SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Hundreds of Santa Barbara International Film Festival volunteers filled the seats at the Metro 4 for a pre-festival pep talk and screening.

Executive Director Roger During said some of the men and women have been volunteering for more than a decade. Durling told the volunteers, seated inside the Metro 4 on State Street, he felt like a parent on Christmas morning excited to see everyone open their presents.

Volunteers were invited to a private screening of Thursday's opening film "Mission Blue." Durling said it was the first time in his tenure that the festival is opening with a documentary.

Volunteers said sometimes they get too busy to see films during the 11-day event, but when they have time --they are allowed to see as many films as they wish for free.

One volunteer said watching the celebrity tributes is a reminder that celebrities are real people, too.

Durling said there is one celebrity in particular he can't wait to meet. As a festival director, Durling said he feels indebted to Robert Redford who started the Sundance Film Festival. Redford will be honored with the American Riviera Award at the Arlington Theatre on Friday, Feb. 7.

For more information, go to www.sbiff.org