So You Want to be a Festival Gypsy?

As staff and volunteers arrive in the soon-to-be-bustling mountain town of Telluride in advance of the 46th Telluride Film Festival, there’s an excitement in the air. What films will screen? Who will the guests be? Will we get to see all the films we want to get into? For many of us, this is a chance to see friends we see only once a year at this Festival. And for others…this is another festival to work on the festival circuit.

I’ve been working film festivals for over 30 years. I didn’t plan to be a Festival Gypsy. It’s like potato chips, you have one and suddenly you’re looking sadly at an empty salty bag. What starts as a passion for films and one festival job that allows you access to films and behind-the-scene comradery, becomes a few festivals that you travel to to work with your friends…to what can become a full slate of festivals and suddenly–you find that it’s your life. I’ve had the opportunity to produce my own film festivals, curate film programs for festivals and have worn many hats for over 20 festivals here and abroad.

Not to be confused with attending a few festivals when you have the means for Passes and accommodations…a true Festival Gypsy may not even have a home base. I have a few festival friends that stay with family or friends but all of their belongings either fit in a few suitcases or live in perpetual storage. Every gypsy has different story. Some started like myself, in the SF Bay Area, where there’s a film festival every month. Or they found a particular niche in the festival business: Events, Guest Relations, Transpo or Theater Ops and realized that if they knew others in the biz, they could work at other festivals doing the same job. Some festivals even provide lodging and transportation.

The short-term contracts mean that you need serious budgeting skills, you may have to pay quarterly taxes, and you must be able to make dinner out of cheese cubes and bread sticks from the Hospitality lounge. You’ll get to travel, meet many interesting people, and each festival has its own perks and pitfalls; its own zeitgeist if you will. Many festivals don’t hire festival staff, relying mostly on volunteers (Boulder, Portland) or are very difficult to break into for a paid gig (Sundance, Telluride) because so many staff come back every year.

If you have a certain skill set and can adapt easily to new environments, working festivals can be a wonderful experience. As with any job, it’s your team that makes all the difference. Everyone who works a festival will have a different experience. You may find yourself joining a team of long-time friends that doesn’t make room for newbies or land in a venue that requires long hours and heavy lifting. As in any line of work, there are a few power-mad staff that think a walkie-talkie or a position of authority give them carte blanche to act like a dictator. Not everyone working a Festival knows that without the FEST, ie. the fun, they shouldn’t be part of the crew, or at least not on the front lines.

If you live in the town like Telluride or San Francisco, you can work the plethora of festivals that happen there almost every weekend. In Telluride, that would be summer work and you’d be traveling out of town come the end of September after The Telluride Festival of Cars and Colors. However, most of the jobs are volunteer, so you’d be hard pressed to make a living. Very few people have the wherewithal to travel the festival circuit as a Volunteer. A Gypsy is likely working multiple jobs for the privilege of traveling to do what they love–becoming part of the crew that bands together to bring amazing, potentially life-changing films to the masses. So if you see someone carrying a festival sign, toting a bin of passes/waters/ballots, wearing a headset or badge…give them a smile and acknowledge their hard work. They may be sleeping on a couch, subsisting on bagels and coffee (LOTS of coffee), and possibly, they’re a Festival Gypsy far from home.

Sonoma International Film Festival — A festival featuring film, food, wine and spirits in Sonoma, California

UPCOMING 22ND ANNUAL SONOMA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Festival to Open with LADIES IN BLACK; SIR is Closing Night Film

Wednesday, March 27 – Sunday, March 31

Sonoma, CA (March 11, 2019) – The 2019 Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is celebrating 22 years of film, food, wine, and spiritsWednesday, March 27 to Sunday, March 31, 2019. All films are shown at intimate venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza. In total, 123 films from around the world, from over 28 countries and 200 filmmakers, will be showcased as all eyes turn to Sonoma for a Festival that consistently attracts the most prominent names in the film industry and has become a marquee destination for film lovers, as well as lovers of world class food and wine!

