Guten Tag – Ni Hao Ma?

Bjorn Hochschild, Festival Intern

Let’s keep it simple and classic: Hello, my name is Björn and I’m a new intern at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. I arrived in Toronto about a month ago, to take a little detour on my way to a achieve a bachelor’s degree in film science. I moved from Hamburg (Germany) to Berlin two years ago. I will assist the staff at the office until December, which will hopefully give me an inside view in how a film festival works. Every now and then, I will try to blog about my experience in the office and review some Asian films that come across my way in Toronto.

Why would I come all the way to Toronto to work at Reel Asian? Let me point out, that simply studying film science won’t turn you into the next Spielberg. Unlike at a traditional film school, I don’t direct, shoot or write films – I rather talk and write about them. It’s like studying literature, with films instead of books.  Some may find that boring, but for someone who likes to be around films this might be just the right thing. But every now and then you feel a need to get out and see what else is there.

After graduating from university, film festivals could be one field to step into. I always liked the atmosphere at certain festivals I attended in Germany, but I’ve never been on the other side. And since I have an affection to both Asian and Horror films, I thought it might be a great idea to leave the crowded streets of Berlin for a while and get familiar with the work at a festival that focuses on movies that fit my taste. After a long and intense relationship with the search engine we all know and my mail account, I finally received some positive answers and had the agony of choice. You can imagine the rest of the story.

Over the past five weeks, I spent most of the time getting an orientation to the office’s workflow. Coming to the office every day is completely different from going to the university, where your schedule is mostly chaotic, while the office has and needs it’s certain routine. Speaking of routine and orientation I still don’t know what my specific task at the festival is. And I like it that way. So far the work has ranged from frustration to triumph and is varying every day. The more frustrating part includes working on the marketing contacts database, which mostly contains exhausting copy and paste work, but gives you that relieving feeling of success once another large list is done. I also take all incoming calls and organize them. Since I’m not a native speaker this is something I still have to get used to, but it’s also a great challenge.

Then there is a lot of research to do. Every film festival needs its audience and without calling attention to oneself, the theatres would remain empty. In order to reach the audience, a lot of research is done to ensure we are up to speed with new trends and using social media like Facebook to help get the word out. But so far one of the best things at the office is that there is always something to do outside the office. May it be a letter to deliver, or photos to take of different venues for various future events. For someone like me, who is new in Toronto, this is a perfect opportunity to mount the bicycle and explore parts of the town and even sometimes clubs and bars I might not normally go to.

But on top of that, one of the most joyful things is that Gina helped me to get into the Toronto International Film Festival’s volunteer program, where I will work for about two weeks. This way I will experience another, completely different festival and can practice dealing with a hectic atmosphere even before the Reel Asian festival starts. I’m really excited!

So far I’m feeling very good in Toronto. It appears to me that a lot of sightseeing consists eating food as well. There is always a thing that you “have to try”. Every Tuesday there is a staff-meeting at Reel Asian that includes a potluck which makes you feel both full and cozy. Chris and Sonia gave me a list of things to do on a trip to Montreal I had this past weekend. Four out of five things where about food. That’s fantastic! I love food, who doesn’t?