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Telluride manager: “I no longer think this film festival is special”

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: As many of us are preparing to enter the fall film festival circuit, one woman just made a very public exit.

And not just any woman, either. Jennifer Ammann served as production manager for the Telluride Film Festival, and is walking away from the annual event. But not before recording and posting a bitter screed against the fest and its organizers on YouTube.

“I no longer think this film festival is special,” Ammann said in her clip, shot in front of a serene natural backdrop that contradicted her mood.

Ammann discusses the grind of putting together a film festival with the size and scope of Telluride. She accuses festival organizers of undervaluing employees (they take away breakfast!) and championing better treatment of the college-aged kids who come out to work for Telluride for several weeks.
“The bureaucratization of this festival has taken all the joy out of working for it,” she states.

Is she right? More than likely. Film festivals are not money makers (outside of the big events on the festival calendar), and they rely on the kindness of hundreds – if not thousands – of strangers to come together. It’s usually the work of five or 10 extremely dedicated organizers who motivate the rest of the masses who usually are volunteering their time or are being paid in screening tickets. The labor is intense, schedules are strict, and it can be stressful. Most bend, and a few – like Ms. Ammann – break.

Posting a YouTube clip might not have been the best course of action. Yes, it puts Telluride in a bad light, but I don’t think the fest is unnecessarily cruel, or even more mean-spirited than Toronto, Venice, New York, or the other major fests that are cast into a blinding-hot spotlight during the Oscar season.

Use this clip as a reminder, then, that when you are attending one of this year’s autumn festivals, treat the volunteers with extra kindness. And maybe hand them a little breakfast, as they might not be getting any in the volunteer tent.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • August 17, 2010 | Permalink |

    Film festivals are similar to political campaigns. A few paid staff, and lots of volunteers. The difference, however, is when working for a political campaign, there is only one movie to watch.

  • August 18, 2010 | Permalink |

    Just to be clear Jen wasnt the produciton manager and we’ve had breakfast for awhile now but the past years sponsors had backed out. so it took a few days for them to get it together. I love Jen, but there’s still people here who care about the festival and the people working it.

  • August 20, 2010 | Permalink |

    They’re paying for my ticket, meals, and even lodging up there so I can work. Hmm… Can’t complain about that!

  • September 15, 2010 | Permalink |

    “A” hasn’t done their homework! Jennifer Amman was indeed a MANAGER listed with about
    15-20 others under “PRODUCTiON” in the 34th, 35th, & 36th official TFF programs on page
    40 in each! I can go back further if you like! Why haven’t we heard from at least a few of the
    other 450+ volunteers? Did they or didn’t they get their breakfast? What’s wrong with this
    picture? And why can’t Jennifer come forward and defend herself? The only alternative,
    “Baked In Telluride,” where they could get a quick croissant or egg sandwich, burned to the
    ground back in February, pretty much leaving the only alternative a sit-down breakfast at the
    Chop House or Sophio’s, plus tip!

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