This past weekend I spent some of my time volunteering for NFFTY: The National Film Festival for Talented Youth. It is actually the biggest film festival in the world for young upcoming filmmakers under 24. When you volunteer for NFFTY, you get full access to watch all the films and you can get free merch as well. I decided to volunteer this year for many reasons, but mainly because of my big interest in film and for the service hours. I volunteered for two days and this was my experience.
The first day I volunteered was a Friday, which was a very busy day for the festival. You can choose which theater you would like to volunteer at; I chose the Uptown theater. When I got there I was given my volunteer pass to wear around my neck. The first duty I was given was to stand outside the door at a beer tasting event, to make sure no one left the theater with their alcohol. After standing there for a little over an hour I was able to sit down and enjoy some of the short films they were showing. These short films were light hearted and funny. The theater was completely packed and I was impressed with how involved and into it the audience was. A lot of the people in there either knew the filmmaker or were filmmakers themselves, so they had a lot of appreciation for each film.
After wrapping up the short films, I went back out to the volunteer booth. For the rest of the night I stayed at the booth helping answer questions, direct people, and handle merch. But since it was my first day, I was mostly just learning on the job. I guess one complaint I have is that I wasn’t given a lot of instructions or information, so there were times that I felt a little lost because I didn’t know many of the answers to people’s questions or even where to direct them. I was able to go home about an hour early because the crowd had died down. The NFFTY staff was very kind and flexible with the hours.
The second day I volunteered was a Sunday, which was much more laid back and a little less busy. I was told by the staff that I would mainly be working behind the booth again managing the merch and customers. It took me awhile to get the hang of things, but I started to feel more comfortable and confident with it as the day went on. Throughout the day there were a lot of problems with the machines used to take cards, which was frustrating for the staff and the customers. It also felt kind of unprepared because we were completely sold out of most of the merch at the beginning of the day and no more was brought in. The shirts were not organized by size so we just had to rummage through a big box of shirts to find the size the customer wanted. But after hours and hours of working behind the booth, I was asked to be in charge of the spotlight for the closing event of short films. After that I was able to sit down and enjoy these films, and wow, did I love them. This collection of short films was much more geared towards making the audience stop and think. There was one documentary, a poetry one, and lots of little ones with big important messages. It was crazy to realize that all of those were made by such young people. I could tell that the audience was impacted as well.
I would recommend volunteering for NFFTY to anyone interested in film, or even if you don’t volunteer, at least going to one of the events. It’s really inspiring to see amazing films made people not that much older than you. Most the of the movies you see are made by a huge production of extremely advanced older people, so NFFTY can help put your dreams into some perspective of the amazing things you can create, no matter what your age is. Everyone in the theater was so supportive and involved. If it’s your first time volunteering it can be tricky getting the hang of things, especially because the people running the volunteers didn’t seem super organized. It was still an amazing experience that I know I’ll do again next year.