
The film festival's reputation is just one of the reasons for senior Chris Hobbs' involvement.
"I'm the office manager, but there's nothing official about that," Hobbs says. "I answer the phone, do chores for Ruth, schedule the programming and schedule student hours." He likes the fact that he gets to watch a lot of films and meet a lot of people.
Hobbs says the general office skills he's learned are valuable in any profession, "There are people here who plan on working for a film festival in the future, so it's a great experience for them."
Todd Seda, another senior who has worked with Bradley for four years, says the skills he acquired working for the film festival came in handy during his internship with David Letterman last year. "I knew how to answer the telephone, take messages and think on my feet," he says.
Admission to the special screening of Buscemi's film on May 2 is $6 with a donation of canned/non-perishable food or $8 without a donation. Donations benefit the Athens County Food Pantry. General admission tickets for screenings at the Athena Cinema are $6 for all feature films; students with a valid student I.D., $4. Competition films starting before 5 p.m. are free. A $25 pass, good for any five screenings (not including "Lonesome Jim"/Steve Buscemi), is available from the College of Fine Arts Ticket Office and the Athena Cinema Box Office.
The Athens International Film + Video Festival is sponsored by the Athens Center for Film and Video, a project of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University with generous support from the School of Film and receives funding from the Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Athens County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Eastman Kodak and individual donors.
Complete festival information is available at www.athensfest.org.
This story features enhanced educational experience and personal interaction between students and faculty.
Susan Green is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.