Brains Trust >>Watch video>>
In 2020, we were the last film festival to take place before we literally shut down. I think we finished eight days before everything shut and I thought, “This is great, it’ll all be fixed, this is fine, we’ll be back doing what we’ve always been doing”, and then as the months went by, I went, “Oh my god, it’s not gonna happen, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna do it? I don’t know what online means. How do you do it? Where do you put it? Is that a USB card?”.
I kind of worked through my own nervousness of trying to research online, as we all did. What are other people doing? What are the other people navigating this new world like? Then I had this idea, and it came out of loneliness I suppose, around the end of June or July of 2020. I just emailed all of the film festivals and film programmers in Ireland and I asked, “Would you be up for a chat? We can pool our resources.”
It took away so much anxiety knowing that I would be able to plug into the “brains trust” of people who have festivals like Galway’s which happens in the summer or Cork’s which happens in the autumn. They were really generous, everybody was really generous. We were all saying, “I don’t know, I’ve no idea how to do this”, or “We asked somebody else who asked somebody else who asked somebody else”. “Great, that sounds fantastic, tick”.
It’s now monthly and we still talk and we share information about audiences or marketing or programming and I genuinely never would have thought that a random self-help group would actually operate but we’ve become a group of friends. It’s quite big, there’s about 48 of us and it feels like a very positive way of dealing with something that was incredibly lonely and insecure.
I’m 51 and I didn’t think I could learn new skills, “Oh what do you mean online and platforms and streaming platforms and windows?” Actually what was lovely is that we all went through it and we all learned and we all shared and I feel now that if there are things that come down the tracks on us, because we never know now, that was the way that we would deal with it. As a group you’re so much more powerful. 15 people have 15 contacts each, that multiplies the amount of information that you can bring back to a core.
I do about 7 / 8 different international festivals. I have lots of friends there, that’s one of my real loves of this job and when COVID hit, that all went – you didn’t have that professional peer structure, that buddy buddy system. It was really nice to have a programmers social club.
Me-time >>Watch video>>
This year when the COVID numbers started rising, I genuinely found myself really, really stressed dealing with with colleagues being sick or unavailable and I just found getting up an hour earlier gave me time to put in place me-time within the day because the rest of the day just turned into this cycle of e-mails and meetings and calls. I think a lot of people would have done it at the other end of the day, and would have said, “Do it with a glass of wine”, but I had that cup of green tea at 6 or 7 in the morning and literally did what I wanted to do. That was the time that I could cordon off, it really helped. My brain was able to process the next frantic 9 hours or 10 hours.
Not normal >>Watch video>>
I know people love doing “last-minute”, I have never been a last-minute person. I understand the attraction of last-minute, but I do think if you can prepare and build earlier and you can get your team familiar with what you’re doing earlier, then when the pressure comes, everybody feels like they’re on the same page.
We’ve had a couple of instances this year when we had to work weekends and we deliberately said, “OK, if we’re working this weekend, we’re going to make it fun”. Vast amounts of Duran Duran was played, and we acknowledged that this is above what we should be doing. It’s not normal to work 6 -7 days, it’s not normal to come in on a Sunday at 10 and presume that you can just go in the next day as if nothing has happened.
I think there’s a dynamic there with people who have kids and people who have other responsibilities that they take care of at the weekend. You can build up a resentment between the people who are putting in particular hours and those who are putting in other hours.
Physical event >>Watch video>>
The difference between an online and physical event is the joy and passion from the audience and from the filmmaker. It’s real, you can see. It will literally lift your heart and that doesn’t come from online events, I don’t care what anyone says. It just doesn’t because you’re not there, you’re not in that space and after a while that suddenly begins to gnaw at your enthusiasm and your ability to do it.
You may not be paid lots of money, you may not have a clothing allowance or a limousine or any of the perks that apparently some of those other professions have, but what you do have is that these events make people happy and their happiness makes you happy. If you take that away then it becomes quite arid.
One of the things that we’ve found in festivals, and I think you’ll find it across the arts, is that it’s really hard to hold onto staff. That’s one of the biggest issues in the arts at the moment.
There’s an invisible damage that COVID has wrought on the sector – people are fleeing programming/events. There are a lot of really tired people, very, very tired people, who genuinely love what they’re doing and have loved it for many years and now they’re beginning to think, “I don’t know if I can do it anymore”.
I genuinely think that as we move back into a hybrid and hopefully back to a physical world, that we can reduce the hours because people have been eating into their own personal time to satisfy deadlines and things. I definitely see it with people who just feel that they’re not getting what they wanted out of this and also they’ve had time to think, to re-skill.
I’m talking to people about venues because, “Yeah we’ll be still open, won’t we, next year?” Even if that doubt is at the back of your head, it’s enough for some people to find it very, very difficult to get the energy to get up or get excited. We’ve all been forced into a way of working.
Magical >>Watch video>>
Now getting into the end of the summer, it’s like going back to school, you feel like you have to start planning. We’re funded by The Arts Council. They’ve funded us since the very start and we have to put a big funding application together, which means you have to write down what you’re thinking of doing next February – you have to have places and venues and some of the programme and film names included. We have a team and my colleagues Karen and Carol are really important to those applications, they have skillsets that I do not have.
I’m lucky that I work in a job that you start with a blank page on one level. The films that come in, unless they’re older titles, you see slowly and in different phases. I like to get a couple of months of watching films before we define our key strands so you have a sense that you’re keeping up with the Zeitgeist.
The event itself is always great fun because the public is there. I find no matter what pain you’ve been through, the joy of seeing an audience give a standing ovation, or the happiness on a filmmaker’s face when they realise their film has connected with an audience, it’s kind of magical to be honest.
Each month Minding Creative Minds hosts a Meet & Greet that everybody in Ireland’s creative sector is welcome to attend. Like Grainne’s Brains Trust we pool resources and support each other + it’s a welcome social outlet and opportunity to make new friends in our sector. Keep an eye on our social media channels for details on our next session.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.