The first time I signed up to volunteer for the Ottawa International Animation Festival
was 2000; at the time, I was taking pre-college animation courses at the Ottawa School of Art, and volunteering for the festival was encouraged. I jumped at it, if only for the sole volunteer perk: a free pass to screenings (admission after all paying guests are seated, of course). Missing a few classes of life drawing in a room with desperately uncomfortable chairs, for an officially sanctioned reason, didn't hurt my opinion of the prospect either. Being still in high school at the time, I managed to talk my parents into letting me skip classes for the several weekdays the festival was on, and took in almost everything.
The OIAF alternates years with SAFO, the Student Animation Festival of Ottawa; i.e., the big names only come to town every other year. I volunteered in 2001, as well, but the festival that year was so tiny, I wasn't even needed. (They didn't bother to ask for my screening pass back, though; there were so few attendees, not a single thing I saw filled the theatre more than halfway.)
2002 should have been a fantastic year to see everything again; at university, downtown, no more than six blocks from any of the screening venues, with an entirely-daytime class schedule, and between jobs, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, I forgot to sign up in time, and ended up seeing only the Kricfalusi Retrospective at the NAC.
2003 didn't seem to have anything particularly interesting, and I'd just found a job for the school year, so I didn't bother even trying.
This year, I'm in a rather uncomfortable position. I submitted my volunteer application back in June, when I received the first piece of official literature from the OIAF mailing list; at the time, I'd been laid off for what I thought would be an extremely temporary period. My plan was to keep up the okay-paying data entry job for the summer, saving enough to put off having to get a job for the school year until the actual start of the Christmas season; thus, I figured, I'd be able to fully participate again. And yet, the best-laid plans gang aft agley, and all that. I ended up finding a new job only by the end of August, which puts me in no position to ask for time off. I'd also, in order to take as many one-big-lecture-per-week courses as possible, arranged my schedule to attend classes mostly at night. I assumed, by the start of this month, I'd just have to forget doing anything at all at the festival, again.
However, I forgot to call and withdraw my name from the volunteer pool, and was very much surprised to get an e-mail last week telling me what shifts I'd been randomly assigned; perhaps foolishly, I'd thought that failing to show up for the volunteer orientation-slash-shift signup meeting would cause the organizers to scratch me. I had to do some shuffling with the volunteer coordinator, but managed to at least get assigned some shifts that don't overlap with either work or class. I'd try to get out of it, but I don't like failing to fulfill professional obligations, especially voluntary ones. If the OIAF survives for any further length of time, which is right now somewhat iffy, I'd like to take another crack at seeing everything. I don't need a film festival mad at me.
So, I'm working a total of nine hours for the festival. I'm getting a pass worth $195
at full price. I think I may have time to see two, or just maybe
three screenings. At minimum wage, nine hours is worth roughly $55 after tax. Individual tickets for screenings cost $10 at the door.
Which is to say, I'm not coming out of the deal very well this year. Such is life.