Recently, I undertook two weeks of participant observation as a volunteer for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Part of my time was spent on the production team for a number of special events, including appearances of actor Edward Norton, SIFF’s honoree for 2010.
In the first clip, Ed takes part in a Q&A session following the premiere screening of his newest film. Earlier in the day, for the run-through, I sat in the interviewer’s chair as he sat in Ed’s. Also, during this interview, I am in the projection booth of the theater running the lights.
In the second clip, Ed is on stage introducing the Spike Lee film 25th Hour and discussing Do The Right Thing. Here we are frustrated as viewers: only split-second glimpses of the actor are afforded us, and they are not enough.
In the third clip, Ed stands before the SIFF backdrop for an interview with AMC. At the moment the actor is giving this interview, I am just off-camera to his right maintaining the boundary between the incoming crowd and the space afforded to the media for photos and interviews.
In the last clip, Ed introduces a midnight screening of Fight Club with an anecdote related to the completion of the film. This glimpse “behind the scenes” enriches the viewing experience of a film that, most likely, everyone’s already seen.
Film festivals create multiple opportunities for access to extraordinary, ephemeral happenings that derive their exceptionality from both the boundaries normally set between non-media and media personnel and space and events such as these which suggest the permeability of those boundaries. Janet Harbord (2009) has suggested as much, pointing out the paradoxical juxtaposition of the recorded film and the live event (“the manufactured time of the festival” ). I would suggest that the paradox is pushed further in the existence of the clips presented here (especially the one with bad lighting, which only reemphasizes the importance of “being there”) as well as in my comments positioning me in proximity to that manufactured time. Norton, SIFF, the audience, and I all benefit from the process of reification inherent in the recording, sharing, and reporting upon the “live” event.
Harbord, J. (2009). Film festivals-time-event. In Iordanova, D. & Rhyne, R., eds. Film festival yearbook 1: The festival circuit. St. Andrews: St. Andrews Film Studies.