Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 4, 2013

Many hands make for quick work at Film Festival

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Some wear blue T-shirts that read “volunteer” on the back, others don bright-pink polos. And a few don’t wear anything more official than a name badge.

But one thing’s for sure: it takes a ton of volunteers to run the Film Festival.

“It’s so much work to do this that they couldn’t do it without volunteers,” said Margaret Szajner, a volunteer who stood outside the State Theatre on Saturday morning hocking swag for the festival.

Szajner and a handful of other volunteers spent the morning helping a sell-out crowd find its way into a showing of the movie “Dancing Queen.”

The melange of professionals sacrificed a few hours of their time to help make the massive production move smoothly. They are just some of the 1,500 volunteers who work about 12,000 hours altogether during the festival week, said Erin Bernhard, the festival’s volunteer coordinator.

They do everything from guard the entrance to the filmmakers’ loft to taking tickets at the front of each venue.

Szajner worked a handful of shifts during the festival week, including a few as a videographer recording the discussions before and after films.

“I work full-time during the week, so I take evening shifts,” she said.

Although Szajner hasn’t been able to see any screenings as a patron, she has been able to watch a few movies while on duty making videos for the festival.

Other volunteers, like Linda Price, operations manager for the festival, commit a significant portion of their lives to the production.

Price has been with the Film Festival since the beginning and works year-round to help organize the event. Then, during the festival week, she works days that stretch from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“I’m a little tired,” she said Saturday morning. “It’s a labor of love. The rewards are great, but they are not monetary.”

Bernhard estimates that the hours worked by the 300 managers before, during and after the festival would bring the total volunteer hours worked to around 20,000.

But, Price doesn’t like to quantify her work in the number of hours she clocks.

“I just stopped counting,” she said. “You do as much as you need to do to make it work. We’ve become a family.”

It is a family is proud to work alongside, she said.