It is fair to say that the idea of international festivals single-handedly gave rise to a certain narrative and aesthetic paradigm in movies, which we now call art film or global art cinema. Some European countries thought after World War II that critical approaches and a diversity of style could help develop a new social language after the international devastation of the war. Three film festivals in Europe started this movement: Berlinale in Germany, Festival de Cannes in France, La Biennale di Venezia in Italy.
Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that it was the Germans, the French, and the Italians who came up with the idea of institutionalized art film.
There’s certainly more than only three of these festivals today. Google tells me there are around 3,000 film festivals currently active around the world. Besides bringing a quality supply of art cinema to your local art-house theaters and your mall multiplex, film festivals also offer great ways for entry-level individuals to take part in the contemporary film circulation. Although short-term due to the nature of a festival timeline, these opportunities offer a hands-on approach with direct experience in all components of large-scale film programming.
Festivals differ by size, ranging from the likes of Cannes all the way to regional and local festivals to university clubs and campus organizations. Yet almost every film festival will have volunteer opportunities for entry-level applicants, intended for local cinephiles, students, and community members.
Duties of volunteer positions could cover operations in a variety of aspects of putting up a film festival at every other festival. These duties may include field operations such as ticketing, guest guidance, and projection; or could work with multiple departments including press relations, marketing, logistics, curation, and planning.
If you are at the beginning of your career, volunteer opportunities may help you gain some quality experience through hands-on practice in the festival industry. A lot of the components that make up a film festival work in fields that are interchangeable with certain other industries, including contemporary art, photography, fashion, literature, journalism, sales, and even science! It is probably the best to check with your local art house theaters or festival committees to find out about the work they do, and how you could fit in.
Festival opportunities attract local cinephiles from all ages and all walks of life. At the end of the day, most festivals are supported by immense local support, and are grassroots endeavors in communities.
As a matter of fact, it is also possible to partake in the high-end, crème de la crème, festival of festivals: Cannes Film Festival. Yes, most of the attendees are all the biggest names in film, culture, and business, but Cannes has a special accreditation process for cinephiles. Film students and film clubs at all levels of education, as well as all locals, are invited to apply for accreditation at Cannes. If the application is successful, invited cinephiles are welcome to attend a substantial amount of festival screenings and a fair amount of festival events. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both professional and social reasons, plus, it’s a summer trip to the French Riviera that you most likely won’t regret.