This summer I volunteered at an International Animation Festival called Fest Anča, surprisingly held in a small historic city of Žilina in my home-country Slovakia. The festival started on the 28th of July, on the same day as I flew to Slovakia for my summer holidays at home, so the timing was very tight but I am really glad I decided to go nevertheless as it’s proven to be an amazing networking experience on a personal and artist level as well.
I first became properly involved in volunteering when I signed up to be a PAL mentor at NUA towards the end of my first year at uni. This really opened my eyes to the world of opportunity which arises from volunteer work, and I started to look at the world differently, finding exciting things to fill my summer holidays with. The obvious choice for me was to participate in the International Festival of Animation, which is held in my country annually, yet which until now I haven’t had the chance to attend. This was the perfect opportunity.
As a volunteer, I helped with the organisational aspect of the festival only, even though I hoped I could make more use of my animation background. I was provided with a free entrance, free merchandise, and a volunteer t-shirt, free lunch every day and space in the tent-city area, as well as a massive brochure detailing the whole program and each of the short films played (a great resource of detailed information and inspiration)
I was able to freely enjoy the program of the festival during my time off, and I saw multiple screenings as well as the most important masterclasses and screenings of work by international guests Barry Purves, Paul Bush and Robert Morgan, who I got to speak to afterward. I made a closer acquaintance with Barry Purves, when I and my fellow volunteer friend (a recent Film and History of Art graduate) had questions for Barry after his screening, which sprouted a long discussion over lunchtime. We asked about his creative process and details of production and he asked us for feedback on his films in return, to get our account on if they work the way he intended. This was a pretty surreal experience for me, to speak to a professional animator who came from England to this small festival in Slovakia because until then I believed my country’s art industry to be very limited and this encounter proved me wrong.
Later, I asked Barry if he’d be willing to give us a guest lecture at NUA and after being contacted by my tutors, he became the first visiting lecturer of the year (and remembered me, so we had a friendly chat before his talk) If I were to specialise in stop-motion this would be an amazing opportunity for me to try and get an internship, however, I am still mostly angled towards 2D digital. Barry also held a masterclass for animators on the night before the festival officially began, which I wasn’t able to attend due to my travelling, however, it would have been a great opportunity to meet Slovak junior and senior animator from the industry. On the other hand, our tutors have already arranged for Barry to give us a specialized workshop here at NUA, which will be even more useful!
I am also hoping we could get a visiting-lecture or class from Robert Morgan, whose masterclass I found super inspiring, even though his style is quite strong for my weak stomach. He talked us through his creative processes and showed us his very first inspiration to join the Animation industry, and he also screened a few of his short films, like ‘The Cat With Hands.’
Apart from meeting senior professionals from the British Animation industry, I was also confident and bubbly enough to chat to everyone who appeared to be speaking English and thus have made friends with recent animation graduates from all over the world, who entered their shorts into the competitions and were invited to the festival. One of these I’ve become friends with, Nicolas Petelski, and we exchange our work quite frequently, which is very inspiring for me to see and get feedback.
To reflect upon my experience, I definitely want to keep going to festivals of art to gather inspiration and social connections. It was an eye-opener for me, into the creative community in Slovakia and how it is not impossible to bring international talent into my small home-country. In the near future I want to become more involved with this festival, both from the organizational point of view, as well as to submit my animations to hopefully have them screened!
Valentina's tips for being a volunteer...
- Keep an open mind an a helpful attitude, visitors will likely expect the volunteers to know everything about everything, but fret not if you don’t and ask your fellow volunteers or the person in charge for help
- Make sure you are geting enough in return for your hard work and time (be this food, freebies, or spiritual enlightenment)
- Arrange transport and overnight accomodation in advance and try sharing with friends or other volunteers to split the costs
- Be friendly and TALK to people, this is the only way networking happens and it’s likely that you will get to meet amazing people from the industry, so make use of it!
- Lastly, stay safe and healthy and enjoy your time :)