Volunteers Make Sure the Show Goes On!
The Newport Beach Film Festival is celebrating its 15th year and is continuing to grow with more than 53,000 attendees during the entire event. With that said, organizers are seeking more community members than ever before to volunteer their time to support this year’s event April 24-May 1.
Volunteer opportunities include theater ushering, office reception, merchandise sales and guest relations, and of course, there are fun benefits, too, like the chance to attend the screenings and parties.
We talked with Director of Volunteers David Schniepp to find out what he needs in the way of volunteers and to let you know how you can sign up to be part of the festival, which features more than 350 films from 50 countries shown at numerous Newport Beach venues from the Lido Regency Theater to Fashion Island’s Island Cinema, along with special events, red carpet galas, conversations with filmmakers and much more.
Newport Beach: How long has the festival made use of volunteers?
Schniepp: We’ve had volunteers for every single year of the festival and it’s our 15th anniversary. I know there are a few who have done it every single year since its exception, quite a few who have done it 14 years and hundreds who have done it more than five years. Typically, once we get a volunteer, they tend to stick around.
Newport Beach: What do you look for in a volunteer?
Schniepp: We are always in need of volunteers. Typically, we’re looking for people with a really great attitude. We’re looking for both quality and quantity. We want generally good people, but also somebody who is a problem solver; great with customer service and likes dealing with the public; is into the festival and likes film; and gets the idea we’re bringing great films to the Orange County area.
I would just like some people who are willing to help, self-sufficient and with a great attitude. Theater operations is where we could use people the most, for taking tickets, ushering and other jobs.
Newport Beach: How many volunteers are needed?
Schniepp: We had around 750 last year and this year I could use a couple hundred more because we opened up another venue and we’re showing a few more films. We’re taking over two screens of the Regency South Coast Village theater and that’s a new venue for us this year. We also have the Starlight Triangle 8 Cinemas; Lido Regency Theater; Island Cinema Movie Theater at Fashion Island; Edwards Theaters Big Newport 6 Movie Theater (we’re taking over three lower-stadium theaters there for the run of the festival and the Opening Night Film is on the big screen); and The Studio space at Sage Hill School.
Newport Beach: What types of jobs do volunteers perform?
Schniepp: They get to pick what they want to do. If somebody’s a complete expert with computers, we’ll make them a ticketer; and if they’re good at customer service, they get to do ticket taking. If they lift weights and work out all the time, they get to carry things. If they’re an extremely skilled bartender, they get to serve drinks. If they have a clean driving record with insurance, we can put them on our transportation team. It they’re good at retail, they can be in merchandising and selling customer gear. And, if they’re really good and stick around for a couple of years, they can rise up and become a venue coordinator and can be in charge of an entire venue. A lot of our volunteers will start off in theatre ushering, and maybe next year ticketing, and the next year production and the next thing you know they’re in charge of production. It’s kind of fun in that regard. There’s room to grow in volunteering if you want to.
For theatre operations, it’s like being a teenager again and working in the theatre selling tickets in our ticket booth, taking and tearing tickets at the door, ushering people into the theater, managing lines, doing seat counts and passing out and counting ballots for every movie (for best movies, actors and other categories). Production includes the setting up and tearing down of the after-parties, and there are also party hosts who will walk around part of the party and help keep it clean as it’s happening, and make sure people know where the entrance and bathrooms are, and we also have bartenders. You also get to sample all of the restaurant food, so that one’s kind of fun. Then there is actually the selling of tickets and festival merchandise. There are other things that pop up that we need volunteers for, including transportation. Land Rover and Jaguar are our official cars, and we’ll have those to drive around and use to pick up talent, crew and other people at airports and shuttle them back to their hotels.
Newport Beach: What are the most coveted volunteer jobs and why?
Schniepp: The theater operations and parties for Opening Night and Closing Night. Those are fun. On Opening Night, we don’t have you wear your volunteer T-shirt. Instead, you wear a nice white shirt and black pants or skirt. Opening Night is a black-tie event and you want to look sharp.
Newport Beach: What are the benefits of being a volunteer?
Schniepp: Like a lot of volunteer positions, you’re giving back to the community. But you get a special code as a volunteer you can use to get eight half-price tickets for spotlight and regular films. If you sign up for the Uber car service this year you get a $50 credit toward the car service. We also throw a volunteer party — a give-back party — and for that, we typically screen the Opening Night or Closing Night film exclusively for the volunteers, and provide food and gift bags.
Newport Beach: How can people get involved?
Schniepp: What they want to do is go to the website (www.newportbeachfilmfest.com/2014/) and click on the volunteer tab and there’s a place you can sign up.