Working At Film Festivals

By Amélie Thille

There are many people whose ambition is to work in a Festival. And Film Festivals sound particularly exciting and glamorous. I can tell you, it is really exciting; although until you’ve actually done it, you don’t realize how exhausting it can be! But if you are passionate, then you should do it. It’s hard work but it’s fun. Now, because film festivals are so glamorous it can be quite hard to find a job – so many other people are competing for the same positions.

So, how can you get to work for a festival?

Well this is my story, but I think it will serve well as a guide for anyone else trying to get in.

I studied in France, a degree that could be translated as “Arts & Culture”. It is a vast title, which includes all kind of things, like history of arts (all forms of art: painting, cinema, music, photography…), marketing, communication, languages…. It was all very interesting although I thought it was probably a little bit too much stuff to know about, and was very short on certain subjects that I was interested in. 
Anyway, my point is that you are probably not going to graduate in “Festival Organisation”.

There are plenty of ways to end up in a job like this. And none of the people I’ve met working at festivals started thinking they would have this career. They all come from VERY different backgrounds and studied different things. So yes, it is good to study cinema if you want to work in a film festival but make sure you also choose a degree where you are going to be trained for more practical stuff like marketing, communication etc.

You should also try to choose a degree that offers you the opportunity to do internships. If you’re not doing a degree and you work in a completely different field, consider doing some work experience. When I was studying, I had to complete a 3  month internship every year and that’s really important. What you are taught at school is theory. Practicing is reality. And don’t forget that professionals value experience. When you are looking for your first real job, it is definitely a bonus to show that you have already worked in another festival. This will tell them that you:

a)     know how a festival works
b)    have experience in a specific role in the festival
c)     are able to work under pressure  - which is really important for this job.

Now, networking. Contacts are probably the most important when you are starting your career. Be careful when you choose an internship – make sure it’s somewhere you’ll enjoy working and will get on with the rest of the team. Get to know everyone – you don’t know where they might move on to and what jobs they might be able to help you get. And then there’s the company itself - lots of people working at Raindance started as interns before becoming employees.

Most of the internships you will find are, of course, unpaid but they are one of the best ways into the industry. This is when you are going to get crucial experience, start networking and maybe meet your future employers. There are a lot of different jobs to do. Raindance is a small team of full time employees working everything from marketing to programming (to see who is doing what at Raindance, click HERE). Throughout the year we take on a few interns to help out in the office. But when the time of the Festival comes, we have nowhere near enough people to do all the work. So we ask volunteers to give a hand for a few weeks. There is a full range of roles available: theatre ushers, marketing assistants, projection assistants, front of house, runners, office administration, bar staff, shop assistants… Click HERE if you would like to get involved as a Raindance Festival volunteer.

A career in Film Festivals is probably not the easiest path to choose, but if you are talented, ready to get your hands dirty and meet the right people, you can make it!

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About The Author

Amélie ThilleAfter graduating with a MA in "Arts and Culture" and working for a couple of Music Festivals in France, Amélie decided to move to London. She found a home at Raindance and became the assistant producer of the Festival in February 2009.



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Working At Film Festivals