x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Secret stars: volunteers of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival

At the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, 500 volunteers drove stars, issued badges, screened films and guided the public.

Abu Dhabi // Behind the red carpet glamour of the fourth Abu Dhabi Film Festival, an army of individuals drove stars, issued badges, screened films and guided the public.

The festival's managing producer, Jeanne LeSage, paid tribute to the hundreds of staff and volunteers involved in the huge production.

"Behind every little detail is a department handling a team that deals with issues from travel to logistics," she said. "I could not say enough good things about them because they have gone that extra mile and made things look easy."

Before coming to Abu Dhabi, Mrs LeSage was at the Toronto International Film Festival for more than 10 years working in production and as director of HR.

"Having worked at a big festival like Toronto, I can see that Abu Dhabi is now on the same level as other festivals, which is impressive because it is still fairly new," she said.

The statistics behind the operation show how big the event has become:

Ÿ More than 200 staff members and 500 volunteers worked during the 10-day event. Between them, they juggled 3,000 shifts.

Ÿ 530 guests, sponsors and industry professionals attended.

Ÿ 50 vehicles and drivers transported people to the screenings.

Ÿ The staff drank 5,000 cups of coffee and 3,000 cups of tea.

Ÿ 191 screenings were shown, which meant 75 walkie talkies had to be charged at all times.

Ÿ More than 2,000 badges were issued to local and international press.

The diverse team of workers was made up of local and international members, who spoke numerous languages. The hiring process started last July.

"This shows that volunteerism, especially for the film festival is on a rapid increase in Abu Dhabi. What we look for is a team of flexible and calm personalities that know how to problem solve," Mrs LeSage said.

Muzfar Horvr, 22, from Pakistan, was one of the drivers. "I actually live in Dubai and this is my personal vehicle. It has been quite tough because sometimes I finish at 3am," he said.

Elizabeth Percy was one of the volunteers who worked at the press accreditation desk and said the registration process started three months ago.

"I have to check the system and print out passes, take care of media arrivals, departures and accommodation," she said. "At the desk, we are a team of four with additional volunteers, but the press office oversees the whole operation."

This meant ensuring press releases were issued on time and photographs were ready to be downloaded for those who attended, including Hollywood critics, regional and global columnists and newspaper and magazine writers.

"It has been a great experience working with the entertainment press and film industry because my background is in aviation and tourism PR," Mrs Percy said.

"I am also very impressed by the amount of support the Government has provided for the festival, which helped make the event a success."