Often we are reminded that there can be too much of a good thing…
Working in cinema, it could be argued that there is the risk of saturation or perhaps a burnout that can arise through genuinely enjoying our chosen vocation; whether it’s through too much work and not enough time for film-watching or maybe even, on rare occasion, vice versa. At every level this feels very much like a labour of love above all else. Working in a Box Office, as with any customer-facing role, can occasionally feel as if you’re stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place – they openly engage the audience about their experience and face direct feedback with mostly good-natured criticism in return. This, whilst acknowledging the tough decisions and restrictions in which programming teams operate, leaves them answerable to all and, as a result – for cinema staff, the simplest joy of film itself can be forgotten.
On the back of working weeks of overtime covering maternity leave and honeymoons (mindfully and with joy, I hasten to add – we all love our jobs a bit too much, remember?) and after discussion about the recent Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli documentary and it’s current lack of distribution, the generous opportunity to spend a few days at the 28th Leeds International Film Festival arose courtesy of Film Hub North West Central and Hub Lead Organisation, Cornerhouse.
I’d never been to a large scale film festival before (let alone known that, not only could I attend on behalf of my organisation, but that I’d be supported in doing so!) and as much as this was a welcome break from regular routine, I was keen to witness a different working culture and operational environment than my own. What I didn’t expect what for the resounding impact was to be one that I had not previously considered: I accidentally had a good time!
Delayed departure of the train from Manchester to Leeds and a poor choice in taxi operator meant I arrived at Leeds’ oldest cinema, Cottage Road with just seconds to spare before the screening of the earlier-mentioned Miyazaki documentary. Flustering through the doors with little regard for posterity, I came face-to-face with my Box Office counterpart.. only for it to be a friend I’d worked with in Manchester a few years prior. The perfect first impression and an instant awakening as to why I was there – we all loved the experience of film, from either side of the counter. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness was the delight I’d hoped it would be, with the whole experience setting the tone for the few days to follow .
From viewing the Lithgow/Molina masterclass of Love is Strange, the emotionally epic Wild and the attack-on-every-sensory-dimension of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the grandeur of Leeds Town Hall; to the madcap Spanish crime caper Ferpect Crime at the wonderful Hyde Park Picture House; watching the distinctly odd triple-bill of the beautiful beyond (and without) words Le Quattro Volte, the disappointingly muddled Der Samurai and the embarrassing ease with which Gandolfini and Hardy excelled in The Drop whilst I sat immersed in the contemporary plush of the City Centre’s Everyman; not to forget the one trip to Vue at the Light to see the conceptually-great Bird People, one thing became overwhelmingly clear – cinema is capable of, and often should nay does, extend beyond venue (in location and capacity), budget (in film and ticket price) and even the individual themselves.
Every member of festival staff, volunteer and attendee I encountered (and even the taxi drivers who turned up and were unwittingly subjected to my thoughts on the days viewing) were united in the cinema experience, extolling film as a medium that universally embraces and welcomes. It can divide opinion, it can ignite passion. It has the capacity to tire us out and occasionally overexpose us, but ultimately it is also patient and undemanding.
Film is always ready for us when we are ready for it…some of us, he says looking awkwardly back at himself, just needed a reminder to enjoy it.
Daniel attended Leeds International Film Festival with a bursary from Film Hub NWC- for more details see here.