Two weeks before show time, the Environmental Film Festival’s office on 31st Street NW is a place of quiet chaos. The festival begins March 12, and its small staff is working on details, logistics, and last-minute decisions. The festival’s staff is only ten people, but the numbers they generate are big: 190 films, 75 different venues, 111 world premiers and thousands of patrons.
Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, questions flew around the office. “Do you know when he’s flying in?” asked Peter O’Brien, the festival’s executive director, about a presenter. “And how about the launch party,” Chris Head asked Georgina Horsey, “When do we send out the invitations? Now?” Someone else asked about the social media push. Will the launch party invitation go on Facebook, Twitter or just email?
The theme of this year’s festival are rivers in human lives. One film, Lost Rivers, is about the hidden veins of water underneath major cities. Another traces the Rhine from its source in Switzerland through Europe to the North Sea. Where the Yellowstone Goes will answer that question, and another film looks at the perils facing the mighty Amazon.
For Washingtonians, the festival offers a look at the city’s own rivers. For those who spend time on the Potomac, Potomac: A River Runs Through Us highlights Washingtonians’ ties to the river that is the source of our drinking water. Festival-goers can explore the Anacostia via a series of stories from and about people that river.
Back on 31st Street, however, are the people who make the films run on time. Without them and their long days, the river of films, events, and presentations would dry up. Right now, the planning is in full swing. “What if we run out of food for the party?” someone asks. Meanwhile, Helen Strong, who does PR for the festival, wonders aloud if she can get Lisa Jackson, the former head of the EPA, to do a quick TV interview after a film. “My mind is blown by the amount of work the people in this room do,” says Rana Koll-Mandel, pecking away at her computer.
There is reason for so much concern. Last year, they did run out of food at the launch party. “We had enough planned,” explains Peter O’Brien, “but someone didn’t show up with it.” It all worked out fine–they had plenty of wine at the party, and plenty of films at the festival.