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The Pulse: Behind The Scenes at Traverse City Film Festival With Kendall and Katie

The sound of phones ringing and computer keys clicking is the running background noise at the Traverse City Film Festival Office. I went to the eclectic office on the second floor of the Arcade building to interview Kendall Kotcher and Katie Zwick for a Rocky Horror Picture Show story, but upon arriving to the office and seeing the duo working so hard I realized that they are a story of their own.

Kendall, Katie and I sat in the middle of the TCFF office and we aren’t even a minute into the interview before Kendall has to pause to answer a co-worker’s question.

“There’s a person who wants to volunteer at The Franklin where we’re hosting the producers and directors and stuff. Are we doing that this year?” the young man asked Kendall.

Kendall fields questions like this all day long in her role as TCFF’s office manager. Kendall is from Clarkston and Katie is from Mount Pleasant, but the two spend their summers here in Traverse City to be a part of the driving force behind the film festival.

“I was brought on in May, Katie in June,” Kendall said.

Katie Zwick is a returning intern working in film traffic for her second year. She enjoys the work experience she gets and the collaborative community that working for TCFF brings. She keeps track of and organizes all of the films that come through the office

“It’s about knowing how to do your job, but it’s also about knowing how to do a little bit of everything and to jump in and help people out when needed.”

At any given moment between the months of May and July there is a lot going on in the office, and Kendall’s job is to make sure it’s all running smoothly. Her day is filled with answering questions from co-workers, answering emails and overseeing interns, among a host of other projects.

“Lots of emails, lots of phone calls” Kendall said. “In terms of intern projects, they’re filming promos, they’re creating social media posts, they’re editing, taking pictures. It’s a lot of project management type things.”

The TCFF office is incredibly youthful which correlates to many of the staff being hired from the TCFF internship program. Credits are available for students who get hired on as an intern. Kendall was a former intern in the communications and media department.

“I interned and then they were looking for an office manager so I applied for that. They see how you work.”

Katie, currently a college student at Central Michigan University, interned at TCFF for the first time last summer when managing director of the festival Susan Fisher came to the university to recruit interns. Katie was asked back this year.

“It’s definitely not a normal internship. Before working here when I heard the word ‘internship’, and with working in media and film, I just assumed it would be getting coffee and doing grunt work, but I’m actually managing projects. I have a lot of responsibility and freedom.”

Both Katie and Kendall have formed a friendship through their time working the film festival together. The pair have bonded through a love of film and theatre, macaroni and cheese and cats.

“Last year if both of us were having a case of the Mondays we would send each other cat pictures,” Kendall said.

“I feel like that’s when our relationship started,” Katie responded with a laugh.

It’s not just Kendall and Katie who have bonded, the entire TCFF team all seem to have bond with each other and having an open, collaborative workspace helps. The space is filled with light streaming through a row of windows, movie posters and not many walls at all. Team members ask questions to each other without having to get up and weave through a maze of gray cubicles.

“It used to be Hocus Pocus costume shop,” Kendall said. “It’s also a dance studio. It’s a very creative and fun space.”

It’s easy to see the passion that both women have for not only their working roles at the film festival, but also for the film festival itself. Katie enjoys that TCFF is thoughtful with their film selections and that their selections give a voice and power to marginalized groups and area relevant to current culture and society. Kendall’s favorite thing about TCFF?

“It sounds cliché, but the films. This year’s theme is Cinema Saves The Word. All the films that I’ve seen at film festivals have inspired me in some way, changed me in some way.”

Kendall and Katie are the kind of creative, down to earth, cool girls that I always wanted to be friends with. The talent and work ethic of these two ladies and the rest of the TCFF team is something to admire, and something to remember when we’re all out enjoying this year’s film festival.