As SDAFF's Production Coordinator, I quite literally have a behind the scenes perspective of the festival. While you are all enjoying a movie, I'm behind you and above you in the projection booth, making sure all goes smooth. Having been attending SDAFF since year 2 and working/volunteering since year 4, I have way more than ten memories. But here are some of the outstanding ones:
1. US premiere of My Suicide (2004)
This was from my year as a programmer. I had to work hard to champion this film. Back then, the festival was only 5 days, and program slots were at a premium. Not to mention this obscure Thai romantic comedy with it's very dark subject matter (see title). So when I introduced this film to a near-capacity crowd on a Friday night at 10PM, I can honestly say I had to fight back some tears of joy. Even more so when everyone laughed, cheered, and even screamed at this odd but imaginitive film. They liked it just as much as I did.
2. The Tech of George Takei (2007)
We had to do a lot of technical magic for this seemingly simple 2-person event (and we'd all been up late at the post-Gala party drinking...um...root beer). Lee Ann and George wore lapel microphones (which we never used before), we had stage lighting, house lighting, and video clips. Everything had to be coordinated from the booth by radio, and it ran like a Swiss clock. One of the programmers, a veteran of film festival events, called it "the most professional thing I've seen at a film festival". Or something to that effect. Ow, too much root beer.
3. Close Call (2001)
Not so much for the movie itself, but this was the first film I ever saw at SDAFF, and actually the first time for me visiting a film festival. I then learned that SDAFF is more than just going to a theater and watching a movie. It meant meeting people, hearing from directors and actors, seeing works of upcoming filmmakers. It was an EVENT. I knew immediately I had to be a part of it. BONUS: The film was preceded by a short, Princess Fever by Juli Kang. In being involved with SDAFF, I've watched Juli Kang develop as a filmmaker all the way to her excellent and highly polished Damn The Past! in 2008
4. Brickstones Sauna (2005)
In '05 and '06, I ran the 4th SDAFF screen at Brickstones Salon in the DoubleTree Hotel (now we have a 4th screen at the Ultra Star). It didn't have quite the same theatrical vibe as the regular theater, but we did our best to still make it a great place to see a movie. Plus, the stage setup made the room quite conducive for panels and Q&As, and over the years we had several very spirited post film discussions. In 2005, we had a series of sell-out showings for a Celebrity Panel and the documentary The Grace Lee Project. Even more people lined up for a free screening of the Japanese ghost story One Missed Call. Normally, large crowds are SDAFF's number one goal. Well, when the A/C is working, that is. In Brickstones '05, it wasn't. I don't know how so many people stayed packed in that room for One Missed Call in such stifling temperatures, but it shows just how dedicated our attendees really are.
5. Half-Life, and all of the screen (2008)
This one might be just for the tech geeks, so I'll keep it short. Video projection has always been difficult in large theaters. But in 2008, we finally developed a way to patch our video into the massive DLP projectors at the Ultra Star. Half-Life was the first film to really test the system, as it would need to take up every inch of the screen. As Ultra-Star manager Joe Richter said, it looked like one of the big studio digital movies they show there on a regular basis. Ultimate compliment for a projectionist.
6. Paff the fanboy (2006)
I don't get too fanboy-ish, but sometimes I make an exception. I couldn't attend the Gala due to working a screening, but I did sneak into the private post-Gala reception. I stood out like a sore thumb, only person in "civilian clothes" (SDAFF t-shirt and jeans) while everyone was in their Gala finery. But I did get to meet some gorgeous and famous celebrities, namely Grace Park and Ming-Na. Ming-Na signed my laserdisc copy of One Night Stand, and we talked about the movie, even her sex scene. I was blasted by other staffers for not having a professional look and behavior at the event, but if the celebs felt the same way, they sure didn't show it.
7. The ink (2004)
It takes a lot of work to drive Lee Ann Kim into silence, but some work from the artists at Avalon Tattoo in Pacific Beach managed to achieve it. I was so enamored of SDAFF after my year of programming, I had the original logo tattooed onto my left shoulder blade. Like I said, it made Lee Ann speechless. Of course now, she delights in telling everyone about my ink and I've had to remove my shirt at formal SDAFF events to show it off at her request, but I've not regretted the tattoo even once since I got it.
8. The never-ending Q&A (2006)
No top ten list is complete without at least one George Lin memory. In 2006, the final event at Brickstones was the Music Video Program. As soon as it ended, I had to completely clear all the audio/video equipment from the room, and I had a large crew of volunteers to help me. Only one problem: George wouldn't end the Q&A at the close of the program. It went 5 minutes over, then 10, then 15. I don't even know how long it ended up taking, but after he finally ended it, I asked George why, why, why did he keep it going so darn long? His reply? "There were still people in the seats". Never mind that these people were my volunteers, waiting for the program to end so that they could go to work. That was just George. Always wanting to put on a show.
9. My Tutor Friend (2003)
I had always enjoyed Asian film. Although my exposure to it was pretty limited genre-wise. Martial Arts, Hong Kong action, Japanese horror and animation. To me, that's all Asian cinema was. In 2003, the year I volunteered, Lee Ann told me to see My Tutor Friend, a Korean romantic comedy. I took a gamble, and sat down for this very enjoyable film. And ever since then, I'm just as likely to be watching a comedy, drama, or any kind of film that expands the commonly accepted view of what Asian cinema is usually thought of.
I couldn't come up with a final entry for this list. There are so many great movies, so many great people, so many great times that I've had in the 9 years I've been going to/working at SDAFF. I could easily list a dozen more memories. But I'm purposely leaving this one blank, because there are even more memories yet to be made. And despite all the great times I've had, I always want to believe that the best thing to happen to me at SDAFF is something that is yet to come.