Understanding the dualities of film festivals’ volunteer: a review of Peaslee’s article (Part 2)


Furthermore, in film festivals, fan labor and traditional volunteers can both achieve their goals. Clearly, watching films is a common habit for a certain part of people. Film festival enables them to have a venue to share their interests and find the sense of belonging, especially for those sub-cultural communities. And the latter function makes sense to the traditional volunteers: they are helping others (fan labor) by supporting a film festival because their work makes sure those minority communities have a voice via films.

Online and On-ground spaces

The third duality argued by Peaslee et al. is the changes of working spaces for volunteers. Clearly, in most film festivals, in addition to traditional “off-line” venues, the internet has been an important method to hold some events and post the timeline of the festivals. For example, 2018 MIFF has launched a website including the brief introduction of programs, films list, and special events in the festival. There is no doubt that online communication promotes the influence of film festivals to be worldwide. However, it also complicates the work of festival volunteers.

Film festival has been the beneficiary of online communication. Before the internet era, film festivals were limited by geographical conditions, such as the location of the host city and country and the venues for holding events, even the weather during the festival. However, this situation has been changed by the Internet. The conditions of the real world have been less powerful than they used to be. And the audience of film festivals can still join the events when they are home.

Meanwhile, the downside could be obvious. Firstly, more qualified volunteers are needed to solve technical issues caused by online communication, such as the daily operation of the website, the content production of online media, and the integration of online and on-ground events. If there are not enough qualified volunteers who are able to handle these situations, organisers will have to hire professional staff, which will increase the cost of film festival. The other shortcoming of online communication is that it cannot be the dominated method of holding an influential film festival. As argued by Peaslee et al., most film festivals are still on-ground, even the organisers have adopted online media to market or hold some parts of their film festivals. And considering those influential film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, the main part of them are on-ground. I think this situation may due to the short history of the Internet, and the public tends to regard it as an informal communication method rather than a suitable place to hold a formally industrial event.

To sum up, the duality of “online and on-ground spaces” has complicated the situation of film festivals’ volunteers. However, no one can stop this trend and bring film festivals to the old age. The wisest choice for the organisers of film festivals is to learn how to adapt to the new work environment which is combined traditional on-ground method with online media.


Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, edited by John G. Richardson, Greenwood, 1986, pp. 241–58

Peaslee, Robert Moses, et al. “The Media Festival Volunteer: Connecting Online and On-ground Fan Labor”. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. 2014, pp. 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0502.

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