(Blog 3) Thoughts on volunteers and festival demographics

In this blog post, I would like to cover two different topics as they apply to the film festival my group is running. One is looking at the importance of volunteers as the responsibilities expand for the film festival to function, and two, is understanding the benefits and disadvantages of running a festival that is broadly international, or a festival that is targeted at specific demographics (ie: Queer Film Festival).

While the nature of film festivals seems to have made it more convenient and feasible to rely on volunteering, especially as the responsibilities scale up, it is not financially rewarding for most of those taking part in making the festival function (Monash, 2018). The difference is clear that without massive sponsorship that is often only afforded to the major international film festivals, financial return is difficult to secure, and without a change in government policy, it is difficult to see an optimistic outlook for film festivals as technology pushes the world of film into the digital realm. One thought from a cultural and creative industries standpoint focused on policy would be to continue to push for government funding to these areas, as they should be considered important for an engaged and connected community. These festivals are often not only financially unrewarding for the volunteers that do the most simple tasks, but also for many who are at the top of the organisational structure. While these festivals will continue to run as long as there are people who love to hold them, an important ethical question is whether or not we believe they are important enough to afford careers made within the niche film festivals that may not be heard on the same scale as international film festivals.

The second directly affects how we look at the first, because there is a massive gap between the amount of resources a major international film festival can receive through corporate funding, and the mostly grassroots community based funding that helps fund film festivals that represent smaller communities (Loist, 2011). While in the major international film festivals there can be several paid positions and more funding to put toward extravagant displays, the festivals targeted at small demographic groups and themes could have trouble paying even their top level employees, and it is difficult to find funding. They often rely on funding from those who are part of the very community the festivals speak to (Loist, 2011). This can be tricky for a few reasons, one of them being the obligation to cater to a certain group of sponsors, which would affect programming. Our team has felt the effects of learning who is more likely to sponsor our event by understanding this point. For an Australian immigration film festival, it is more likely we will get sponsored by immigrants and those groups who advocate for immigrants.

References

 

“Programming, Film Festival Audiences, Fandom and Labour.” Lecture Slides Week 6, Semester 2, 2018. Melbourne, Monash.

Skadi Loist. Precarious cultural work: about the organization of (queer) film festivals, Screen, Volume 52, Issue 2, 1 July 2011, Pages 268–273, https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjr016

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