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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday September 23, 2018 

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AFI AWARDS COMMENTS - READERS RESPOND

Readers respond to AFI COMMENT:

AND THE WINNER IS ?
Dear Editor,
I was the lucky one who collected an award on behalf of the film "The Interview". What a wonderful occasion - AFI Award for Best Film of 1998. Then the media room afterwards - 30 minutes of photos, questions, sign this, please sign that. (Nothing to drink / nothing to eat.) A great buzz, a group of excited film makers and friends making our way to the exit with notions of being transported to the party where we would celebrate and dance the night away.

A pretty crappy choice of venue behind us but a great show - great energy and performance - we all felt the joy of winners. Been sitting in the venue since 6.45PM / nothing to wet the lips / no food or drink since lunchtime / we were last out of the convention center of course because we won the last award didn't we? Logic says that everyone else will be at the party by now and it will be a cinch for us to jump a bus and be there soon. SORRY! HELLO! WRONG!

An endless queue / hundreds of people milling and in the far, far distance, taller members of our party could see buses trying to negotiate the pick up and drop off point outside the convention centre. (Designed either by an absolute idiot or a committee of idiots, or maybe a committee of well meaning citizens who haven't got a clue about transporting people to and from major venues.)

We stood, end of the line, we shuffled, the buses struggled, we shuffled, smart young things pushed in, the controllers told people to go to buses in the rain and the drivers refused to open the doors. We got wet, the program for the night served as a cover as people pleaded for the driver to open the door. Eventually he did and we clambered on - someone in the crowd noticed me still gripping the Best Film Award and said "Thank God you're here - I thought I was on the losers bus".
The irony was not lost. It was now 11.45PM and we were still at the convention center.

It gets worse.
12.10AM and the triumphant arrival at the party. Walkway from the bus is a squishy, sodden red carpet - never mind - we're flexible - let's get a drink. Dozens of helpful helpers running in all directions / "Any chance of a drink guys???". "Yes - further down the queue" - they cried. Empty cardboard six packs and used champagne glasses littered the deserted drinks tables. Nothing at all to calm the despair, the disappointment, the absolute disaster of a diabolical venue transfer. Another long wait and much discussion on how badly everything was managed.

Still clutching aforementioned award and still accompanied by some stayers in my group we eventually entered the party venue. Me - The cloak room. Susan at large to find a drink. "See you at the table - OK" (I had thought that the additional cost of a table might be a good investment.) Another 20 minutes at the cloak room - 15 minutes to find the table the claustrophobia, the heat, the black covers on chairs in the half light, all food now eaten - - Why am I suffering this? What does it all mean? If only I hadn't won the final award I could've been in the first or second bus and maybe that was a different experience? God I hope so.

Susan arrives having been physically endangered by the experience of fronting the bar - she's clutching two champagnes and so finally at about 12.45AM we toasted victory and sang 'How sweet it is'.

I'm told the food was terrific - I'm so glad. I'm pleased that my $600 fee for a seat at a table in an unbearable position in an unbearable room was used to feed some people terrific food.

Not all bad though - Later on met heaps of good folk, had great chats, found drinks said goodbye to friends who couldn't stand the heat and the crush - many laughs, lots of congrats and home at dawn. What a night. Oh what a night.
Sincere thanks to all those who voted for our film.
Bill Hughes,
Producer - The Interview

AFI AWARDS NIGHT:
The party was a disgrace. As a supporting sponsor of the event we expected to have a pleasurable time sitting down with friends and colleagues. What we experienced instead was:
1.Where were the buses? - most of us took taxis and those of us who did make it onto the bus will share a collective shame for the rest of our lives as we witnessed (or personally participated in) the shoving aside of international stars and local celebrities just to make it on to the only bus in the car-park

2.A lack of sponsorship profile (one tiny name tag on a large table under very dim lighting) - half our guests were told by someone at the door that there was no table for our organisation and that they "better grab something from the bar before it all disappears"

3.No service ("you'll have to pour your own drinks 'cause we're flat out")

4.Main course served at 12.45am (we had more luck pushing people over in the outside arena and grabbing their food and bringing it back to our table)

5.The main course was inedible (seriously, no-one on our table could eat the hide of donkey that arrived half cold just prior to 1am)

6.Getting home. Just when you thought "let's get out of here" you became entrapped in the longest, most aggressive queue for a taxi that stretched all the way to Elizabeth street. Some people were offering sex just so they could get a lift home.
Mark Gooder, REP Distribution
Sydney

A HIGHLY EMBARASSING EVENING
Hello Andrew ...
I attended the AFI Awards and concur with a lot of your observations regarding the venue and the shambles involved in the transport to the party! Trying to get into those coaches in my best high heels and a tight skirt in the pouring rain was no joke - but that was the least of it.

