Serving on a Film Festival Jury
Film festivals often invite people with a variety of backgrounds to serve on their jury. This can include local luminaries (like a film critic or university film professor), industry insiders, or even celebrities.
WHO is grateful that renowned personalities from the world of film and culture as well as humanitarian activism accepted to join this year’s jury alongside senior experts.
1. It’s an opportunity to give back
As a filmmaker, jury service is one of the ways you can give back to the community. Film festival juries can bring a wide range of audiences to your work, helping you get exposure that would be otherwise hard to come by. And the relationships you build with other members of the jury can be long-lasting – even after the festival is over, a juror may become a mentor or a collaborator on your next project.
In this exquisite folkloristic stop-motion fantasy, a Russian immigrant teen and her grandmother struggle to find grounding in their new homeland. This deeply affecting film meditates on the importance of maintaining traditions in a rapidly changing world.
2. It’s a chance to network
Film festival juries are made up of local luminaries who have a deep understanding of the region, industry insiders with direct ties to the films being shown (or screened), or even the show’s producers themselves. It’s a great chance to start or maintain a relationship with people in the know who may be able to help you down the road.
It’s also a good idea to attend as many events as possible during the festival, especially the ones that are in your genre or style. This way, you can meet people face to face and get a sense of who they are. Then, when the festival is over, you can reach out to them and build a new connection.
When you do make a new connection, ask them questions about their work. Be careful not to pester them though, it’s better to stay in touch consistently and only reach out when you have something to say.
3. It’s a chance to learn
Film festival juries are often made up of film industry professionals and academics. Getting to sit down and deliberate on films with these individuals is a great way to learn about new perspectives and styles of filmmaking.
For example, this year’s DOC NYC jury includes filmmakers, journalists and students. They will be tasked with reviewing select films playing in competition, as well as picking winners for the Emerging Filmmaker Prize and Building Bridges Prize.
This is a chance for these youth to get to know other young filmmakers in their community and make connections for their future. They’ll also be introduced to the world of independent film and have the opportunity to meet with the filmmakers who created this year’s films.
This year, the GJFF is partnering with a local community organization to select a student film for the Youth Jury Award. The Youth Jury will screen a selection of films (narrative, documentary and shorts), as well as participate in discussion sessions with the filmmakers.
4. It’s a chance to have fun
Juries are a chance to meet and network with people from all over the world who are passionate about film. I’ve heard countless stories of filmmakers forming strong connections with jury members, sometimes even collaborating on future projects!
Jury president Ruben Ostlund struck a defiant note of optimism on the opening day of Cannes, positioning cinema as a “stronghold of community in an increasingly atomised world.” The challenge, he acknowledged, was connecting cinema with a younger, post-pandemic audience that prefers to gorge its entertainment online.
I’ve been a film festival juror several times and each time I find myself in the position of watching challenging films with long runtimes. One day I watched a four-hour documentary on the victims of Japan’s Sennan Asbestos Disaster. It raised many moral issues and some harrowing stories, but you have to clear your mind for the next screening. It’s a mental exercise that builds into perceptual exhaustion, even when it’s not your responsibility to choose a winner.