East End Film Festival

One of the biggest hurdles in the film industry is networking. No matter how many times people tell you it’s not who you know, don’t believe it. It’s about making connections and meeting people. That’s exactly how I got my current position as a runner and how it got me my next position.

You have to meet people and tell them your story. The more they know about you helps them remember you for an upcoming project.

With this in mind, I did a search for local film festivals and started marking the calendar when they were coming up. The first one was the East End Film Festival that ran June 13-25. This was a perfect chance for me to break through my comfort zone as I had never volunteered for a film festival before, and it was clear on the other side of London from where I live.

My weekends have become very precious while I have this job, so I regretted the decision immediately. But I did have to start somehow and somewhere. The venue I was a venue manager for was The Aubin Cinema near Shoreditch High Street. I really hadn’t explored the east side too much except for the Whitechapel Gallery (which is actually at the Aldgate East tube station, not Whitechapel), but I certainly didn’t walk around or explore the streets.

The east side reminds me of what New York City must have been in the 80s. It’s very artistic and open. Graffiti art covers most of the buildings, and while walking around I came across not one but three fashion photo shoots in alleyways.

The Aubin Cinema is an adorable cinema. Exposed brick walls, an open studio space on the ground floor with the single screen theater downstairs next to the bar, and the seats are all sofas or arm chairs for about forty-five people.

The first night, we screened A Message to the World…Whatever Happened to Jesse Hector? Jesse Hector was a lead singer and guitar player in the band The Hammersmith Gorillas. They were a punk band in London in the 70s. So, this little documentary was the telling of what has happened to him since the band broke up. Spoiler: he’s a cleaner at an opera house. But this was to show his build up to a new show where he would play beside Eric Clapton and Robert Plant at the Royal Albert Hall. He eventually declined the concert because, “if there is something I don’t want to do, I won’t do it.” It was actually because he talked himself out of it thinking he wasn’t good enough.

Ironically enough, he didn’t show up to the Q&A portion that night either. Most of the people were quite disappointed but were fans of the film. I enjoyed watching it and meeting the director, Caroline Catz, afterward, which was exactly what I wanted to get out of volunteering.

The next day, we screened Beautiful Noise. Now, I’m not a punk rock fan, but I certainly agree with “noise” when it came to the title. “Beautiful”…not so much. This was a documentary all about punk bands from the 80s from the UK and some in America. There were several really cool interviews that talked about how the band formed and shaped future bands with The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. And finding the band members and having them speak like My Bloody Valentine, The Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain was really cool. I completely respected their level of dedication and how much archival/interview footage they had.

But I just couldn’t enjoy the music. It also didn’t help that whoever edited the film didn’t really mix the sound levels very well for a cinema. The music was screechingly loud, but if I ran back to have the projectionist lower it for my poor, delicate ears, no one would be able to hear the talking heads. It was a shame that I cringed (not just because it was punk) every time the music played.

The last film I oversaw was Palo Alto. This was the new film with Emma Roberts and James Franco based on Franco’s own book. But I actually didn’t get to see the film. There was a problem with the computer system, so we were unable to screen the movie after all. I tried my best to keep the audience calm and entertained. Thankfully, there was a bar in the cinema with snacks.

When I did have to finally cancel and send everyone home, they were so polite and understanding. It really surprised me. It was late on a Sunday night, and no one complained or threw anything at me. They all went calmly to the front, passed the couple that was waiting in the wings hoping to sneak in without paying, and got their money back.

Part of me was glad because I was already so exhausted from the weekend, but I also felt bad since most of the people who were there really wanted to see this movie. They were even asking when it would get UK distribution, which I had no idea.

What was the cherry on the sundae was when the cinema front of house staff emailed the festival to say how well I handled the situation. That was so sweet and unexpected. I could have said the same about them being so polite in having to refund everyone’s ticket.

The festival saw some big name stars such as Clive Owen, Ron Perlman, Hugh Grant and Jon Favreau. I do wish I could have been in the right place at the right time to meet any of them, but next time I hope to schedule life a little better so I can devote more time to the festival. It really was a new experience, and I’m looking forward to the next festival in August.


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