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It's almost noon on Sunday, two days before the start of the 7th Traverse City Film Festival. The New Foreign Jury has just watched the French film Queen to Play. Leave it to the French to make chess sexy. Queen to Play makes my jury's eighth foreign film so far. We've been ensconced in the cozy 35-seat Dutmers Theatre at the Dennos Museum on the southwest edge of NMC's campus since Friday morning. All in all we'll have seen eleven films by the end of tonight. After a break for lunch, it's back inside the theatre for three more French films: Trophy Wife, Princess of Montpensier, and My Piece of the Pie. Merci or mercy -- it's too early to say.
Straight from the Seattle Film Festival is Jeffrey Bartone, our projectionist at Dutmers. Jeffrey is staying with his folks on Old Mission Peninsula during the festival. Now living in Olympia, WA, Jeffrey was in charge of the Seattle Film Festival's satellite venues for the month prior to coming to TCFF. Keeping the films running on time in the tiny Dutmers is not quite as stressful a gig as showing them in several venues across Washington state.
Juror Tracy Kurtz's "Plus One" for the first film is Karen Jordan, who brings popcorn in a giant tin container. Karen's husband Jim Jordan, head of TCFF 2011 security, stops by to say hi on his way out to the Founders' Party at Ciccone Vineyard and Winery outside Suttons Bay.
An audio engineer with Bluewater Technologies, Ben Vandibjekaar is somewhat of a local boy, coming to TCFF from Grand Haven. I caught up with him literally behind-the-screen at Milliken, working away.
The Dennos is open for business at regular hours, while behind the scenes the crew from Boston Light & Sound preps the Milliken Auditorium and my jury sits in Dutmers watching film after film after film. Between films I visit for a moment with Leigh Downes, an AV technician, as he works his magic in the booth. He's been in TC since Tuesday. "A week to prep, then the festival, then two days to strike," Leigh tells me. This weekend is the calm before the storm.
But don't worry, when TCFF officially kicks off, the restroom signs will be up, Boston Light & Sound will be scarce as mice, and my jury will be watching films in the other venues...along with the rest of the TCFF 2011 filmgoers. So for now, au revoir, Dutmers. Merci pour tout, et à bien·tôt!