To add to your comments (and also not directed in any way at the AFI itself) ... I am a lowly unknown writer with an interest in film and therefore my complaints are unlikely to carry weight ... but I was highly embarrassed for some very well-known identities, in the manner in which we were directed from one door to another at the Convention Centre. "No, you need door 6, this is door 1." Our little group trooped around to where we thought door 6 was, only to be told that way had been closed for some reason and we had to go back. Back at door 1, we were told again to go around to door 6! (No-one had bothered to explain to us that door 6 was actually at the top of a flight of stairs - something we only discovered at the intermission.)

Anyhow, this happened three times, and being thoroughly exasperated, I pushed past an usher near door 1 and said I would walk through the auditorium to my seat on the far side. "You can't do that!" she snapped at me, "It's not allowed! You have to enter by the door on your ticket!" I think my four-lettered response was quite justified! My daughter and I walked right through the auditorium, found a more friendly usher who happily showed us to our seats. The fact that very well-known and respected Australian identities were subjected to this farce and rudeness astonished me beyond all belief. My daughter was equally horrified ... "I hope this isn't a rehearsal for an Olympic event," she said very loudly at one stage - I can only hope within earshot of Bob Carr!

The rain couldn't be helped of course ... but one of the AFI ushers I spoke to later at the party admitted that rain hadn't been an equation in the planning. On the tickets it said that one could either get a shuttle bus or walk to the Old Casino. Even if the weather had been pleasant, I doubt that many women would have wanted to walk that distance at night in evening gear and in the usual stiff Darling Harbour breeze. I thought at the time I received my ticket that was a very odd assumption to make - and why couldn't the party have been held in the Convention Centre itself.

Coach regulations meant that people were not allowed to stand up - we tried to get on 5 coaches before we finally got to the party and were thoroughly drenched in the process. The red carpet at Pyrmont was wetter than the ground around it and I would be very surprised if there weren't some people who had falls.

There was no sign of any "dinner" when we finally got there ... and as you say at up to $175 a pop, this was appalling! ... we were glad we'd had a light snack at 6 pm in our hotel before leaving for the show. At least we were luckier than you in the drinks dept ... we managed to get champagne on arrival. I agree the noise level was too high, conversations a strain, and the area became very dense. Once the rain stopped, a lot of people spilled out onto the pavement. There was no place to sit down at all.

My total eventual "dinner" consisted of a paper cup of noodles, and two small quiche thingies! When I left at around 2.30 am some other food had finally been placed near the bar but most people seemed beyond caring having made up calories with alcohol! I ventured into the main VIP dining area at one stage and while it seemed to be much better served with food than the rest of us, and they actually got to SIT, it was very cramped and the noise from the main disco area overwhelmed the trio or whatever musical group was playing in there. I don't think the VIP's were much better off really.

Getting a taxi from that area near Star City in the wee hours is also a major hassle. I can't understand why the casino doesn't have a proper taxi rank. I shared with some other people when we finally flagged one down after a half-hour wait. Watching a certain elderly distinguished actor wandering around with his AFI award trying to find a cab at the same time struck me as a pretty sad state of affairs, considering the man had just been highly honoured with his many years of service to the Australian film industry.

Would have been a nice considerate touch if someone had thought to provide him with transport - wouldn't it?

I bet you'll get a lot of comments on this - maybe enough to persuade the AFI to send everyone back to Melbourne next year?
Cheers
Marina Maxwell, Movie Club Member
ACT

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AFI REPLIES
Andrew,
Your comments on the AFI Awards are fair and reasonable. It is painful to read the details from readers about the party, re-calling their experiences of the night in excruciating detail. Over the past five days I have spoken to numerous guests including our sponsors, some of whose experiences match those of your readers.

There is no five star hotel in Sydney large enough to take upwards of 2,000 guests, so the AFI appointed an experienced event management company - Spin Communications, to find a venue and produce the party on our behalf. This was to be the party of the year, produced on a budget more than twice that of the previous three years. What was presented was a scene of disorganisation and chaos - no need to rehash the awful details - but the organisation failed on all levels. This is a warning to anyone out there planning a function in Sydney if this is the calibre of staff selected by a top employment agency for a black tie event.

We have built our reputation over the past three years on presenting a party after the Awards that is memorable for all the right reasons - good food, good service, great venue. That reputation may certainly be tarnished after last Saturday's events, but the lessons learned from this experience will ensure that it will not happen again.
Lindsay van Niekerk
AFI Awards Manager

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SYDNEY GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER
I did not go to the awards but I am so embarrassed that the service was so bad. I am seriously worried about the ability of top hotels and conference venues to cater to important events, specially for the Olympics. I took some visitors from Tokyo to a large Sydney 5 star hotel. They wanted a cup of green tea. The bar staff had no idea what it was. My guests were astonished.

Come on Bob Carr, let's see some real action in training service industry people. We have one of the most beautiful cities in the world with so much to offer, yet we are consistently unable to fulfill our promise.

Philip Anderson
Sydney, Australia.







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