The film festival guide has all films and events by day, times, venues, and includes film trailers when available. Some of the films highlighted this year include MIKE WALLACE IS HERE, ART PAUL OF PLAYBOY: THE MAN BEHIND THE BUNNY, FIRE ON THE HILL, GIRL ON WAVE, CHARGED, and the Oscar® winning animated short BAO.

The Opening Night Gala is Wednesday, March 27 from 5pm to 7pm in the Diageo Backlot Tent and features music from The Rich Little Band. The Opening Night Film, LADIES IN BLACK to follow at Sebastiani Theater (7:15pm) and Meyer Sound & Dolby Hall at Vets 1 (7:45pm). From Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer), LADIES IN BLACKis set in the summer of 1959 when the impact of European migration and the rise of women’s liberation is about to change Australia forever. Sixteen-year-old Lisa takes a holiday job at the prestigious Sydney department store, Goode’s. There she meets the “ladies in black.” Beguiled and influenced by Magda, the vivacious manager and assisting sales ladies Patty and Fay, Lisa is awakened to a world of possibilities. As she grows from a bookish schoolgirl into a glamorous and positive young woman, the impact they have on each other will change all their lives. Julia Ormond (Actor),Rachael Taylor (Actor) and Allanah Zitserman (Producer) will all be on hand to walk the red carpet in support of the film, which is the largest grossing film in Australia’s history.  Jennifer Brown of Flagstar Bank and Tina DeMartini of DeMartini Electric, Inc., are the presenting sponsors of the Opening Night Film.

The sellout SIFF/Devour! Chefs & Shorts is back! This year’s event features highly regarded culinary luminaries who will each prepare a dish inspired by short food-focused films from around the world. Michael Howell and Lia Rinaldo, founders of DEVOUR!—the world’s largest food and film festival in Nova Scotia, Canada—curate the chefs and the films. Each course, paired with a select wine, creates a multi-sensory dining experience. This unique event will appeal to all foodie, film and wine buffs. The evening starts with a reception of passed appetizers, Gloria Ferrer bubbles and a SIFF signature cocktail from Ketel One Botanical. The wine pairings feature Huge Bear Wines, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Bee Hunter Wine, and Landmark Vineyards. The featured chefs include Michael Howell (Founder and Executive Director of Devour!), Chef Marcellus Coleman (Executive Chef at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa), Chef Cole Dickinson (Executive Chef at MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa), Pastry Chef Michelle Gayer (Owner Salty Tart bakery), Chef Della Gossett (Pastry Chef at Spago) and Chef Eduardo Garcia (Co-founder Montana Mex). Adding to the night’s experience Chef Tyler Florence will screen his trailer for UNCRUSHABLE, showing twice at SIFF22. The event takes place on Thursday, March 28 at 6pm at host Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn located at 450 W. Spain Street, Sonoma. Tickets are $250 with Soirée, $275 with Cinema Pass, $300 General Public, $500 for seat at Tyler Florence’s hosted table (only five seats available) and are available at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/page464.html.

The list of accomplished jury members for this year’s festival includes casting director Ferne Cassel (DIE HARD, COMING TO AMERICA, ROADHOUSE, DICK TRACY), Courtney Sexton (Vice President of CNN Films), powerhouse film distributor Adeline Monzier, Michele Maheux (Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Toronto International Film Festival), Bart Walker (partner at ICM Partners), cinematographer John Bailey (GROUNDHOG DAY, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, MUST LOVE DOGS), Bill Keith (Deputy Editor of Entertainment Weekly), award winning producer Tom Davia (ARE WE NOT CATS, LA GRANJA), and actress Angela Sarafyan (THE INFORMERS, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2, WESTWORLD).

