Summer at Rooftop Films: A Volunteer’s Vantage

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind” — Pearl S Buck

Have you ever found some of your most precious life’s delights while lost on the Internet?  I can get lost for hours, good and bad, when searching for one thing, and finding many others.  That is how I found Rooftop Films last summer.  No idea how.  But am so glad I did!  Since renting the Hx3 (Happy Healing Home) in September 2012, and coming down to New York as a weekend warrior, I researched things to do and explore online.  Free and cheap are my first choices.  If I see something interesting, I often inquire about volunteering.  That is how I have discovered some of my favorite places, people, and experiences.  Rooftop Films has quickly fulfilled all of those criteria.

I didn’t discover Rooftop Films until mid-July, so I missed the beginning half of the season —  but I feel I made up for it in spades.  My goal has been to explore as much of the city, including the boroughs, and Rooftop has helped me learn Brooklyn quite a bit.  Most of the events are held outdoors, but this past summer was a funny one weather-wise, so I witnessed this great group of people work with much grace under pressure and improvise according to Mother Nature’s funny sense of humor.

My first experience was actually in Lower Manhattan on the waterfront under the looming new tower of the World Trade Center.  Beautiful setting at the Brookfield Place.  Due to rain (then a beautiful sunset — if you know me at all, you know I’m about the sunsets! Fortunately, I saw many great ones working with Rooftop.), the event moved from outdoors to indoors to back outside.  What was very endearing on this first adventure with Rooftop was how often the staff apologized as there was much down time due to all the changes and weather.  They instinctively understood how frustrating it is for volunteers to sit instead of do.  I decided to go back for more.

Each event with Rooftop begins with live music, then the main event: the movie, then an after party, which included adult beverages from its sponsors Red Stripe beer, Tito Homemade Vodka, and Bulleit Whiskey.  I don’t drink any of those (although I did learn to appreciate some Bourbon).  I think I may have to work on a wine sponsorship as well!

I saw movies I never would have seen on my own; spent time with wonderful people (it’s a real treat when I now bump into some of my new Friends around the city!); got some good workouts; tasted some of the best pizza in NYC (including some from another sponsor, Two Boots Pizza. Our dinners were from pizza places close to where we were working.); and spent time at amazing venues.  I can’t wait for next season, especially as I am a New Yorker now.  I won’t have to wait for just the weekends!

A quick list of the places I went and the movies I saw:

This evening’s performance was held after a long rain delay, which made it easy to get to know my co-volunteers a bit, at Brookfield Place which is a lovely industrial complex right on the Hudson River, across from the World Trade Center.
“Industriance” (short films), “Cutie and the Boxer” (one of my favorites!), and a series of Shorts again, at the “final night” (discovered there were a few!) at Rooftops’s Home Base at The Old American Can Factory in Park Slope, awesome space.

“Awful Nice” at Industry City in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn. I have loved seeing amazing old warehouses and what are being done with them.

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” with Casey Affleck at the Queens County Farm Museum. (So, I also got out to Queens!).
“99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film” including a Q&A with Naomi Wold, one of my personal heroines at Solar I on the East River.

Stephanie Jensen 2013
Finally, an inspiring “Medora” including another Q&A with Steve Buscemi, one of the Producers at the Angel Orensanz Center on the Lower East Side. The sponsor for this truly wonderful evening was Piper Heidsiek Champage. I was very happy indeed!