Social Engagement: Medium
What’s What: Film festivals are a great way to see new and interesting movies from all over, but what does it take to get hired by one? While it’s usually people already connected to the film industry or grad students who work for these festivals (and there are thousands) if you’re an avid film festival-goer and film industry buff, you have a shot at a job if you’re determined. There are a lot of moving parts dealing with filmmakers, distributors and even the programmers themselves. If you’re the kind of person who falls in love with artistic chaos, the film festival atmosphere might be perfect for you.
Amava Take: When most people think of film festivals they immediately think of the big ones like Sundance or Tribeca but there are as many film festivals as there are demographics. If independent films are your thing, there are a lot of ways to get involved that don’t involve being behind the camera—or in front of it. Aside from programmers or screeners (generally volunteers with academic film background), there are jobs in education, administration, tech, print traffic, customer service and more.
From the Front Lines:
What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these positions?
People who can juggle a million things and not panic—or look panicked. It also helps to be a film enthusiast and film advocate on behalf of filmmakers.
Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?
You might be assigned to a job but you will play many roles. Be flexible and roll with what needs to be done. A film festival is like running a restaurant or a household—you have to respond to what’s happening and what’s needed.
What’s a typical daily schedule like?
It depends on the time of year, the festival and what stage of production we’re in but it’s generally a chaotic atmosphere with an organized hum of excitement in the air. Some people work festival to festival so it really changes all of the time.
From the Trenches:
What’s the most satisfying part of the job?
Being around people with so much enthusiasm and interest in films and the adrenaline rush during the actual festival run.
How would you describe the hard parts?
Having a headset in one ear and having a conversation with someone at the same time.
Special Requirements: To work in programming you need to have an academic film background. But for all other positions just being an all around film enthusiast is enough. And of course you should also have some background in the position you’re after, like marketing, guest services, crowd control or general chaotic environments.
Finding a Position: Networking with film buffs is the best way to get involved with the film festival community. It can be hard to get your foot in the door and it’s more about connections with other film enthusiasts and advocates than anything else. Here is a list of film festivals that IMDb puts out. It’s recommended to write to the programming staff with your resume and a letter of interest in addition to checking any job listings the festival has. The Film Festival Alliance has information about festivals and getting involved and so does the International Film Festival Association.