A summer with CIFF: Interning with a Film Festival
Miguel Oblea, Contributor
As part of the Broadcast Media Studies program at Mount Royal University (MRU), I just recently finished my internship with the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF). From the start of May to the end of August, my friend, Keo Bunny and I embarked on our first-ever internship with CIFF. The experience and opportunities we had there is something we will always remember and carry with us in the future.
CIFF is celebrating their 23rd year as a movie festival with over 175 multi-genre feature and short films from Canada and around the world. The largest in Alberta and sixth largest in Canada, they’re also an Oscar-qualifying festival for short films as well. This year, the festival will be held in-person and online from Sept. 22 to Oct. 2.
As artistic interns, the main task assigned to Bunny and I was to help the programming team find their selection of movies. We did this by watching and reviewing short films and feature films. Short films tend to be films that are less than 40 minutes in length and feature films are usually an hour or longer. This task, while instrumental to the quality of the festival, didn’t even feel like a chore since it was just basically watching movies at work. Though sometimes, the amount of films we watch in one day felt overwhelming and our brains felt like shutting down from media overload.
This overwhelming feeling really changed our minds on how we perceived films as our internship went on. At times, if a film didn’t capture my attention right away or was too slow-paced, I would give the film a lower rating. If the acting was terrible or the film didn’t make sense, they also didn’t make the cut.
But with this process of reviewing content, we really got to know what we liked and disliked. We realized that if we were to make our own short films in the future, our time watching and reviewing films serves as a lesson to what makes a film captivating and entertaining to the viewer.
We also got the opportunity to be part of some production events during the internship. Our first production event was making a commercial for CIFF. Bunny and I got to act as a couple which was kind of weird for us to play but we were just happy to be part of a video production.
During the commercial shoot, we had the chance to talk with the director and his crew about how they plan their shoots and how they got started in the industry. I remember the director telling us the importance of planning and pre-production so that when it’s time for production, everything should go according to plan.
His advice reminded me of when we had to plan our late-night talk shows for our broadcast program. My team would plan our shows last minute before production day. Let’s just say that some things didn’t go according to plan. But nonetheless, we had fun shooting our shows and the commercial we did for CIFF turned out well even though I felt like my acting performance wasn’t the best. That’s the beauty of post-production editing.
Part of being an intern at CIFF also meant doing some typical intern work. Bunny and I got to archive a lot of old newspaper clippings of past festivals throughout the years. Scanning newspaper clippings and photos were probably one of the most tedious tasks we had to do.
But for me, I think the most tedious job was putting credits for films on Excel sheets. Doing this made me realize how hard it is for only one person to put all the credits of multiple films on a spread sheet.
It was a good thing Bunny and I got to split the workload evenly with this task. But even though the work was split, the number of Excel sheets we had to do drained my energy and had me worried at times thinking that I might have put the wrong credits for a single film.
Thinking about my time with CIFF, I truly enjoyed watching short films, going to production events and talking to other people who also love talking about them. The only thing that I didn’t like about the internship was that it was unpaid and paying for parking when we had to go to the office. Other than that, I had a great time with the internship and the new people I got to work with at CIFF.
Everyone there is so kind and they make it their top priority to make everyone feel safe and included. It was a blast doing this internship with Bunny since it felt like I just got to work with a friend all the time. Though our internship is over, I’m very excited for the festival to come. I can’t wait to see the movies they have lined up and to reconnect with former coworkers during the festival. This internship was an unforgettable experience for sure.