Film Festival Volunteering: The Pros and Cons

With the Cork Film Festival fast approaching, some of you out there might consider volunteering work. But why volunteer and what are the benefits? After a couple of volunteering stints, here are my thoughts:

(Feedback from other people on their volunteering experiences would be great..just comment below.)

First off, what do volunteers do? Well you can end up doing everything from collecting tickets to working in the box office or even helping out at the various functions. First time volunteers are usually to be found gathering the ticket stubs at any of the numerous venues, but if you return for a second year, you might opt for a more hands-on job. You can choose to work in the box-office, at the venues, or in the areas of hospitality, education or administration. In certain festivals, there’s also the chance to climb the volunteering ladder and earn yourself a place as a team leader, organising the less experienced volunteers in their appointed roles.

Cork Film Festival logo

The very pretty Cork Film Festival poster 2008.

For anybody with a strong interest in film or film-making, film fest volunteering is worth considering. Remember that you will have an immediate common interest with the other volunteers (film!). In fact, a major motive for certain volunteers is that they can gain contacts for their own film projects. There are also those who have little interest in getting behind a camera but who enjoy the movies and are happy to avail of free access to many films. As a volunteer, you can usually find a free seat in most screenings, aside from those which are already sold out. At times, however, you may miss the beginning or the very end if you are obliged to collect tickets or act as an usher. Your volunteer pass (normally a photo id which you wear around your neck) is your ticket to free screenings. You’ll probably get to see a few extraordinary films that would normally pass you by. There are also those volunteers interested in working in festival organisation or in the arts field in general. But no matter what your aims in life, the fact that you volunteered for a festival looks good on the old CV.

This is not to say that all volunteers are going in with only their careers on their brain. Volunteering is fun! And there are good social aspects to it. You’ll be well prepared for your vounteering role. Most fests have an opening night and a closing night which all volunteers can attend as well as plenty less formal get-togethers in between.

If you decide to volunteer just remember that some festivals are not as easy to get into as others. Dublin is quite popular but once you’re in, it’s easy enough to go back a second time. Some applications are a bit more testing than others too. You don’t get through by just giving your name and number: expect to have to list relevant work experience, your film interests and even your knowledge of foreign languages. Whether it’s Cork, Dublin or Galway, however, apply early. You can apply now for the Cork fest here.

Even if you feel that you do not have much free time in the week, you could still sign up to do a couple of shifts. You won’t be expected to be there every day; just offer to do what you can.

Volunteering should be enjoyed. It gives you an insiders look at how a festival is run and who knows: it may give you a taste for the festival circuit…I know of volunteers who go as far as Sundance.. 😉


3 thoughts on “Film Festival Volunteering: The Pros and Cons

  1. I volunteered for JDIFF (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival) two years ago… My first year was amazing and I made many friends and contacts. Sure I was only collecting tickets but it was great fun… My second year I ended up becoming the editor for the Volunteers VBlog We got interviews with Bono and U2, Dave Fanning… Was at a premiere with Colin Farrell, Brendan Glessan and Gabriel Burn. Was in the presence of John Boorman and Mike Leigh. It’s worth the time…

  2. Put my name down for volunteering this year for the first time, I’ve heard nothing but great things about it in the previous years, figured I might give it a go.

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