New to SIFF this year is The UNCRUSHABLE Dinner with Tyler Florence. On Friday, March 29 join celebrated Chef Tyler Florence for a one-of-a-kind “Dinner and a Movie” event. View Tyler’s documentary, UNCRUSHABLE, and after the film, savor a four-course dinner paired with wines from SIMI, Ravenswood, Robert Mondavi and The Prisoner Wine Company. The dinner begins at 5pm at Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn located at 450 W. Spain Street, Sonoma. Tickets are $250 with Soirée Pass, $275 with Cinema Pass, $300 General Public and $500 for a seat at Tyler Florence’s hosted table (only five seats available) and are available for purchase at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/page464.html.

Saturday, March 30 SIFF will host two Industry Panel Discussions in the Diageo Backlot Tent. Panel #1 at 9:30am “Representation: A Look Into The Business of Agents and Managers” will feature Bill Keith, Deputy Editor of Entertainment Weekly), Bart Walker (ICM), Beth Holden Garland (Talent Manager), and Melissa Hirschenson (Agent at Innovative Artists). Panel #2 at 10am “Destination Filming: The Practicalities of Filming Outside the ‘Hollywood Zone’” will feature Mark Walker (Cinelease Director of Studio Development and General Manager, Film Mare Island).

Sunday, March 31 is the Closing Night Film and Wrap Party, presented by Daniel Casabonne of Sotheby’s International Realty. The Closing Night Film is SIR directed by Rohena Gera, starring Ahmareen Anjum, Vivek Gomber, and Geetanjali Kulkarni, will show at 7:15pm at the Sebastiani Theatre and at 7:30pm at Meyer Sound & Dolby Hall at Vets 1. SIR is the story of worlds and classes colliding – of human connection across the invisible, oppressive barriers of society. A live-in domestic worker, Ratna is an impoverished but determined woman dedicated to her dreams. While working, she meets affluent Ashwin who, despite his riches, seems to have given up on his dreams and lost himself in the process. As the connection between them grows and their disparate worlds are irreparably intertwined, the social barriers that seek to separate them only appear to grow more insurmountable.

Pass Information

The 22nd Annual Sonoma International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, March 27 through Sunday, March 31. The best way to experience the festival and have access to all films is by getting a SIFF pass. SIFF can be enjoyed at different levels. Currently Cinema Passes are $325, $950 for Soirée, and $2,500 for Patron. All Cinema pass holders will have day access to the Diageo Backlot Tent. Soirée pass holders will have day VIP area and evening parties access. For information about tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.

About the Sonoma International Film Festival

The Sonoma International Film Festival, an entirely walkable festival, is a 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to promoting independent film and filmmakers from around the world, inspiring film lovers, and introducing the power of film to student filmmakers. SIFF’s signature initiative—the Media Arts Program started at Sonoma Valley High School in 2002—introduces students to the process of storytelling and provides the resources for them to create films, many of which are shown annually at The Student Showcase.  This “only in SONOMAWOOD” five-day event features screening venues in and around Sonoma Plaza, offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wines from Wine Country vintners. Renowned filmmakers, industry leaders and celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, John Lasseter, Danny Glover, Demián Bichir, Mary-Louise Parker, Ray Liotta, Michael Keaton, and Meg Ryan have walked the SIFF red carpet and enjoyed its intimate ambiance.

Over the past 22 years, the Sonoma International Film Festival continues to promote independent film and filmmakers from around the world with the support of incredible sponsors who include but are not limited to: Manitou Fund, Diageo, Sonoma Magazine, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Arrowood, Bank of Marin, Dolby, Sonoma Market, Sophienwald, Stor-It-All, WildFire Web, Spritz, Don Julio, Johnnie Walker, Ketel One Botanical, San Francisco Chronicle, Landmark Vineyards, Brew Dr., Huge Bear Wines, OHM Coffee Roasters, Farm Fresh To You, Rodney Strong, Gloria Ferrer, and Lake Sonoma Winery.

For more information, please visit www.sonomafilmfest.org

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Media contact: Allison Coats, allison@coatspr.com or (707) 935-6203