The writer’s life is a solitary business. I work from home ten months in the year, with only the rattling of the back fence in the wind, the yelps of children playing in the cul-de-sac and the screech of the occasional car alarm to interrupt the tranquillity of my days. Commuting into Dublin for JDIFF always comes as a shock: the crush at the station, fighting for elbow room on the pavement, the perilous business of crossing rush hour roads, but once I reach the office I realise that, for two hectic months a year, it’s the only place to be.
Our office, overlooking the sandwich shops of Dawson Street, is a two-storey haven, and the urban soundtrack that floats up from outside is strangely soothing: the snorts and sighs of buses, the patter of the Viking Splash tour guide, the chanting of hare krishna devotees. Inside, the office is a perfect blend of the sociable and the industrious, and for the lonesome scribbler it’s a revelation: look, there are people here, there is a water cooler around which to congregate, there are conversations to be had – live ones, in real time! I share a workspace with Andy, our Print Transport Co-ordinator, Jenny, our Publicist, and Rory, our Industry Co-ordinator, and the banter here (productive banter, of course) is as good as the smell of Andy’s gourmet sandwiches. The office next door is Gráinne’s, the place where it all happens, and through the door comes laughter and the occasional whoop of delight. When there’s good news – another star director or actor confirmed, another outstanding film’s inclusion set in stone – we hear it first, and as the programme comes together there are many of these whoops, and they send a buzz through the whole team. I’ll take that over screeching car alarms any day.
As the Catalogue Editor, I’m one of the first to be let in on Gráinne’s plans for the festival. I watch the list of films grow longer, and as her reports come in from Cannes or Busan or Toronto I can’t help but get excited. Really, this is coming? We’re going to show that? With him in attendance? And her? Some of these films I get to watch – and write about – before anyone else, through online links or screeners or at private viewings where I’ve become adept at scribbling frantically on a notepad in the dark. It’s tough to keep mum about so many great films for so long, and I’m relieved that, at last, I won’t have to anymore.
My job is finished now for another year. The catalogue – a sometimes unruly child – has finally been put to bed, and all that’s left for me is to enjoy the festival when it arrives. It’s a strange feeling to be out of synch with the rest of the team. My role peaks a month early – just as things are hotting up – and it’s a little sad to leave the office and its hardworking, friendly inhabitants behind, to return to the car alarms and the rattling fence and the somewhat repetitive conversations with the postman. Still, one of the perks of finishing so early – aside from being able to relax and enjoy the festival itself – is the pleasure of rediscovering the programme, once poured over so relentlessly, but half-forgotten in the intervening weeks. Now, at last, the catalogue is out, and you can discover for yourself what all the fuss is for. I must give it a read myself: I’d like to find out what’s on…