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March 1, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
With all of the excitement, the noteworthy fashion and the crazy after parties, the Oscars and the True/False Film Fest are pretty much the same thing, right? Using that logic, Vox is giving you its picks for which volunteers should go home with Oscar gold.
Best Actress: The Q Queens
From the opening credits to the final scene of the festival, The Q Queens keep festival goers at ease and smiling. These “flamboyant information stations,” as Jeremy Brown, T/F volunteer coordinator, describes them, are responsible for making sure patrons have the greatest opportunity possible to see the films on their wish lists by managing the Q outside each venue. Only funny and outgoing volunteers need apply because queens must keep the sometimes-stressful atmosphere of a line light by talking with patrons, cracking jokes and making BFFs with new people every three hours. Just as in Hollywood, it is imperative that every True/False best actress dresses like a star. Carolyn Magnuson and other Q Queens ensure their spots on the best-dressed list by donning creative and outlandish costumes to stand out to festival goers with questions. Fittingly, Magnuson dresses as a queen complete with a homemade red fur-lined cape embellished with a True/False logo on the back and a crown. No private fittings are necessary with Versace for these True/False A-listers.
Best Visual Effects: Set-up and breakdown team
Visual effects producers have mice and computer programs. True/False’s set-up and breakdown team has chairs, draperies and other furniture and decorative items. Both are responsible for creating an atmosphere that contributes to viewers’ enjoyment of a film by using the tools they are given. These volunteers use their Schwarzenegger-like strength to install large decorative pieces and haul risers and tech equipment. They also use their Damon-like intelligence to communicate with designers to find the best way for all components of the venue to fit in the space they are given. This process, which starts the Monday before the fest, includes a lot of sweeping, arranging chairs and even cleaning bathrooms, says Adam Bickford, a member of the set-up and breakdown team. Making festival artists’ visions come to life is the best part of the job, says Bickford. Last year, the team did this by helping install a large wood-framed globe structure for the Globe Theater inside First Presbyterian Church on Hitt Street.
If, by the end of the weekend, you can’t contain your excitement about the time you’ve had at True/False, either you’ve had one too many cups of coffee at Kaldi’s or you’ve fallen so madly in love with the fest that you can’t picture your life without it. If the latter is the case, volunteering for next year’s fest is the perfect way to give back and satisfy your adoration for all things True/False. Jeremy Brown, volunteer coordinator, gives his picks for the best jobs to match your personality.
If music is your thing, Brown suggests applying for the music team or becoming a stage manager. These volunteers greet the musicians and help them get set up. They are responsible for everything on the stage before and after films.
If you’re a self-proclaimed techie, the fest is always looking for experienced audio technicians to run sound or projection. Experience is needed for these jobs, and they are somewhat difficult to get.
If you’re all about the films, Brown says you’ll be great as a filmmaker liaison or as a member of the screening committee. The committee is made up of the people responsible for watching all the submissions to the fest. Committee members are chosen based on viewing experience and are asked to submit a sample review of True/False films. This job is reserved for the true film buff. All committee members should be willing to watch at least 50 documentaries.
If you’re a people watcher, then the theater operations team is right up your alley. These volunteers get to interact with a number of other volunteers and attendees. They work on the front lines and get to experience the heart of the festival. It’s the place to be if you want to experience the personality of True/False.
Brown has some general tips to make sure you get the most out of next year’s volunteer experience. First, Brown suggests applying early. Applications can be submitted online starting November 1st, and the earlier you sign up, the better chance of getting the volunteer position of your dreams. Also, as the festival moves more toward a full four-day event, Brown recommends that all volunteers for next year make themselves available Thursday through Sunday.
Best Art Direction: Venue Design
True/False’s 40-member venue design team is full of artistic and team-oriented volunteers who are in charge of creating an artistic backdrop for the fest. Before the films have been selected and the general volunteer roles have been cast, this group is taking dimensions at the spaces and starting to think about how each space will be used for the festival. Next it’s time to design elements for the venues with the goal of incorporating the theme of the fest. One venue where True/False’s Design Coordinator Sabrina Braden especially likes to incorporate the fest’s theme is the box office. This year the box office has been relocated to the old Pasta Factory location, and designers’ main focus for the location was developing a lighting scheme. Two weeks before the festival, volunteers began putting the finishing touches on designs and art pieces, including this year’s interactive tin-can phone booth inside the lobby of the Globe Theater at First Presbyterian Church. This is when the vision of the designers begins to come to life, says Braden. By the time the reels start turning and the fest begins, the designers’ work is finished and they are free to enjoy the fest from the comfort of a couch at Ragtag or over a beer at Café Berlin.
Best Director: Venue Captain
Just as movie directors make sure their cast looks good, venue captains oversee house managers and volunteers and make sure everything is running smoothly. Captains are in charge of making sure filmmakers have arrived at their assigned venues, that the venue is clean and that there are enough seats available, venue captain Jess Soete says. They also ensure volunteers are doing their jobs and are responsible for putting out proverbial fires at the venues (we’ve heard of at least one flaming projector), dealing with absent directors and even managing the occasional tornado warning. Venue captains get a lot of screen time during the festival because they are expected to be present at their venue for the duration of the time it is open. Most captain’s work begins around 10 a.m. each day and ends around midnight, says Soete.
Technical Achievement Award: Technology Volunteers
Actors and actresses might get most of the credit, but their films would be nothing without the work of technology specialists. The same can be said for True/False. After all, how can a film festival exist without projection and sound? The technology volunteers are primarily responsible for working with the audio aspects of the fest and making sure they are seldom seen by audience members. Volunteers are doing their jobs correctly if no one knows they’re there, production manager Justin Arft says. These trained volunteers work quickly to set up and tear down audio equipment between musical performances in a way that goes unnoticed by most attendees. The team of 50 volunteers is “sweating bullets” until the last second trying to create a seamless show for True/False attendees. On-set nightmares are a reality for True/False too. Sometimes it is up to the problem-solvers on this team to take care of tech issues to maintain the illusion of seamlessness. Two years ago, for instance, one of the fest’s biggest projectors failed on opening night. In 14 hours, a tech volunteer made his way to Chicago and back for a new projector for the rest of the weekend. The job of a technology volunteer might be grueling, but according to Arft, the challenge of pulling off a seamless festival is satisfying.