Film Festival Volunteer Experience – Part 1 (Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de São Paulo)

In the first seminar we were asked about our experience with film festivals: whether attending or working at one. I’ve had the opportunity to not only go to some great festivals but also to volunteer for three very different ones. Each work had its pros and cons but they all offered me some amazing lessons and skills that I would like to share with you. However, in order to give as much detail as I can about each event, I’ll separate them into three posts: one for each festival. I hope this personal insight can give a better understanding of the plurality of film festivals and motivates others to share their own experiences.

The first time I volunteered for a film festival was as part of the making-of crew of the Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de São Paulo, an international film festival focused only on short films. Not only it is the biggest short film festival in Brazil, it is organized by Kinoforum, a well stablished nonprofit organization responsible for creating and organizing activities that support the national audiovisual market.


Each year the festival partners up with one of the universities with cinema or audiovisual undergraduate programs in São Paulo to put together a group of students to create a 3-minutes making-of video of the many events held by the festival.

In 2014, my university wasn’t supposed to be that year’s partner. However, due to some complications with the chosen university, the organizers of the festival contacted one of the teachers from my course. I jumped to the opportunity of working in a film festival for the first time and specially one so well stablished. Yet, the teacher had a hard time putting together a group of six people in such a short period – we were less than a week away from the opening night.

The group had a meeting with some of the organizers in order to get an idea of the best events happening during the twelve days of festival and what to film for the making-of. This was a big festival with many events and sessions happening at the same time, a high number of national and international guests and a considerable amount of public. Thus, it was extremely important to have the organizers guide us on what to focus. Unfortunately, each organizer was responsible for a different program and it made hard for us to get a general sense of the festival and decide when and what to shoot.

As a result of the last-minute constitution of the group, we didn’t have the time to create a nice shooting schedule. Plus, a lot of the members had previously set engagements that didn’t allow them to be in all the events we wanted to video. We were also affected by the fact that, except for the initial meeting with the organizers, we didn’t get any other instructions or guidance from them throughout the festival.

Being part of this festival gave me an amazing opportunity to network not only with Kinoforum but also with all the amazing guests and public. However, the experience of being part of the making-of team wasn’t great. I strongly believe that had we had more time to organize ourselves before the festival started, it would have been a more enjoyable work and the final making-of video would have been more complete and interesting.

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