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What's it Like to Volunteer for... a Film Festival?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, August 22, 2016
Updated: August 18, 2016

TIFF Volunteers 
Photo courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Lights! Camera! Volunteer!

Did you know that our city is home to over 75 film festivals of all sizes?

And that many Toronto festivals depend on the support of dedicated volunteers working in all sorts of roles. Whether it's greeting guests, helping with promotions, or coordinating sponsors, there are countless ways to get involved.

If you're a passionate film fan, offering your time to a festival can be a great opportunity to gain experience, take a peek inside the industry, or make some like-minded new friends.

Tony Cortes - Toronto International Film Festival volunteer
Tony Cortes

Toronto’s biggest film festival is almost upon us, so we chatted with Volunteer Captain Tony Cortes about his experiences volunteering with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).


How would you describe your current volunteer role to someone who has not heard of your organization and has never volunteered before?


TIFF is an organization that truly relies on a very large team of volunteers. Volunteer Captains provide team leadership to both new and experienced groups of volunteers in various areas of the organization’s operations.



What is the time commitment involved?

The Festival takes place once a year during September, however, there are other year-round volunteer opportunities at TIFF. During the Festival, volunteers must commit to a minimum of 4 shifts. Each shift can take between 4 to 8 hours, depending on the position.


If training is provided, what did it consist of? How long did it last?

TIFF is very good with volunteer training. You are required to attend an information session where you are introduced to the organization and its mission, vision and values. You’re told what you can expect in terms of roles and responsibilities, code of conduct, etc. You get to meet the Volunteer Office team and learn about their specific responsibilities. Then there is specific training for the role you choose. During this session, you are taught all of the possible real-life challenges you could experience in the role and how to prepare for any potential hurdles.


What have you learned from your volunteering?

I have learned that TIFF is such a great place to volunteer. It has the best team and the best training provided to volunteers. It's a big, happy family and you get to see a lot of people coming back to volunteer year after year - this is a testament to the fabulous experience volunteers have at TIFF.


What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

You will encounter challenging situations while volunteering and sometimes, no amount of training can prepare you for the real experience. Take a deep breath, listen with empathy, and do your best to help. There is always a TIFF staff member that can assist you.


What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteering that you do?

Volunteering at TIFF may seem glamorous, but it is also a lot of hard work. It pays off in the end and you finish your shift feeling good that you have helped people and that you are advancing the cause of the organization.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

Just do it.

Attend any of our free information sessions on volunteering in Toronto!


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