by Nadine Promes
What is Annecy?
Annecy is a city located in the Haute-Savoie region in France, relatively close to Lyon. Although small and tranquil, it has plenty of things to do including various types of sports and outdoors activities. However during the summer, when the International Animation Film Festival occurs, Annecy fills up with people like no other time of the year. The event is divided into two sections. The Festival includes expositions, screening, special programs, signing sessions and more. The MIFA (International Animation Film Market) is where booths held by different studios or companies related to the entertainment business show their new products, shows or simply give information to future business partners or employees.
In 2010 the Festival celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and this year (2015) MIFA is thirty years old. Every single year the festival grows in visitors and participants. This year the festival had more than 8,250 badge holders, 83 countries represented, and 500 films screened, and for the MIFA 2,680 badge holders. The Festival chooses a theme and a country to represent every year. This year for example, Spain was the country represented and ‘Women in Animation’ was the theme. Hence the beautiful poster created by Regina Pessoa, both a woman animator and a Spaniard.
Volunteering for Annecy 2015: A Bénévole (Volunteer)’s Perspective
Students get exclusive benefits that normal Festival badge holders don’t. For one day, students are allowed to enter the MIFA. There, they can and the stands, network with the companies and talk to recruiters. This is an immensely important opportunity of which one must take advantage. As an international animation student studying in the US, I was lucky enough to not only attend but also participate as a staff in one of the most important festivals in the Animation world. As this was my first festival ever, I was not sure what I was getting myself into. Now that it’s over I can say that if it were up to me, I’d do it every summer!
How to become a Student Volunteer
Unfortunately to become a volunteer you must speak both English and French. You might be able to volunteer if your French is limited but no promises. The majority of visitors are francophone, so French is a must. Most of my ‘coworkers’ spoke both French and English and at times an extra language that in my own case had to use to aid some visitors. If you’re all set and want to go for it; a couple of months into the year, the inscriptions for both interns and volunteers open. You can find information on volunteering from the‘volunteer-job’ on the website.
Pre-Arrival Preparations Tips
Accomodation/ VISA Preparation
Make sure to get a VISA as soon as possible. There’s no telling how long that will take. For the accommodations I had emailed the Annecy volunteer department for aid and they sent me a list of Annecy residents that were renting their apartments for volunteers and interns. I was lucky enough to find a nice lady that gave me an amazing deal. But in the list, some people were asking an insane amount of money for just one week, so caution is advised for those who wish to cheat you. Aside from that, you can also get a nice deal from nearby hotels if you plan ahead. Cheaper hotels can be found outside of Annecy and the transportation is reliable. I would advise you to live as close to Annecy’s center as possible, however. After being accepted you should buy plane/train tickets and find accommodations immediately. Hotels fill really fast even months before.
Once accepted, you are immediately assigned to your position. A couple weeks before the festival, you are sent your ‘planning’ or your schedule. I was lucky and was assigned to work in the MIFA Accueil (reception). Both morning and afternoon shifts were approximately 6 hours long. MIFA starts on a Wednesday, but I arrived a few days before the festival. This meant I also helped out with assembling a portion of the 7,000 Annecy goodie bags to be given away to guests. I am proud to say that I helped put in advertisements and info sheets in every Annecy 2015 goodie bag. In the first orientation, all volunteers gather together and the directors and permanent staff of the festival are introduced. Then we are given a breakdown of the festival. Everyone is sent to their respective groups and are given their own goodie bag and uniform.
PERKS OF BEING A STUDENT VOLUNTEER FOR ANNECY 2015
As a student volunteer, there are some benefits that I have listed as well as some other aspects to be aware fo.
Free Admission/ Access
As a staff member I was given full access to MIFA every day. I also had free admission to every screening except those located at the Bonlieu main building. Bonlieu requires an admission fee.
