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Beaufort International Film Festival: A Village of Volunteers

story by carol lauvray    photography by susan deloach

Ron and Rebecca Tucker, founders of the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), rely on volunteers to make the Film Festival a success. “Volunteers have played an integral part from the beginning—all 11 years,” says Rebecca. The Beaufort Film Society is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, so the organization does not have the luxury of a paid staff. “As Ron and I have discovered, two people cannot pull off the Film Festival. It takes a village—in this case, the Beaufort community!”

Rebecca says that originally she was the main coordinator of the Film Festival’s volunteer workforce but it became too much for one person about six years ago, so they put out a call for help. She says they started with one volunteer to help coordinate, but for this year’s Film Festival, about a dozen Key Volunteer Coordinators will help manage the growing number of volunteers required for the Festival. “We are fortunate to have many repeat volunteers who have stepped into the position of Key Volunteer Coordinator and who assist in recruiting and training newbies for the Festival,” she added.

According to Rebecca, in 2014 the Festival needed about 60 volunteers, in 2015 approximately 75 volunteers and last year the Festival required 100 volunteers. But in 2017, about 150 volunteers will be needed, she says. “We decided to double the number of ushers this year, because they will have additional duties during the screenings of the films,” Rebecca stated. “Besides assisting patrons to their seats, they will ensure that the restrooms are orderly and the theater is neat, and count the number who attend each screening.”

Most of the volunteer opportunities are three-hour shifts. Volunteers help at the Opening Ceremony for 500 at Tabby Place by collecting tickets, bartending and bussing tables. Film screenings are held at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort Center for the Arts, where volunteers serve as greeters/Zip Code collectors, ticket sellers, ushers and Green Room attendants. At the Awards Ceremony, volunteers collect tickets, bartend, bus tables and pass hors d’oeuvres. To volunteer for the Film Festival, contact Michele Barker at decalverhall@yahoo.com.

“Our volunteers keep everything running smoothly at the Beaufort International Film Festival, year after year. The overall positive energy our volunteers bring to the event ensures that we have a memorable Film Festival for Beaufort,” Rebecca emphasizes. “Our volunteers are simply the best!”

What Key BIFF Volunteers Say About the Film Festival…

Michele Barker: BIFF Volunteer since 2012; from Charleston, SC and has lived in Beaufort since 2003.

“Until last year I did various jobs—greeting and zip code collection, ticket sales and ushering. Last year I became a Volunteer Coordinator to help fill the various volunteer slots and supervise the volunteers on site.”

“I’ve met some celebrities and filmmakers and seen some amazing films, but I’ve also gotten to know some very wonderful people here in Beaufort by working with them during the Festival. Rebecca and Ron are so encouraging and supportive and they listen to our ideas. It really is a team effort. Volunteering at BIFF is an opportunity to be a bit of an ambassador for Beaufort, to interact with people from all over the place, and to have a ton of fun. I like to think of it as my annual escape to “Hollywood” on a smaller scale!”

Rich Frerking: BIFF Volunteer for 5 years; from New York City and Long Island, NY and has lived in Beaufort since 2009.

“I’ve been involved in some fundraising, ushering and zip code collection for the Film Festival. I’ve enjoyed watching movies since I was about six years old and paid a quarter on Saturdays to watch a double feature. At home I have a pretty nice setup with a 120-inch screen and a collection of DVDs that is nearing 2,000 movies. So after I moved here and found there was a local film society, I sought them out and asked if I could be of some help and have tried to be useful ever since. As a result of volunteering, I’ve made some very good friends and have seen quite a few great films.”

Bunky Hanks: BIFF Volunteer for 7 years; from Hampton, SC and has lived in Beaufort for 24 years.

“I am responsible for getting the volunteers for bartending and serving. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been doing this, but it’s at least seven years and it’s something I’ve eagerly anticipated each year. Where else could I serve champagne to Vanna White or talk with Powers Boothe and his wife for 10 – 15 minutes? Working with the volunteers and Ron and Rebecca is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I do.”

Bonnie Krstolic: BIFF Volunteer since 2009; moved to Beaufort from Cincinnati, OH in 1997.

“I’ve done a variety of jobs for the Film Festival—ticket sales, ushering, stuffing and delivering gift bags to filmmakers, serving appetizers, soliciting items for fundraising events, and distributing posters and BIFF information. This year I’m responsible, with another person, for recruiting 18 volunteers for the ‘Green Room,’ a space where the filmmakers and sponsors can relax and have refreshments.”

“The Film Festival has given me the opportunity to see how many hands are needed to make an event successful and the chance to give back to the town of Beaufort. It’s rewarding and exciting to see how much the Festival has grown since its inception and how hard Ron and Rebecca work to make it better every year. We also are blessed with wonderful sponsors who are significant to our success.”

Gwen Sager: BIFF Volunteer for 8 years; moved to Beaufort from New Jersey 10 years ago.

“I began to volunteer for the Film Festival as a fill-in wherever they needed me at the old movie theater on Lady’s Island—ticket sales, selling merchandise, usher. Now my husband Stan and I set up for the Opening Night and Awards Night festivities, and we still jump in where needed.”

“I enjoy the Film Festival immensely. I’ve made great friends (Ron and Rebecca, among others), seen some awesome films, met some wonderful and talented filmmakers, and increased my understanding and appreciation of filmmaking. I encourage everyone to come out to experience this incredible Festival. Once you ‘get a taste,’ you’ll be hooked—whether just enjoying the films or wanting to get more involved in behind-the-scenes activities. It brings the community together and showcases Beaufort hospitality and love of our town!”

Jenny Steadham: BIFF Volunteer since 2010; moved to Beaufort 10 years ago from Greenville, SC.

“I have been volunteering for the Film Festival for 8 years and currently work as one of the Volunteer Coordinators, which involves contacting, scheduling, and assisting volunteers during the Festival. It is gratifying to know that in some small way I have contributed to the cultural and economic growth of my community. Volunteering has also given me the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people. I am constantly amazed at the many talented people in the film industry, as well as those in our small town. By volunteering for the Film Festival, you can hopefully get the same feeling of community service, learn more about the film industry and Beaufort’s role in it, and have lots of fun doing it.”

Lorrie Stroud: BIFF Volunteer since 2010; moved to Beaufort in 2009 from Richmond, VA.

“I started as a volunteer for the Film Festival selling tickets to screenings and T-shirts. The last two years, I’ve been coordinating volunteers for the registration/check-in tables at the Opening Night Party and the Awards Ceremony. Volunteering for BIFF is a pleasure. It’s well planned down to the last detail. As a volunteer, you have everything you need to do a good job and contribute to a successful Film Festival. Ron and Rebecca do an outstanding job of making the volunteers feel appreciated and valued. I think that’s why the same volunteers come back year after year. It’s an honor and a joy to be a part of the Film Festival.”

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