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Confessions of a volunteer(aholic): My MIFF experience

Trigger warning: This story covers topics such as addiction and early 2000s romantic comedies starring Katherine Heigl. You have been warned.

Do you know that scene from 27 Dresses when Katherin Heigl’s character is getting changed in the back of a cab because she has three weddings to attend – all on the same night?

I recently experienced a similarly eerie feeling of déjà vu while getting changed in the back of an Uber to attend my upcoming volunteer shift at Wild City, an installation of the Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF).

I was running late as I had spent the better part of the morning at Melbourne Uni attending Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Volunteer Induction Day.

As I struggled to close my navy laptop bag, which contained the spoils of my latest volunteering venture – a MIFF red “vollies” T-shirt (size medium), lanyard, fistfuls of free coffee and gelato vouchers in addition to the black Swinburne Open Day volunteers T-shirt (size small) and GSPF volunteers hoodie – I realised that I had an even bigger problem.

I wasn’t going to stop at one event, or even two or three. I was staying up late reading e-newsletters from non-profits and charities looking for my next hit.

I was a full-blown addict.

Still reeling from the realisation as I exited the Uber, I shielded my hard-earned cardboard St Ali coffee and Pidapipó gelato vouchers (volunteer paydirt!) from the Melbourne drizzle and walked the remaining 200m to non-profit group Collingwood Yards.

Urgent intervention was needed so I did what any self respecting millennial would do. I called my therapist.

Confessions of a volunteer(aholic): My MIFF experience

Source:, 2008

Causes of volunteerism

As I sobbed into a tissue on my therapist’s brown suede couch, I pondered aloud, “why do I do this?”

While mathematicians are still working on the formula for this phenomenon, my hypothesis is that the disorder I was experiencing had equal parts.


There are also many unexpected benefits of volunteering for events like MIFF:

  1. Make new friends. Meet and connect with other addicts just like you! They come from all walks of life and have all sorts of interesting stories to share.

  2. Unparalleled access to awesome events in your city. I’m talking behind the scenes stuff you can’t get elsewhere and exclusive invitations to VIP and staff-only events.

  3. Gain invaluable skills that can lead to paid employment.

  4. Free Swag, membership and discounts – need I say more?

  5. Gateway to other volunteering opportunities Melbourne Fringe Festival anyone?! We’re serious – they’re looking for volunteers. Link here 🙂

  6. Giving back to the community. I only volunteer for (aforementioned) selfish reasons so I can’t personally attest to this one, but I’ve heard good things.


Unfortunately, volunteer commitments can also mean:

  1. Long hours and public transport. Catching PT at 10pm after a five-hour shift is a cruel and unusual form of self-inflicted torture that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’ve heard horror stories from ushers of finishing as late as 1am, so be warned!

  2. Chronic fatigue and exhaustion. But isn’t that what student life is all about?

  3. Even more FOMO. Missing out on paid work and social events is a thing. Nobody wants that.

  4. Less study time. No one ever mentions this one but taking on volunteer shifts can mean less time studying for exams and working on those pesky assignments.

Confessions of a volunteer(aholic): My MIFF experience

Volunteering at MIFF.

Hot tips for new players

Look for local opportunities in your neighbourhood

I recently had to pull out of a volunteering opportunity I was looking forward to due to a conflict with a work event. It was a hard lesson in only picking commitments that you can honour as well as those that are geographically and physically possible for you.

Cutting down on travel time means that you are more likely to make the event and still have time and energy for that other thing – be it a team-building retreat/corporate sponsored theatre production (that your boss is starring in) or your best friend’s wedding where you are effectively Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses (sorry not sorry).

Play to your strengths

It goes without saying that you should seek out opportunities that match your interests but are there particular skills you want to work on? Look for roles and opportunities that match these skill sets – they’re out there.

Small business owners and managers would love to have someone with your savvy content creation skills and social media know how to manage their social media channels. Who knew that snapchatting your mates and exclusively communicating via memes would pay off?

Communicate what you want to get out of the experience

Hate customer service? I don’t recommend applying for client-facing roles. Tell the volunteer co-ordinator at the venue that you hate people and would rather pick up popcorn and broken glass with your bare hands than talk to another patron.

They understand, have probably been in your shoes and are usually happy to accommodate by placing you in a more suitable role. There are usually a variety of roles on offer from front of house, box office to inclusion/access champion so you may need to try on a few to find the right fit for you.

One last thing – try not to get choc top on your shirt on the first shift. That shit stains.

Happy volunteering! 🙂

POLL – You be the judge 

Has Ann’s volunteering spiraled into an addiction?

  1. Yes, it’s out of control and sounds exhausting

  2. No, leave Britney & Ann alone – it looks like fun!

MIFF’s 2022 in-cinema program is over for the year. MIFF Play, the festival’s online streaming platform, is streaming Australia-wide until Sunday.


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