Beginner filmmakers often see film festival volunteering as a stepping stone in their career. Whether they want some experience, need a portfolio boost before joining a video production company or even going into a major film or video project; film festival experience can be a big help.

Becoming a film festival volunteer has several things going for it. Not only is it an ideal space to see and meet film enthusiasts of all types in one place, you also have key privileges that could become useful when you’re ready to submit a film or documentary of your own.

  1. Getting to Know Those Behind the Scenes

As mentioned, the great thing with festivals is you meet a lot of people. Volunteering gives you a chance to meet those who are running the program – the founders or organizers. You get to understand why they’re organizing the festival and what it takes to pick, choose and be a part of a huge film-centric endeavor.

  1. Watch the Best/Chosen Movies and Find out What Works

Volunteering gives you a chance to see the best movies picked for the festivities. It gives you a chance to see what kinds of films, shorts, features or episodics are a favorite for a particular festival and which projects you might want to steer clear off in case you want to participate in the said festival in the future.

Not all film festivals are made the same way and almost each festival has its own preference or type of project/style they like to approve. It’s important to match your future film with the right festival. From a submitter’s perspective, you need to find a good festival that matches the niche you are aiming for or at least a festival more in line with the brand you’re creating.

  1. Create Connections and Gain Filmmaking Friends

Making new friends is always a top reason why volunteering at film festivals is a good idea. You not only make random friends but friends who are interested in the same craft as you. Whether they’re into editing, cinematography, lighting or simply love movies, it’s a great space to be around people with the same interests. Even better, these are potential connections for the future. Most festivals entice both locals and traveling filmmakers so you get a unique group you usually won’t find in your daily social interactions.

  1. Get Free Access to the Entire Festival

Let’s face it, attending film festivals can get pricey real fast. Major festivals like Sundance and SXSW will already set you back over $1000 if you want a full pass. If there’s no other reason to volunteer at festivals, it’s to get free access. Even though you would need to work, festivals often reward volunteers with passes for off days or allow them to check out the screenings or attend panels and events. It’s a great opportunity to get the inside scoop and also save some money if your volunteer application gets accepted.

  1. Use the Experience to Gain a Better Idea about Your Own Projects

Almost every single person in the filmmaking industry started off volunteering, whether in film festivals, video production studios, or indie film sets; being a volunteer is the fastest way to learn something about the industry you are looking to join in the future. Of course, it’s not just about being a participant in future festivals but you can learn how to start your own festival or become a programmer, if that’s the path you want to take. It’s a great stepping stone to consider if you are interested in a career in the film industry.