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.

Understanding the dualities of film festivals’ volunteer: a review of Peaslee’s article (Part 1)

Volunteering has always been a crucial part of film festivals. In order to organise a successful film festival without paying too much, organisers need to understand how volunteers work in the current media industry. Considering this issue, in Week 6’s reading, Peaslee and his team propose three dualities volunteers are facing in media events, including “social capital and civic engagement”, “fan labor and volunteerism”, and “online and on-ground spaces” (2). In this blog, these dualities will be analysed the work of today’s film festivals.

Social capital and Civic engagement

The term “social capital” is derived from Bourdieu, who is well-known for his “habitus” theory.     He defines “social capital” as “the aggregate of actual or potential resources” which connects individuals with the capital from organisations (248). In the context of “social capital” environment, individuals can gain economic or other benefits via a special “social network”.

In film festivals, volunteers can use their “social capital”. For example, some volunteers in the cinemas obtain the opportunities of watching films for free. And some of them can also join the Q&A without admission. Hence, Peaslee et al. argue that “social capital” is the main reason motivates volunteers to participate (2).

Besides “social capital”, “civic engagement” is the other component based on volunteers’ social network. It means when volunteers sharing their similar interests, they are also sharing citizenships. So even they are strangers, reciprocity will motivate them to establish relationships and engage them in their common interests, such as film festivals. It could be another reason why there are always some volunteers are so enthusiastic about the film festivals.

As we can see from the cases of film festivals, the volunteers of film festivals are encouraged by both “social capital” and “civic engagement”. When they are doing the volunteering, they are not only taking advantages of “social capital” to obtain economic benefits but also developing their social network.

This duality suggests that in the process of recruiting volunteers, organisers can focus on fan communities which are related to the theme of film festivals. The potential audience who seeking the groups with common interests can also be the target. Economic benefits, such as free admission, and mental pleasure, such as meeting the people having similar interests, can be awards for being the volunteers.

Fan labor and Volunteerism

As mentioned before, fan communities can be helpful in terms of recruiting volunteers. Fan labor may be motivated by the “object of their fandom” (4). The object could be, for example, the guest the film festival invites, or the film the festival is going to show. So, fan labor is easy to drive.

However, “fan labor” also means they are not 100% “volunteers” in a traditional way. Fan labor is encouraged by their own interests and needs. Comparing with these people, volunteerism suggests that volunteers should support organisations which will help others. So traditional volunteers are doing their work as charity, not personal interests.

In my view, it does not matter that whether the volunteers of film festivals are fan labor or with traditional volunteerism. Because film festivals are industrial events, which differ from those non-profit organisations. To some extent, film festivals have to be commercial to lower costs and maintain the running of themselves. That is why film festivals need a lot of volunteers rather than paid staff.

To be continue…


Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, edited by John G. Richardson, Greenwood, 1986, pp. 241–258.

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.

Learning, celebration and respect: a special premiere at the 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival (Part 2)

2.pngA scene in the 2018 MIFF

(Retrieved from: http://miff.com.au/)

Furthermore, the form of film festivals is also similar to celebrations. Distinguished from daily life, a celebration has to be temporary, as same as film festivals. When a celebration happens, people will focus on the theme of the celebration, as they will do at a film festival. Meanwhile, people will ignore other things when they are celebrating, just as if they were in a dark cinema and the only spotlight was the screen. Hence, when audience are attending a film festival, they are exactly celebrating.

As for MIFF, this premiere was also a celebration. First, it was a world premiere which signifies the film was formally finished and watched by the public. This meaning reminds me of those “harvest celebrations” where people will gather together and enjoy their earliest harvest of the year. Here, the harvest is the film and people from different corners of the world were gathering to enjoy the premiere of the harvest. Then, the host and guests made this premiere being a celebration rather than a normal film-watching experience. Except for the premiere, you probably won’t be able to see the director and filmmakers before the play of the film. Like the host or hostess at a celebration, these facilitators announced the beginning of the premiere and controlled the pace of the whole ceremony. What is more, the spirit of the premiere is “gratefulness”, which is also the core of celebrations. Clearly, the film itself is not about expressing “gratefulness”, but the premiere is. The filmmakers and guests were grateful for being invited. The audience were grateful for being the first group of people to watch the film. And the organisers were grateful that both the guests and audience enjoyed this premiere. People in the theatre were grateful and celebrating the finishing and showing of the film.


Respect: the emotional function

Respect is a common emotional need of human being. This need comes from the diversity of culture. Because of the differences among individuals, misunderstanding happens all the time. And lots of historical issues are derived from belittling others’ cultures. Nowadays, “respect” has become a foundational moral standard when facing this “global village”. For most of us, film festivals are a fantastic chance to earn the respect of the audience from other cultures, and what is more, show respect to others (Andersen, 42).

