Reflecting on the TIFF experience

 Graphic by Lena Yang

Graphic by Lena Yang

On Sept. 4, Toronto was thrust into the spotlight as the Toronto International Film Festival kicked off to a crowded street of international attendees who were in town for 10 days of cinematic wonder and red carpet galore. New to the festival this year is Festival Street, in which five blocks of King Street West have been closed off to traffic so festival goers are free to meander around the area which featured a life-size game of chess, a glitzy piano, street performers, live musicians and additional restaurant patios to accommodate for the influx of patrons.

This year, I had the pleasure of volunteering at the opening gala the night before the festival. Instead of the traffic-stopping shirts, we were given the chance to deck out in our finest cocktail attire and assist esteemed TIFF members and celebrities. When things winded down near the end of the night, we were given a tour of the sixth floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which had been transformed into a lavishly decorated party floor complete with caterers, live music and a balcony lounge overlooking the city.

In all of the times I have volunteered at TIFF, I had completed shifts at some of the busiest venues: Scotiabank with a whopping 14 cinemas catering to both public and press and industry screenings; Roy Thompson Hall, a theatre that holds nearly 2,000 for red carpet premieres; and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which is situated in the heart of Festival Street.
Volunteer opportunities at TIFF are infinitely diverse with multiple positions available at each venue and an assortment of departmental opportunities from marketing to communications to ticketing services.

Additionally, the relatively new position of the ACE volunteer had been created for those who would like to experience opportunities outside their assigned venues and departments.

Even though I had spent the majority of my time as a theatre volunteer, where my main responsibilities were to assist with crowds and answer questions, my shifts were very enjoyable, as it was the perfect opportunity to meet volunteers and patrons alike who shared a common passion for film.

There were early mornings, late nights and extended exposure to sweltering sun rays, but volunteering granted a better understanding of the festival and it introduced opportunities that I cherished and will continue to cherish.

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