Why Volunteer at VIFF?

By Mariam Baldeh

Corey Ouellet’s passion for working behind-the-scenes fuels many of his projects. When he’s not managing directors, producers, and actors in the film industry at Lucas Talent Inc., he’s appeasing his love of film at Vancity Theatre. This is his third year as a Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) volunteer and his second year as a year-round volunteer at Vancity Theatre.

We caught up with him for a chat about what drew him to the volunteer program.


What made you move into year-round volunteering?

I really enjoyed the people that I worked with… the attitudes and the diversity of people that enjoy film and really have a passion for it. That was something I really wanted to take into my life on a year-round basis. With year-round, there’s a bunch of mini festivals that happen and a bunch of small groups that come in, so every week is kind of different. What happens at Vancity – the magic that occurs there – is something that happens every day of the year, whereas the festival only lasts three weeks.

What attracts you to volunteering?

It’s my go-to if I want to experience something new. I would rather volunteer for a festival than just attend at first because I like to see the inner workings of things. I like to see how things are put on and the behind-the-scenes element, and being a volunteer fulfils that for me.

Interesting… so what drew you to VIFF?

I volunteer at a number of other festivals in the city – folk music festivals. I was a part of Squamish Music Festival for a few years, the Push Performing Arts Festival for four years, and a lot of smaller festivals throughout the year that popped up. And VIFF was the one that was quite a commitment. It was something that I needed to be ready to really commit to, and I love film. I like watching people’s reactions and I like the energy that comes from that so VIFF was just a natural progression for me.

There’ve got to be some great perks. Talk to me, Corey.

Well once you’ve been a volunteer for a few months and you’ve passed a probationary period, you get a pass that allows you to take yourself and a guest to I would say about 98% of all screenings at Vancity theatre – except for special events and special rentals. So we can bring people and share that experience with them. We also get free popcorn even when we’re not on shift – (laughs) popcorn’s quite expensive when you go to the theatre.

We also have a partnership between Vancity Theatre and Cinematheque theatre so for pass holders, Cinematheque allows you to guest in at their theatre as well and it goes vice versa, so then we can experience a variety of films. But I think the biggest benefit is kinship – having that group it’s a fellowship of sorts. When we start working a shift, we’ll generally start out where there’s a bunch of people coming in for a showtime, and then there’s a bit of a lull in between so we as volunteers we have a chance to talk. Sometimes we discuss the films, sometimes we talk about life, and we really get to know each other. It creates this really happy environment of getting to know people that you’re with. In the festival there are so many volunteers everywhere and sure some people know each other, but there’s not enough time to actually get to know everybody so that’s where [volunteering throughout the year versus during the festival] are polar opposites.

Cool. So what are you looking forward to most at this year’s festival?

Well, in the past I’d go through the VIFF guide and see which films I wanna see, and which ones I don’t, and try to work out the whole schedule, but this year I’m really looking forward to just absorbing the festival. Each day after my shift I plan on going and looking what the next movies starting are and picking one and going to it. I’m trying to really encourage diversity in my world and I want to see stuff that I wouldn’t normally think of going to see because I feel like there’s a lot of beauty that comes to the festival that I might ignore if I was to just go through the guide.

Will you be back next year?

Yes, definitely. I had to take a few months off doing my year-round volunteer duties and went on to an on-call basis. I think if that had not been an option for me, I might not have been open to going back, but having that flexibility and people who care and understand that we’re volunteering and giving our time, it’s created a culture that I value and I’ll definitely keep on with that.

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