John’s MIFF blog – The Man Behind The Curtain

One of the things that always impresses me about Melbourne’s festivals is the speed in which they set up shop.

A cinema or theatre will have a permanent box office, with printers and computers, landline phones with assigned numbers, trained staff and tested systems. They’ll have had months, even years, of trials and testing to get it all right.

The public face of the film festival.

Festivals like the Melbourne International Film Festival, or Comedy, or Fringe, have to start from scratch every year. They bring in all the equipment, the staff, the phone lines, the desks and chairs, with only a few weeks to get it all going. The hope is that the public see a confident, unified organisation while out the back everything is held together with gaffer tape and no-one can work out why the computers are trying to kill people. Out front, the grandeur of the Forum Theatre – out back you can’t plug the kettle and the toasted sandwich maker in at the same time or you’ll blow half the fuses in the theatre (and once again, I said I’m sorry. I just wanted a cup of tea. OK?)

The exquisite Polash Larsen, this year’s box office manager, has a wonderful metaphor for this experience. Let’s listen in as he explains to a customer exactly why we can’t seem to find her booking, shall we?

“The entire festival is like a circus. The big top gets rolled up and put away year after year, and when we unroll it to put it together we find moths and bugs have eaten holes in the tent. When it rains in the first few days people get wet, and we run around with buckets, and needles and thread to fix all the holes. But the circus carries on, none the less”.

Special thanks to actor Gina Morley for playing the public face of MIFF. You can really believe she’s reading, can’t you? Polash also wanted me to mention he’s an award-winning playwright and an ARIA-nominated musician, but I think that’s going too far. Polash is in The Grenadines, and you can their website here.

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6 Responses to John’s MIFF blog – The Man Behind The Curtain

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    that may explain why I was served by a young man who didn’t know what the DATE was yesterday and had no idea how to find out the name of the film about Steinway pianos….

  2. outlandinstitute says:

    I was at The Capitol the other night and the computer wasn’t working at all, so count yourself lucky!

    That making-of-a-steinway doco – Note By Note – is either going to be fascinating or just tedious, isn’t it? I can’t help being reminded of those short pieces they use to play on the ABC in the 1970s. The ones that went between kids shows if they were too short – things like footage of craftsmen making wooden toys, or Puffing Billy. Always Puffing Billy…

  3. That shot of the “member’s lounge” makes it look about 100 times better than it is. Note to self: don’t follow the actual signs to the lounge as you will end up climbing the stairs and walking into a darkened cinema during a session.

  4. outlandinstitute says:

    Yes, I was a bit surprised by that picture too – are they actually expecting people to hang out in the members lounge? I took that photo with a VERY long exposure, and the texture on the walls has come up lovely. Did you know it’s not plaster detailing, it’s actually an early form of plastic?

  5. Not surprised; go downstairs (near the men’s loo) and knock on the fireplace. I’d swear there is a secret passage behind it.

    I went into the member’s lounge over the weekend and was surprised that it is more of a member’s recruitment lounge. I was at the least expecting a coffee percolator and biscuits, although my heart and liver was hoping for a bar.

    The biggest perk of membership seemed to be that you get priority queueing, mind you, you still have to wait in queues, but these ones are shorter. Next year I will be pitching for a gold membership that makes other people queue on your behalf, while I wait at the exclusive member’s bar sipping on my cognac and reading the programme through my monacle.

    The festival also has no media room, which is a first for me for any conference or festival or market. Maybe they are getting too much coverage and don’t actually want the media to give them any more coverage. I had to settle for the computers inside the festival lounge (actually having to talk my way past the meathead guards as the producer financing market was still in progress). I felt like Banksy.

    I blogged about it here: http://symscovington.blogspot.com/2008/07/south-of-border.html

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    John’s MIFF blog – The Man Behind The Curtain | The Outland Institute

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