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The festival weekend showed what we had done well and what could have been done better. As AFF drew near, our schedule was looking somewhat shaky. Luckily enough, it held all the way. The actual festival days hadn’t been planned in as much detail as the run-up and the disappearance of a person and some communication problems caused a tedious moment or two. Who was it again who was supposed to pick up the snacks for the VIP lounge? Who has the keys? When can we start rearranging the furniture ( = start pulling chairs from under students having their lunch)?
When volunteers are making an event, the motivation must be something other than money. Starting from the “we want you” announcement of AFF, it has always been about having a good time.
I was interested in AFF because, in addition to liking the idea of having fun with nice people, I wanted work experience in the culture sector. In many an internship the gist of it is that the unpaid intern gets to work the shredder or scrub the toilet, but in AFF there were real responsibilities for all motivated participants! It felt like Artova respected and valued the ideas and skills of our motley crew, a bunch with a very diverse background. This diversity made our event complete and multi-faceted, it couldn’t have been done without those different skills and points of view. The organisers should represent the same amount of diversity your desired audience has. The input from each team member spoke louder than any CV.
You learn by doing. New situations came up sometimes to the point of exhaustion and as there was only a month to get everything done, there wasn’t always time to sit down and just scratch one’s head. Sometimes I felt very incompetent next to my colleagues with university background because they had plenty of experience in working with projects and team work. I learned a lot about working in a culture organisation and planning ahead, and I also learned to use some new computer programs. Clear and simple online materials and notes left behind by previous teams helped us to really understand the event and the work we were doing.
I had reservations about haste, deadlines and a pre-determined end result and was surprised to find that they all made the organisation process more meaningful. I had always thought of myself as someone who likes to work independently, on her own, but this time working in a team felt comfortable and pleasant and it became the lifeblood of the entire event. Doing everything on one’s own would have been very frustrating, useless and way too intense.
The AFF employees showed us the ropes and what I thought was particularly great was that it was possible to tailor one’s job description to match one’s studies or career hopes, at least to some extent. The general atmosphere was very open, and any problems were discussed in intensive meetings where everyone’s voice was heard. You were allowed to ask questions. In this type of “communal” work, individual habits for doing things merged into one… although there were a few collisions we couldn’t avoid. Meeting regularly helped us to become a unified group. At every point in the process, everyone got to determine their own level of commitment. In voluntary work, it’s very important to have the feeling that they want me and my qualities for this task, not just some guy.
Translation by Pigasus Translations.
- Share responsibility
- Think about compatibility between people
- Utilize the internet and social media
- Start ALL processes in good time
- Think about the entity when assembling the program (eg. Connection to Arabia)
- Don’t pile too much responsibility to few
- Don’t take unnecessary risks (eg. with timetables, partners, sharing tasks etc.)
- Don’t leave publicity for too late
- Don’t stretch the previews and judging too late
- Don’t try to fit everything in
Iiris & Noora
There are four categories for AFF films: 1) documentaries, duration less than 30 minutes 2) documentaries, duration over 30 minutes 3) fiction, duration less than 30 minutes 4) fiction, duration over 30 minutes. The only rule carved in stone was that each film had to have a link to the Artova district. Any connection that can be verified was acceptable: some of the scenes were shot in Artova, the production company (or, in the case of students of film, the university) is located in Artova, a member of the production team lives in Artova… This year and last, we have had approximately 100 works coming in.
AFF media team worked hard to inform the public, press and other interested parties about the festival. Some goals were achieved, others not, and there was some unused potential because of there being too little time.
The media team used the Internet a lot: social media and the artova.fi website in particular to communicate directly with the public. Because one month is, in most cases, too short period of time to develop co-operation with most of the print media and tv, their role in the AFF publicity campaign was very small. There were, however, a number of online publications that took up the AFF bulletins and followed the festival closely.
The opening film of the third annual Artova Film Festival was viewed by more than 120 people on the 7th of September, slightly fewer than last year. This year, we had a veritable treat before the opening film: Nutty Tarts’ fresh performance Middleclassjazz brought people in as much as the opening film.