Respect is something that will only happen after communication. This means differences must be seen and understood. To learn to respect others, the public needs a place to touch different cultures and a medium to translate these unknown things into the form they can understand. To this extent, our schools and textbooks are able to educate us to respect others. However, when it comes to earning respect from others, the methods are fairly limited. Because this objective needs a global stage to show your culture and the audience of the stage have to pay attention to your content. Most of our daily venues cannot finish this task. Nevertheless, film festivals can make it.

Film festivals are a kind of special cultural exhibition. Audience are able to watch the films generated by different cultures. The opinions behind these cultural products are crushing, merging, and diversifying each other on this public stage. Respect, this emotional need is satisfied at film festivals.

At the premiere, this film presented Aboriginal culture to the audience. The audience in the theatre showed their respect for the minority culture even some of them might do not agree with some opinions in the film. For aboriginal people, this premiere is meaningful for allowing the world to know their charming culture and their attitude towards economic development and environment. MIFF satisfied their respect need, obviously. What is more, by playing various films, MIFF is doing this job at every part of the festival and for all participants who are on behalf of their original culture.


The premiere is just a little part of MIFF, but it is enough for us to understand some functions of film festivals are offering: learning, celebration, and respect. Film festival is an important event of media industry, which means it can professionally support the film industry. The public finally will earn educational, entertaining and emotional benefits from film festivals.



Andersen, Joceline. “From the Ground Up: Transforming the Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival of Toronto.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies = Revue Canadienne d’Études Cinematographiques, vol. 21, no. 1, 2012, pp. 38-57. ProQuesthttps://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/docview/1346605031?accountid=12528.

Johnston, Graeme, Kerri Underwood, and Pamela Curtin. “A Primary School and Middle Years Teacher Resource: ‘Dream a Better World’ – A Film Festival for Australian Primary Schools.” Screen Education, no. 47, 2007, pp. 64-66. ProQuesthttps://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/docview/2379473?accountid=12528.




Learning, celebration and respect: a special premiere at the 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival (Part 1)

For the last several decades, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has always been one of the most innovative showcases of the films from all over the world. It is an iconic cultural carnival in terms of worldwide filmmaking. Meanwhile, today’s film industry is facing the cultural market far more diverse than it used to be. When film festivals are becoming numerous and various in many countries and regions, MIFF, this veteran of film festivals is interpreting that how an international film event should be via a special premiere.


A scene from the film: Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley

(Retrieved from: http://miff.com.au/program/film/undermined-tales-from-the-kimberley)

This premiere is for a film called Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley. The documentary is about how the indigenous communities of Kimberley negotiated even battled with governments in order to protect their pristine environment and aboriginal conventions. The theme is purely Australian. However, MIFF offered a chance that allowed the film and its makers to propose these arguments to the audience from all over the world. As a guest mentioned before the premiere, the reason why MIFF is so powerful and attractive is that it provides three functions to audience: learning, celebration, and respect.


Learning: the educational function

Learning can be the most crucial behaviour that makes humans being human. Our civilisation is built on the foundation of learning our ancestors’ knowledge. For film festivals, even they are fluid cultural events, they still convey lots of meaning information to audience via graphics and audio media (not always films, but most of them are). Comparing with schools, libraries and other conventional learning venues, the time and space of film festivals are limited and their atmospheres, to some extent, are more easy-going (Johnston 65). The learning experience at film festivals is causal and imperceptible. Watching movies, attending galas even reading the booklets of the festival could be the ‘lecture 101’ of cultural diversity for audience.

For this premiere, MIFF’s organisers did lots of preparation in order to develop the learning function of audience. Before the movie, an aboriginal musician was invited to the stage for audience to understand the Aboriginal culture and their special communities. The filmmakers also gave some brief background of these indigenous people. Except for the movie itself, Q&A was also an important learning section, which is a valuable part of any premieres. With the explanation of filmmakers and guests, audience were able to have more comprehension about the areas they were interested.


Celebration: the entertaining function

Celebration function makes sense to the public that why a “film festival” is called “festival”. “Celebration” is about making common life meaningful and entertaining participants both physically and mentally. At film festivals, audience are able to amuse themselves with films and other entertainment: foods and alcohol (for example, afterparties). No wonder some film festivals called themselves as a “carnival” (for example, Indywood Film Carnival).

As “carnival” derived from religions, film festival, this kind of “modern carnival” is also full of religious metaphors: screens could be “altars”; films could be “offerings” and audience, clearly, would be “followers”. However, people who come to the film festival are not worshiping gods but satisfying their needs of celebration. (To be continue-Part 2)