LSFM student-mentee and 2015 Graduand Bryony Hooper said: I had the honour of attending Doc/Fest (5th-10th June 2015) for free by volunteering for it. This has to be one of the best media experiences I’ve had. I got to network, see films and enjoy the overall festival. My job for the week was Cinema Steward, which is basically letting people into the screens, scanning the badges and taking tickets. However I believe there was a number of volunteers that didn’t show up and because I was based in one of the main rooms I was used as a runner as well. I didn’t mind doing this as I got to see more of the festival, however carrying quite heavy chairs across Sheffield isn’t the best way to spend an afternoon.
Over the festival I had many jobs including standing in a corridor, Q&A wangling, head counting and letting people into screens. There were a few times that I was left to do more than one job at once including handing out voting slips and checking tickets, there were usually 2 people doing one job each but on this occasion there wasn’t – it also happened to be one of the more popular screenings and getting everyone inside was a challenge.
There was also another screening of Orion: The Man Who Would Be King this was a documentary about an Elvis impersonator and the director gave me another job (as well as scanning ALL the delegate’s passes) to give out masks, as Orion wore one. This was one of the more fun tasks but again one of the more popular screenings, more than 200 people in the screen and at one point there I was making the delegates pick up a mask as I couldn’t scan them quick enough. The moral of this story, don’t wear a mask while scanning.
I was also called upon to do a special job as I was ‘responsible’ when there was a special session called Creativity-Gasms with Barbara Carrellas. This was a workshop where you went into a trance and there was quite a lot of sexual references and noises… and I had to stand outside and listen to the whole thing. Everyone who went in came out with big smiles on their faces so at least some enjoyed the experience.
There were only a few events on that I could attend, unfortunately volunteers weren’t allowed in everything (even though we were promised access) and some events were on while I was working, but I got to a few. One of them was a reception, hosted by ITV, where I got a free drink and networked in the festival lounge. I saw Alex Graham (he was an industry guest and is the School’s Visiting Professor who came to LUMAS) and I spoke to him again. I also got talking to a few industry people, some of whom were very nice and I got their business card, others gave advice and others didn’t want to know.
I didn’t get to go to many screenings as most of them I was letting in and out but I did manage to go to the volunteers’ secret screening of The Confessions Of Thomas Quick. This was a brilliant documentary about a Swedish serial murderer; if you ever get the chance to watch it I would recommend it.
There were several aspects to the festival that were quite cool as in the festival lounge there was a tent that if you put a picture on Twitter or Instagram with #docface they would print the picture off for you. It’s safe to say that I did use this feature, quite a bit.
Finally the last Q&A of the festival was for the Monty Python documentary about making ‘The Meaning Of Live’ with special guest Michael Palin. The screening of the documentary had already started before my shift had finished but I managed to sneak into the Q&A and experience Michael in his loveliness. This was the best way to end Doc/Fest and I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to sneak in.
Overall the experience was so worth it as not only did I feel like I was gaining experience and networking it felt like I was actually in industry and felt very inspired by the opportunity. I also saw a few people I knew and gained a lot of new friends. I also somehow ended up in a delegates’ handbook listed as a volunteer! I do wish however that I had got to see more films and go to more of the events, but having the experience this year has made me want to come back next year either as a volunteer again or as a delegate.