Discounts/ Lunch/ SWAGS
Every 3 hours of work was equivalent to 4.90 euro meal ticket, which are accepted in a wide array of restaurants in the center. It is easy to collect a large number of tickets and basically eat for free or a very small amount of money while the festival is happening. Staff members also get discounts in many stores and restaurants. This includes the official store of the Festival, which is consequently a comic store. My luggage returning was very overweight. If you know how to take advantage of the festival and with a little bit of good timing you can get all the SWAG as seen in picture in one day.
As a MIFA volunteer I not only encountered students and normal badge holders, but professionals in the business from PIXAR, Disney Studios, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and Cartoon Network.. Because many of the volunteer are students or professionals working close to the medium, it is easy to get business cards from people working in the big studios. Networking is allowed during working hours! A couple of my co-workers got to speak to recruiters one-on-one after they met them in the reception. You never know who you’ll meet! A friend and I arrived late to a Disney conference and ended up speaking almost an hour with the Disney people one-on-one. Things like this can happen in Annecy!
The MIFA group leaders are very understanding and flexible if the screenings you reserved fall under your working time, so it is easy to change and talk it through. Volunteers are invited to staff parties, and the last one has live music, a DJ, food, and free wine! My friends and I got to go to a private picnic held by Cartoon Network because we met someone from there.
Exclusive Advanced Movie Screening
Although chilly, every night they screen a free movie under the stars in the grass park. It’s an amazing experience to see hundreds of people watching an animated movie together. During the Festival you also get to see movies like Inside Out before they commercially screen.
Discovering New Studios
In Annecy I discovered a studio called Ankama, I became slightly obsessed over their series and comics. I was able to see the first 40 minutes of their first movie, which won’t come out until next year. I also got to meet most of the Ankama studio member and was allowed to go to one of their private events. I even scored an interview!
Tips for Your First Annecy Trip
Keep Refreshing/ Reservations go Fast!
As soon as reservations are open for screenings, they fill up. So if you want to get a specific screening you have to be on your toes and therefore it is highly suggested to have the screening page open (if you have more than one, have them ready in different tabs) and refresh every second, then immediately click and do the same with the others. I was lucky enough to get the ones I wanted, but it was a little stressful, and not everyone is as lucky as I was.
For some big conferences held by important studios such as Disney or Nickelodeon, you may have to line up 2 hours ahead of the conference. Again, I was lucky to get in but the people behind me were turned away because the theater filled up. So for special conferences and signing sessions, expect to wait long hours. Also, some special screening and events are invite only, so not even staff members could attend.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Expect to walk a lot. A brisk walk from MIFA to the main Festival theatres takes about 17 minutes. It can feel a lot longer when your stomach is growling and the sun beats down on you.. Always wear comfortable shoes!
You won’t really get much time to see most of the festival. In my case I went to some screenings that I found extremely interesting. Unfortunately, I had to miss some exhibitions and other cool stuff.
Annecy Traditions/ Fun Facts
Making Shadow Puppets
The Bonlieu Theatre had been recently renovated. Therefore this year has been the first it had been in some time. The past festivals used another theater hall which apparently had a low projector and an overall more ‘run-down’ feel. While they waited for the screening to happen people would make shadow animals with their hands, specifically bunny rabbits, which later evolved into making animal sounds when the lights went off.
Throwing Paper Airplanes
Also while waiting people would fold their programs into paper airplanes and throw them towards the screen. The closer to the screen a plane would get the more cheers it got. During the years these goofy games became a tradition. So in every screening of the festival inside a theater hall, people will throw paper airplanes and make animal noises, with exception of the bunny shadows since the projectors of an actual theater hall are too high up. For the poster of this year, however you can see Regina Pessoa doing the traditional bunny. I was lucky enough to be part of these traditions. I threw a couple of airplanes myself.
Nadine Promes was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela and is currently pursuing a BFA in Animation and a minor in Illustration in the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has lived in more than 3 culturally diversed locations and has a keen passion for travelling and learning about different cultures. She speak Spanish, English and French.