AFF opened with a touching and beautiful film Even the Rain. The choice was done on the eleventh moment but fortunately everything turned out for the best and we had time to advertise and attract a crowd. Even the Rain was directed by Icíar Bollaín, it has won three Goya awards and was the Oscar submission of Spain. The leads are Luis Tosar, who does his best performance, and the ever so dreamy Gael García Bernal.
Everyone who were organising Artova Film Festival were more or less volunteers. Everyone was there because they wanted to. Even though I think most of us showed the same level of commitment they would if it were a “real” job, at the end of the day, it’s still voluntary work.
Responsibility can be a tricky concept in a volunteer project. It’s easy to trust active and enthusiastic people with different tasks but at the same time you can’t really oblige people to stay with the project and do their share when what they receive for their efforts is mostly a good feeling and new experiences. Having people commit to the project, then, originates with their own will to participate and a good atmosphere. To ensure things get done even if something comes up, it would be ideal to have a “backup” for even the most active of volunteers, someone who knows what has already been done and what is yet to be done. Sharing the responsibilities could be an encouraging factor because knowing you are not in charge alone would maybe make joining the organisational group less intimidating.
Arabia Street Festival 2012 was only a part of a process. It’s one milestone on the road towards new, even more fantastic events. Everything we did, slip-ups and victories, all was a part of a learning experience. That’s why it’s important to have a thorough sit-down afterwards. What was done well, what didn’t work?
The publicists’ team or publicity team for AFF2012 was formed in August 2012, only about a month before the festival weekend. Throwing three people who don’t know each other and come from totally different backgrounds into the same broom closet to share one task is usually not the best idea when it comes to HR strategies. Especially if you expect immediate results that are something else than casualties.
Luckily they had thought about this when recruiting the publicists and the tasks were dealt between the three of us very painlessly. Still weeks after the festival I’ve heard people wondering who fast we were able to form a nearly seamless team. About how the recruiting process went on or what they were thinking when choosing us for the task I cannot tell about but I try briefly to shed some light on how our team worked.
We had only a couple of days time to get to know each other, to know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and to get things rolling. The first thing we did was a split to three on all possible aspects of marketing and communication and also other things to remember based on lists already existing or created for us. After the first week, after we had learned a lot about AFF and all the basic things like how to update the web pages and so on, the division between the three of us shifted depending on what each of us were interested in the most. Despite our share we did a lot of things together; for example we edited most texts together and went to meetings together. Also in the future the tasks connected to communications and marketing should be divided to a pair or small team to lighten the workload and getting better results.
For the coming years, the most important thing to develop is time consumption. Because the publicists’ team worked really well together, the only thing we really would have needed was more time and the results could have been amazing instead of just good.
All who are part of making AFF happen are more or less voluntarily involved. All have come along because they want to. Even though most of us working on AFF are as dedicated to it as if it was an actual paid job, it still is ”only” a volunteer project.
The concepts of responsibility and duty can be tricky in a volunteer project. It is easy to give responsibilities to all who are eager and active in the process but at the same time it is difficult to oblige them to work along and do their share when the only reward is the experience and possibly good spirit. Therefore, committing people in the project is based on their own desire to be involved.
To secure the event organizing and smooth running of things it would be important that even the most active volunteers would have “a deputy”, someone who knows what are the person’s responsibilities and what has already been done. Burden-sharing could also serve as an incentive element, as it can lower the threshold to join in the project.
A good example of sharing the responsibility is the 2012 publicist team, where everyone had their own clear tasks, but the others were all the time aware of who is doing what, and if necessary, then were able to take over a task in hand, and each team member was able to easily ask for advice from others since all knew what was going on.
It is precisely because of voluntariness, those involved tend to take it more passionately than regular work. Positive about this passion is that the quest for the best possible outcome is at its peak and all are involved with their hearts not for the pay check. The negative side is that all are involved with their hearts and everyone has their own vision of what the end result should be. Although there has been problematic drop-outs in AFF history also, we in the publicist team did not have to experience any during the 2012 festival.