Volunteering in Arts and Culture - T.O. Short Film Festival

Posted: 16/02/2016 2:26:10 PM by WorkInCulture editor | with 1 comments

Volunteers are a vital part of Arts and Culture organizations and their programming. Steve Veale, Festival Director of the T.O. Short Film Festival, would like to also emphasize the meaningful, positive impact volunteers have on our community and some of the benefits they can look forward to.

We love volunteers. By “we” I mean the many arts organizations in the city and indeed the country that depend on people volunteering their time and talents. Because, let’s face it, without the help of volunteers, many of these organizations would cease to exist.

I am the festival director for two annual events - the T.O. indie and T.O. Short film festivals.  As well, I am one of the four board members of the Toronto Film Festival Association (TFFA). The four of us are all volunteers. The TFFA represents all (approx. 100) the film festivals in the city. That number tends to fluctuate every year but Toronto still has more film festivals than any other city in the world.

Volunteers are the ‘saving grace’ for so many arts organizations; their invaluable help allows us to stretch our limited budgets so that we are actually able to produce a festival.

So we need/love/depend on volunteers who feel the same way about film that we do.  We look for people who want to help a festival run smoothly, who enjoy meeting and talking to both filmmakers and film patrons (it is always about people), helping someone find a seat in a crowded theatre, handing out passes to visiting filmmakers, chatting with the public about their favorite movies and just getting the word out (even talking to your friends about your experiences is a good way to ‘volunteer’ information and therefore help market the festival.)

What do volunteers get out of it? Well, let’s face it, first and foremost is the sense of helping. You feel good about yourself. And why shouldn’t you? You are giving up your time, you are helping – whether it is assisting someone in a wheelchair down an aisle or giving suggestions to a filmmaker from New York or New South Wales where to eat dinner. A volunteer could be staffing the information table, checking in visiting directors – from Canada, the United States, Italy, Spain, Singapore – and giving them advice on what to see/where to eat in Toronto. You are the instant ‘Toronto Tourism’ expert – in a way, volunteers are goodwill ambassadors for our city.

Sophia Sniegowska, marketing director and volunteer coordinator for EKRAN, the Polish Film Festival, emphasizes that “each volunteer will be credited for their individual contributions…they will also be given credit if they are producing an photos, videos or creating promotional materials.”She explained that volunteers may be asked to assist with the “setup and teardown, ticket collecting…working the cash box, usher-related duties and crowd control.”

Moe Jiwan, is the chairman and director of the ReelWorld Film Festival, now entering its 16 year. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization,” he said. “Each year we depend on the support and assistance of so many people who are willing to give up their time to support our festival." He said that volunteers assist with ticketing, crowd control, providing information and "act as ambassadors for our multi-cultural films....they assist the visiting filmmakers (from all over the world) as well as our patrons". Moe emphasized that ReelWorld will help volunteers by providing them with letters of reference to their schools and/or employers which will highlight their "invaluable assistance" in helping to organize their films and events.

Volunteers should be polite, personable, prompt (always good to be on time) and be prepared to have fun because, well, you are at The Movies! You are helping to run and organize a public event. And who knows? You may be part of history – one year when you are watching someone receive an Academy Award, you may be able to say “I talked with her when she presented her first short at the T.O. Short Film Festival.”

* The T.O. Short Film Festival runs from March 14 – 18 at the downtown Carlton Cinema. More information can be found here: www.torontoshort.com

The T.O. Short Film Festival is also looking for volunteers! For more information about how to apply click here.

Aldo Castro
Thank you for this great post. Volunteering is one the best things a film lover can do as part of little contribution.
28/09/2017 6:03:04 PM

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