Walking up to the Carolina Theater today, at the start of another Full Frame, I couldn’t help but think how much the festival has changed over the years. My first encounter with it was in 2001, when it was called DoubleTake (the name was changed to Full Frame the next year, I believe). I was living in New York at the time, and came down in May to visit a friend who was living in Hillsborough. At one point he casually mentioned that he’d heard of a film festival going on in Durham, maybe it would be fun to check it out.
If I remember correctly—and the intervening years have not been kind to that faculty—a friend of a friend, who shall remain nameless, helped get me into a screening through, ah, diplomatic channels (all youthful reprobates named or unnamed in this blog post have since reformed and become productive citizens). I wish I could remember exactly what I saw (STARTUP.COM, I think), but I do remember feeling guilty enough to ask, on the festival’s last day, whether I could volunteer on the spot to clear my karmic balance sheet.
I was told it was too late to volunteer, but if I wanted to sign up the next year they’d be happy to bring me aboard. As I was leaving the Carolina, I noticed a folding table just outside the main doors, filled with merchandise, or posters, or some such, that was left unattended as staff and volunteers busied themselves with breaking down the festival. Seizing the opportunity to clear my conscience, I asked whether I could be of use. “Sure, stand here and watch this table, then help us load the van,” said a man who seemed to be in charge. I recall that he threw a DoubleTake T-shirt at me to make it official, and I also remember the unexpected value of my sentry service as a strong wind picked up that threatened to blow everything away.
That’s how easy it was to become part of the festival at that time—you could just walk up and ask. The festival seemed so small then, so informal. And it was suffused with what I can only describe as a “good energy,” which radiated from the kind and helpful volunteer corps, coordinated at that time by the infinitely gracious Ann Tharrington, and since led by other good-natured folks. I came back to volunteer the next year, and the next, until I finally moved to Durham from New York (not just to be closer to Full Frame, to be sure, but its presence on the event calendar here is no small draw! It truly is a world-class festival and adds tremendously to Durham’s cultural capital).
As the festival has grown, it seems not to have lost the charm of its earlier days, and the quality of the programming has likewise remained consistently high through the years. Word from some of those who have seen a sizable cross-section of the selections is that this is one of the stronger years in recent memory.
Enjoy the screenings! Don't miss THE COVE!