One of my favorite things about going to school in Baltimore is the interesting, quirky, creative arts scene that surrounds me here. As a humanities student (really, as a humanities person), it makes me feel even more creative myself when I hear of films being produced, exhibits opening, and shows playing all over town to showcase the talents of young, independent artists. As one of these artists said during a panel discussion at our own Hopkins Film Fest, Baltimore is a perfect transitional city for growing artists. It might not be where you hit it big, but the rent is cheap, the people are cool, and you have the chance to really push your creative boundaries in all directions.
This past weekend, I got to participate in one of my favorite annual arts events in the city: Maryland Film Festival. You’ve heard of film festivals before (Sundance, Cannes, Berlinale, Tribeca, SXSW) and Maryland fits that same structure. They get tons of submissions from independent filmmakers around the world and choose a bunch of feature-length films, shorts, and documentaries to fill up a weekend schedule. The screenings are centered around Station North/Mt. Vernon, mid-Baltimore neighborhoods that are home to the major screening spaces: Charles Theater, the MICA Brown Center, and The Windup Space. There’s a kick-off party and a closing night party, which this year included special guest Harry Belafonte. There is also a whole “tent village” set up across the street from the Charles Theater the entire time where they have the Filmmakers’ Lounge, panel discussions going almost continuously, food donated by restaurants around Baltimore (Golden West and Zeke’s Coffee were the best this year), merchandise for sale, and of course ticket sales.
My job as a volunteer this year was to be a tech checker, which in essence means I met the filmmaker, helped do run-throughs of each film before the screening to make sure there weren’t any problems, and monitored sound/picture quality throughout the screening to make sure there were no issues. I also helped during Q&A sessions at certain venues, which was a lot of fun. As a result of being a volunteer, I saw a lot of the films during the festival, including Terri, The Dish and the Spoon, Convento, Hilvarenbeek (co-produced by Hopkins faculty member Jimmy Joe Roche), Bad Fever, The Learning, a recording of Danny Boyle’s stage version of Frankenstein, and a couple series of themed shorts. I was disappointed to miss The Color Wheel, Weekend, A Useful Life, and We Were Here, but there are only so many screenings you can make it to in one weekend! As a volunteer, I also got vouchers for each shift I worked, which could be redeemed for free screening tickets or $5 worth of merchandise.
Even though I worked a lot of hours each of the three days and also had obligations on campus to come home to, it was hard to feel tired with the perks and the experience I gained during the weekend. As part of my job, I got to meet some amazing Baltimore residents, which was probably the best perk of all. I met a young couple who actually live right here in Charles Village (and who, during our entire shift, were trying to help me network by dropping loud hints that I needed a job…in FILM…you’re graduating soon, aren’t you Lauren?). Part of my job was to work with the filmmakers, so I felt privileged to converse with them and their casts about everything under the sun. After the screening of The Learning, which is about Filipino teachers being recruited to become teachers in American cities (this one, Baltimore) in order to achieve better lives for their families, I even had the pleasure to meet a lot of the inspiring people on whom the film was based. And I worked with a lot of older cinephiles, which I definitely would never have had the chance to do otherwise. I had conversations about my favorite actors and films with the randomest of people and even saw some familiar faces (including a few friends and some of my professors at Hopkins) along the way.
All in all, it was a creative and stimulating and thrilling weekend. I woke up each day so excited to take the shuttle down to the festival and get to work. And it never sucks to be on the other side of things: by volunteering, you’re in charge of something, you can answer questions for people, and you feel like you’re really part of a greater effort. Maryland Film Festival was another reason why I know I’m in the right field: there’s never a dull moment, the people are buzzing with creativity and artistic drive…and I can’t help but want to be along for the ride.
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Name: Lauren C.
Major: Writing Seminars/Film & Media Studies