Since 1993, I've volunteered for the American Cinemaquetech in Hollywood in a variety of capacities over the years. Last evening, I worked the Publicity Team at the 2005 Moving Picture Ball, honoring Al Pacino, and held at the newly-redesigned Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.
But this is not really a post of an event as much as it is about organization of such events, and about the benefits of a volunteer family I've been adopted into for 12 years. Can you relate?
The American Cinematheque Award is presented annually to an extraordinary artist currently making a significant contribution to the art of the Moving Picture. This was our 20th Year of presenting the award. Past recipients include Steve Martin, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Nick Cage, Bruce Willis, Jodie Foster, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Stephen Spielberg among others.
What's this have to do with organization? Well, a lot. And it's about a system that works and gets better and better each year despite all the craziness on the Red Carpet. For those that don't know, these celebrity award shows are an orchestration of highly-efficient designers, lighters, teleprompters, security people, runners, gift bag managers, celebrity "angels," legions of volunteers and of course a publicity Mack Truck headed by Cinemaquetech PR Director Margot Gerber who also packages and promotes programs for the group's daily screenings. The system on the surface looks smooth and well-run. The events run like clockwork until someone doesn't show up, someone drinks too much, or a new crop of celebrity watchers gets aggressive, like they did last evening (cel phone cameras on the red carpet?) When these surprises happen, well-trained people take over, even volunteers, and make decisions in the best interest of everyone. It's like a ballet happening in the middle of Mardi Gras.
My job this year involved escorting my accomplished photographer Eric, who was solely allowed to shoot on the RED CARPET without being BEHIND THE ROPES. We discouraged any shots of persons considered minors (under 18) and I took names of everyone being photographed. Receiving detailed and sometimes frantic messages through my FBI-style walkie talkie, Eric and I interacted with the likes of James Caan, Andy Garcia, John Goodman, Ed Harris, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Marisa Tomei, Jon Voight, Diana Ross, Bruce Willis, "Downtown" Julie Brown, Ann Jeffries, host Jeremy Piven and a sea of film and studio executives. Politeness, diplomacy and quick actions moved us around the hotel's red carpet to get the best shots for Wire Image.
Over the years I've worked this event, and really no others in Hollywood. It's because it's superbly put-together and I am welcomed back into my Cinemaquetech family year after year.
Established in 1981, the American Cinematheque is a non-profit viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all of its forms. At the Egyptian Theatre, the Cinematheque presents daily film and video programming which ranges from the classics of American and international cinema to new independent films and digital work. Exhibition of rare works, special and rare prints, etc., combined with fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work, are a Cinematheque tradition that keep audiences coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences. The American Cinematheque renovated and reopened (on December 4, 1998) the historic 1922 Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. This includes a state-of-the-art 616-seat theatre housed within Sid Grauman’s first grand movie palace on Hollywood Boulevard. The exotic courtyard is fully restored to its 1922 grandeur.
The Egyptian was the home of the very first Hollywood movie premiere in 1922. In early 2005 the American Cinematheque expanded its programming to the 1940 Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.
The Cinemaquetech has weathered all my personal and business roller-coasters as I worked and donated my time throughout the years. Through rocky relationships they've accommodated all my out-of-town guests and my significant others. I've been able to develop some business contacts which were instrumental in me being where I am today (of course not overstepping my bounds at events---- volunteers agree to very strict behavioral guidelines in order to participate.) I've absorbed every ounce of detail I could over the years. I've learned over trial and error what works and works better when it comes to coordinating people and projects. One thing I take away at every event is that you can never be prepared enough and respond appropriately to inevitable surprises by treating everyone with courtesy, respect and understanding.
I've also seen the Cinemaquetech change and grow too. Sitting in their offices in 1993 helping declutter their large collection of film archives, I heard the tall stories of Gary Essert and Gary Abrahams who founded Filmex. How the "Garys" negotiated to build a theater in a planned shopping mall behind Mann's Chinese Theater which never materialized (neither did the shopping center.) How they worked with the city to renovate the Pan Pacific Auditorium on Beverly until the building burned down. I witnessed their moves from the Director's Guild of America on Sunset Boulevard, to the Raleigh Studios-era. Then, finally, they found their home at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, only to have to put off the renovation because of the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.
So it's this well-run and organized "family" that keeps me coming back, year after year like a Holiday of sorts.
Oh, and of course the gift bags are fun too. Audience gift bag donors this year included Altoids, AMC, Body Mints, Buena Vista Home Video, Citra-Solv, CITY Cosmetics, Creative Nail , Daily Variety, Dooley's Original Toffee Vodka Liqueur, Elete Water, Thefashionpulse.com, Fiji Water, Godiva Chocolates, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, LeCourier, Mineral Resources, NBC/Universal Home Entertainment, Smell Goodies, Tigi, Venice Magazine, Air Sense, B Clear, Catwalk and Steven Segal's Lightning Bolt drink.
My friends Lash Fary, Jodi O'Hair and their crew at Distinctive Assets, masterfully-executed the Presenter Gift Bags which included donated items from Athenaeum Hotel, Chambers Hotel, Clay Fitness and Spa, Dylan and Dillon, Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, Home Bonny's, HoMedics, Jazzy Rose Jewelry, LaLicious, MATA Bio Tech, Paradisus Resorts, Persol Eyewear, Popcornopolis, Production Headquarters, Renegade Babe, Rocco DiSpirito, Sketchers, Victoria's Secret Beauty, Wai Lana Productions, wines by Rioja Spain and Wolf Designs. And watch for the show's telecast on AMC in January, 2006.
I'd like to hear from OrganizingLA Blog readers. How has volunteering over the long haul helped you feel like part of a family? Has it been a plus for your business? What skills have you picked up as a results of your experience? I'd love to hear your stories with comments below.
UPDATE 1/4/2007 Because of spam trackbacks, I have closed all trackbacks down to this post. If you'd like to trackback, please send me an e-mail with request.