I have to start by saying that I don’t care that the BFI are a charity or that some of their staff are volunteers. They are a money making organisation who offer a service like anyone else and should be held responsible for how they treat their customers. I’m tired of their empty apologies and platitudes without solving the problem. This shouldn’t ever be acceptable business practice and yet, 57 years in they are still able to get away with it because of the size and influence of the festival? It must end .
So the first issue was their membership sale. Get a membership for £40 or £35 and be first in line to ensure you got priority. We obediently signed up for said and then waited for the day when we could buy the tickets. I chose my favourite 3 or 4 movies and was told that my tickets had been successful. Yay! Only the system crashed. I tried again but my tickets were still in the basket and I couldn’t go to check out? What a nonsense. I called. For 2 days I called. Eventually I got a girl on the other end who said everyone had experienced the same thing and that they were sorry. I don’t give a fuck. So no one had tickets then? No, the tickets were all sold out for those that I wanted to see. I wasn’t impressed and was told that more would come on sale later or I could wait and queue for returns? It’s like these people don’t understand the UK weather. We must wait in all sorts of conditions for the possibility of returns? What kind of operation is this!
Then we have to consider the cost of some of the tickets. I don’t think I spent less than £9 and some were as much as £26. I wouldn’t mind but these weren’t even my first choices. It was overly priced and I didn’t see how the membership bought benefited me at all. I had the same chance of getting tickets as anyone else.
I bought about 12 tickets in total and got to see all but one. I heard that Mother of George was a good movie but a wedding reception had to take priority. This is when I learned that there was no returns policy. I would have to go down and tout my ticket outside the venue. I’m not even sure that’s legal but that’s what staff told me to do. Right, that wasn’t going to happen. Who has that kind of time? Clearly the BFI found the thought of returns too exhausting but there would have been people who would have liked to see that movie.
Then there was the crowd control. The most noticeable culprit was a security woman at Odeon West End whose napoleon complex knew no bounds. She was rude to a friend of mine whilst 3 members of BFI staff looked on and didn’t intervene. They were too busy averting their eyes. This was compounded by having 2 premieres In the square on the same night but the Odeon Leicester Square not selling tickets so we were all sent back to Odeon West End. Generally the security staff were rude and didn’t understand why the crowd with tickets didn’t want to stand outside and watch long red carpet interviews. Most just wanted to get their snacks and seats. But no, they weren’t having it.
Films ended late as Q&As by some ill prepared interviewers went on too long. How many of the cast do you need on the stage? Surely the leads, director and producer would suffice? But these films were back to back so you couldn’t make it to another movie if they didn’t keep to schedule. No one seemed particularly bothered about timekeeping. As I went to the loo one put her arms across me and told me that I had to leave by the exit? To use the loo? I ignored her. The staff shouldn’t be allowed to touch people. Ever. There isn’t a volunteers restraint policy.
And that leads back to the attitude of BFI staff. I heard that one had seen 20 movies before being banned as they didn’t do any work. Some clearly weren’t there to help. Some were taking photos of the red carpet and stars. It was a sham.
It hurts me to think that we are going to have to go through something similar every year and that people accept it as the Film Festival way of doing things. As a lowly film lover it marred what could have been a great festival.
I hope the BFI get their shit together before next year.
© Chelsea Black