Distribution : Frameline39 in San Francisco: A Dysfunctional Organizational Culture by Dr. Skip Worden

Dr. Skip Worden

Frameline39 in San Francisco: A Dysfunctional Organizational Culture

Attitude can make or break a film festival from within. I'm referring to organizational culture here, and the impact it can have on volunteering. Being in San Francisco and having seen few gay films, I volunteered at Frameline39, San Francisco’s LGBT’s annual film festival in June 2015. What I found was abject selfishness accompanied with rigidity and a climate of disrespect. The sordid mentality became completely transparent to me on only the third day of the festival. I was stunned when a young, stocky woman of about 25, whose task it was to coordinate the volunteers, did not listen to what I was telling her and replied instead on another matter. Someone else had just spoken to her on that matter, and the coordinator "just assumed." I had just conferred with an intern, who provided me with confirmation that the "hierarchy" and even "top" volunteers were that day much more suspicious of the volunteers. "They need to take it down a notch," I said as he nodded affirmatively. I had already gotten a sense of the coordinator's modus operendi when she "desperately needed" someone to usher two shows on the second day--but apparently not enough so to bend the rule that vouchers must be redeemed before the day they are to be used. Rigidity, in other words. Unfortunately, young people in positions of some authority in organizations can get caught up with the rules, valuing them essentially as ends in themselves, while missing the big picture (which includes having a gut sense for what is important versus what is nugatory in nature). At any rate, as I was ascending the main theater's staircase to get to the area of operations--intending to offer my services for a few extra hours for no voucher (as I was killing time waiting for my two shifts to begin on the third day)--I was stopped by someone who apparently needed practice recognizing the volunteer t-shirt. Once behind the scenes, a dismissive young intern decided I needed to be somewhere else--even providing the passive-aggressive "Thank you!" even before her order had registered. Sensing the change in how people were behaving, I spoke to another intern--the guy who confirmed my sense that the level of passive-aggression had risen that day. Getting nowhere with the volunteer coordinator, who seemed utterly unaware of her own power-trip and sheer disrespect (i.e., not even listening, but, rather, going off her own script), I calmly told her it just wasn't going to work out. As I was walking down the stairs and through the crowded lobby (for a show was about to start), I could hear her in the background shouting my name. "Does this mean you are resigning the volunteer team?" Resigning??? Yet another confirmation of the woman's arrogance. I could still hear her even as I was walking down Castro Street! I stopped into a local coffee shop, where I recognized a local business practitioner. "You have to go back and inform one of the festival's directors, or the program director," he said. "Given the arrogance I've seen, I'm sure I'll get a 'they are too busy to speak with you' from some underling. So I returned and asked the intern who had confirmed my intuition of the "insiders" and was standing outside the theatre, to ask Frances Wallace, whom I knew was there, Desiree Buford, Peter Stein, or the program director to come out to briefly speak with me. Predictably, my request was handily dismissed "inside" and I got a couple underlings who acted as though I had asked for them. The wall having gone up--the wagons in a circle--I turned away. Five minutes later, I returned to redeem my two vouchers. The man at the box office presumed that I wanted to see the show then going on. "Vouchers can't be redeemed on the day of the show!" Again, a wrong assumption. Presumptuousness yet again. Culture. I began to correct him when a volunteer eves-dropping presumed to chime in and repeat what the man had just said. Wanting nothing whatsoever to do with that film festival, I tore up my vouchers and politely asked the box-office man to throw them away. Then walking away from the theatre, I gave my volunteer-shirt to a homeless man. As someone said, the last will be first, and the first, last. As Nietzsche wrote, the weak, who are too weak to deny their urge to dominate, are the "new bird of prey," whose weapons of passive aggression include word like "unfortunately," "misunderstanding," and "I'm sorry you feel that way." Even a temporary organization can develop a dysfunctional culture--and in surprising time. I suspect that the arrogance was at least in part facilitated by the fact that the LGBT film-festival was taking place in the self-declared 'gay capital" of the U.S., and even the world. Why stop at the U.S. when the ego itself knows no bounds and has lost all sense of proportion, not to mention propriety. See also: http://thewordenreport-film.blogspot.com/2015/06/san-franciscos-gay-film...

Other topics in Distribution:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In