This documentary about Star Wars enthusiasts who do charity appearances in full Imperial costume is the second official opening film of the weekend. It is the U.S. premiere of the film, in fact; it screens at the Wisconsin Union Theater late Thursday, April 12. In addition to director Jay Thompson, the screening will also be attended by members of the 501st Legion, the group featured in the film.
Since these Stormtroopers and bounty hunters will be busy working the lobby (not to mention State Street earlier in the afternoon and evening), they won't be able to watch the movie about their group. Hence the preview screening.
As the festival approaches, the next 168 or so hours will be filled with volunteer orientations, ticket distributions and theater and film double- and triple-checks. Festival director Meg Hamel ticks off the tasks to be completed over the next week, day by day.
Thursday: Inspecting prints is the major task faced by festival organizers today. They just received a large shipment of 35 mm prints from FedEx. "It's fun to learn the last place a particular print has played," notes Hamel, pointing to Vilnius, Lithuania as an example. The festival's technical staff will be working through the afternoon and night physically inspecting each and every reel. "We check for splices to make sure they look good," she explains, also keeping an eye out for wrinkles, tears, breaks and other problems.
"We've all been in planning mode for months, but when the films start arriving, everything changes," Hamel says. "It's not a hope or a wish anymore, it's a movie.
Friday: Theater inspections are one major preparation organizers will be tackling tomorrow. "We're continuing to check all of the sound and projection equipment," says Hamel, "making adjustments, replacing parts, and making sure that everything is in the best possible shape."
Saturday: Assembling information packages for the visiting filmmakers is the first major weekend task for organizers. An assembly line of sorts will form at the festival offices in Vilas Hall on the UW campus, where screening schedules, official passes, and other basic materials will be put together for the official visitors.
Sunday: The second day of the weekend means show rundowns for Hamel and her team of volunteers. They will be creating summaries of every single program (screenings, parties, and special events) scheduled for the festival for the volunteers and projectionists. "We compile all of this information onto one sheet so the teams at each theater can know who is introducing a particular film and what guests are attending," says Hamel, along with details about advance ticket sales and special sponsors. They'll also be prepping materials for each theater, including envelopes for ticket stubs and audience award ballots. "It's a tool kit for each theater," she states.
Monday: The first of two final volunteer orientations is scheduled as festival week begins. "This is when we review everything the volunteers do at the theater," Hamel explains, such as how to sell rush tickets, how to handle ballots, and answers for some typical questions they can expect. "It's that one last time to get all of the specifics down, such as the peculiarities of each theater," she continues. For example, because there is no janitorial service in Vilas Hall over the weekend, volunteers will need to make sure that toilet paper remains stocked in the restrooms for Cinematheque. "It's little details like that for which we want to give our volunteers a heads up on," Hamel says.
Tuesday: In addition to the second final volunteer meeting, organizers will be spending the penultimate day before the festival tying together as many loose ends as they can. This includes following up on film shipments and making final confirmations for visiting filmmakers, Hamel explains. "It's ironing out a lot of last-minute issues we might not have anticipated."
Wednesday: The biggest job needing completion on the last day before the festival -- aside from putting out any fires that might flare up -- is readying tickets for every theater. Advance sales both online and at the official box office in Memorial Union close at 5 p.m. that day, at which point mixed packages can no longer be purchased. Hamel will be working through the afternoon and night printing out and organizing tickets for every unsold seat for delivery to the respective theaters on opening day. Once the festival begins, filmgoers will need to buy tickets at the location where the movie is screening.
By next Thursday morning, the ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival will be all but under way, Stormtroopers on State Street and all.