A blog post by Xiuchun Xu, MA Film Studies
From June 8th to 11th, I had a fabulous experience volunteering for the 2019 Sheffield Doc Fest, one of the biggest international documentary festivals in the world. Like most film festivals around the world, this festival had a number of indoor and outdoor screening events for showcasing high-quality documentaries (2019 entries), and provided the marketplace for international filmmakers, producers, broadcasters, distributors, festival directors, funders, etc., to meet up and make connections, which was called ‘MeetMarket’. In addition, one of the interesting parts of this festival was their Alternate Realities projects and one of the very valuable sections for me was the Marketplace sessions where I actually volunteered for.
As I have developed a great passion for media festivals and business activities related to the media and film, I chose this role to volunteer alongside the friendly and considerate marketplace sessions team. I attended an induction on the 8th from 9 am to 12 pm, through which session the Head of Marketplace & Talent, Patrick Hurley, and Marketplace & Talent Coordinator, Manon Euler, alongside other programme assistants organised all the volunteers to visit the venue, Cutlers’ Hall, where the marketing activities would take place between 10th and 11th, and explained what we need to know to volunteer for this event in detail to make us fully prepared.
Drawing Room of Culters’ Hall (The Venue for Marketplace Sessions (Source: Sheffield Doc/Fest Official Website Marketplace Sessions 2019. https://sheffdocfest.com/articles/707-marketplace-summit-sessions-2019?tag=homepage.)
I actually volunteered from 8 am to 6.30 pm for 2 days between 10th and 11th. As regards the specific roles, on the one hand, we mainly helped international filmmakers and producers network with documentary broadcasters, distributors, funders, festivals and film foundations through ‘round table’ sessions which were several 90 minutes featuring six tables with a group of around eight to ten delegates at each. The invited experts, such as other film festival directors, decision makers from prestigious creative companies (including BBC, ITV, The Guardian and New York Times), and producers, started by giving a short 3-minute introduction of themselves and their company to everyone attending. After this, they joined a table for their first meeting, moving tables every 15 minutes. As volunteers, we were responsible for greeting Round Table participants, directing them to their table and keeping track of the timings. On the other hand, for the masterclass sessions, we were sometimes ‘the gatekeepers’ to make sure that the room was not disturbed by other delegates who were in the Cutlers’ Hall but had not registered for the sessions, and were sometimes in the door which were extremely valuable opportunities for us to take the masterclasses with regards to budgeting, funding application, and marketing strategies. Additionally, as volunteers, we had some benefits, such as snacks and light refreshments, a free film voucher after finishing every shift, and free access to any industry sessions, documentary filmmaking workshops and parties. In fact, after my shifts, I also went to the fantastic Alternate Realities Exhibition and got my own unique perfume through Algorithmic Perfumery
Algorithmic Perfumery at Alternate Realities Exhibition
Having studied the media and film for around 5 years, it was my first time to be a member of the staff of a media festival, so although the voluntary work was intense, I felt quite excited to see how real marketing activities of the media took place and progressed, and really enjoyed the masterclasses delivered by professional producers. Also, I was so happy to make new friends there and I think I am going to miss the lovely little Marketplace Sessions team very much.
The 2019 Sheffield Doc/Fest Marketplace Sessions Team