Life as a volunteer at the Glasgow Film Festival 2023

By Lauren Hunter

As students looking to have an edge in a ferocious job market, we all know that volunteering is a great thing to have on your CV. But if, like me, doing sports or working with kids isn’t really your thing, it can be hard to find opportunities that are valuable and actually suit your interests. However, when I saw that the Glasgow Film Festival was looking for volunteers to help run this year’s schedule of events, I knew it would be more up my street.

As a journalism student, naturally I jumped at the chance to be part of the press team – but there were so many roles that would work for different people. The biggest movie buffs would enjoy soaking up the cinema doing front of house, whereas the keen celebrity-spotters among you would likely want to manage the red carpets (this year’s highlights included Kelly Macdonald and James Cosmo!), and those wanting the inside scoop on making films would love doing the industry events. There’s really something for everyone!

The whole team who run the festival are so friendly – they make you truly feel valued as a volunteer. You’re not just someone who’s there to be taken advantage of or the one who runs around making the tea, as can unfortunately sometimes be the case in these types of roles. You really feel part of the experience and therefore learn from it. In my case, doing press, I was welcoming journalists into the festival to collect their passes – so a great networking opportunity – and collating all the coverage the festival received across hundreds of different outlets, which gave me the chance to see how the best news, reviews, and interviews were done. If any of my lecturers are reading this, yes, I was taking notes.

The only disappointment was the devastating blow that Paul Mescal would not be in attendance for the showing of his film God’s Creatures – apparently he was too busy attending something called the Oscars? If I were Paul I know what my priorities would be. Anyway, the heartbreak was softened by the many amazing perks of the job. Everything from food discounts to merch and, best of all, a free ticket to any GFF or GFT screening for every shift you do, so safe to say I got my money’s worth. The free ticketing scheme allowed me to see the amazing Miss Viborg, and Lee Grant’s 1980s retrospective documentary, When Women Kill. I’ll be sure to use up the rest of my tickets before they run out at the end of April.

But probably the best thing was the atmosphere. Seeing the city alive with new and independent film was an absolute joy, and something more people should take advantage of, even if it’s simply attending some of the film screenings and not volunteering. For me, it really stressed the significance and importance of the arts. At at a time when culture is more under threat than ever, the sustainment of not just film but all creative industries is something everyone should be fighting for, no matter what your background is. After all, which other outlet lets us share our stories, express our emotions, and brings people together in the way art does?

So, when next year’s festival rolls around, I’ll definitely be signing up again, and I think you should too. Whether you want to do film as a career or you’re a regular at the cinema, there isn’t a better unique opportunity to get stuck-in with Glasgow’s culture all while seeing some great new movies. Plus, you never know, Paul Mescal might have straightened out his priorities to get himself where the fun’s really at…