As part of my Throwback series, I will be posting articles I’ve written in the past which I was supposed to upload onto my blog but I couldn’t for a variety of reasons.
This article is about my experience at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2014, where I represented the production company and my filmmaker boss at the event.
One of the things universities these days don’t equip you to handle happen to be certain situations that can only be described up as ‘ reel life’ or as my Instagram hashtag was ‘is this real life?’
As a former Television & Video Production major from a solid media school, I found myself thrown into situations where I had to act like an adult.
When actually I’m really good at pretending to be one.
The ‘certain situations’ that I mentioned above happened during the month of December at the Dubai International Film Festival (11th edition), where I represented my company (I used work for an independent filmmaker who runs a film production company in Dubai) and I had to well,d adult.
The day I started working at the festival, my zealous boss told me that I was representing the company’s name, and I was given mission objectives daily ( almost like I was a female James Bond who got updates on her company-issued smartphone but with a sharper wardrobe)! I was also instructed to attend sessions as an ‘Industry’ representative and schmooze with fellow industry reps and catch movies on my down time.
While I was proud that I was coming back to DIFF as a member of the Film industry; I was extremely nervous because I was the face of the company at a film festival renowned for its prestige in the Gulf.
So, I bucked up and put on my big girl panties and adulted.
Let me just say that me networking isn’t like it’s shown in movies. You need to pluck up the courage to approach filmmakers, producers, and companies who are sitting in the lounge of the festival headquarters sipping their tea or coffee, and conversing in multiple languages about things you will only dream of hearing.
A few examples of what I’ve heard while at my networking sessions – (‘Oh my God, why do we have to do this procedure here? Tribeca is nothing like this.’ And, ‘I can’t believe Emily Blunt hugged me, I didn’t think she was so friendly in real life!’ and, ‘We shot a movie with that guy who plays Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, it’s going to release soon.’ Or even, ‘Do you think Eva Longoria has gotten work done? She looks so different from Desperate Housewives!”)
It was a whole new world because you wearing an industry pass made all the difference.
You also learn not to fangirl and squeal when you see celebrities standing three feet away from you – I saw Eva Longoria, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany and Ali F. Mostafa (he’s a famous Arab filmmaker) and I had to learn to compose myself and look as disinterested as everyone around me whenever a celebrity brushed past.
However, I learnt things they don’t teach you in college. For example, you’re about to meet a client to drop off files for your boss and you aren’t carrying your MacBook with you so you need to scour the entire film festival for someone with a MacBook and fervently pray to whichever deity is listening that they will take pity on your incompetent ass.
You also learn to not ‘chill’ and take advantage of your privileges, i.e. -watch movies, but make sacrifices like attend forum sessions and press conferences and smoothly introduce yourself while you’re in line at the box office (‘Hey, I work for XX filmmaker, we are currently raising funds for our new narrative short. Would you like to know more about it?’).
The overall experience was one I would always remember because when you’re out in the real world, it’s not like being in college where you can make a mistake and try again.You need to make sure that when you make an impression – it lasts and people remember you because while you’re thinking what to say in that 2-minute’ gap to be memorable or you’re just like everyone else in the room.
You may come back next year or you may not come back at all – but you learn things by observing your fellow members of the industry. You need to be prepared and be dignified even if people look bored while you talk about your job and purpose at networking sessions.
So here’s my word of advice to all of you who are about to graduate and enter the real world – you’re going to make loads of mistakes and you’re going to feel like crap.
But, you will learn and age like wine or George Clooney, and you’ll be thankful you did!
Here is to you Dubai International Film Festival, for giving me this great experience that will help me in the future.