TIFF volunteers driven by camaraderie, love of film
2,800 orange-shirted volunteers play a key role in 'crowd control' at Toronto International Film Festival
They stand in the wings of the Toronto International Film Festival, often well away from the red carpet, the celebrities and the flashbulbs but without the 2,800 orange-shirted volunteers, TIFF would be in big trouble.
Working for nothing more than a few movie vouchers, the volunteers help TIFF-goers find their way through the city, as they make their way from venue to venue.
Matt Galloway, host of CBC Radio's Metro Morning show, spoke to two TIFF volunteers Thursday to ask why they give their time year after year and discover what they get in return.
Margaret Perchaluk is a retired teacher from Guelph who's been volunteering at TIFF since 2008. She stays with friends in the city and travels to her volunteer assignments by bike.
"It's a great way to start off a new school year when I wasn't going to be at school," she said. "I love working with people, meeting new people. I can handle organizing people too."
She describes her duties as "crowd control." She answers questions and offers directions to people — many from out of town — as they navigate the city.
Volunteers get vouchers to see some films for free, but Perchaluk said the real perk is the group of friends she's made at TIFF and sees each year when she returns.
"I come from out of town but I feel like I have this community right here in Toronto," she said.
Roland Kouame began volunteering in 2011. At the time he was a new arrival to Toronto but soon found friends among his fellow volunteers.
"TIFF was my ice-breaker," he said. "That's how I met a lot of the people that I know now."
Kouame admits he's also driven to volunteer by his "passion for film."
In his time as a volunteer, Kouame has seen the festival grow. He recalls how in 2012 the premiere of Cloud Atlas drew massive crowds to the Prince of Wales theatre on King Street.
"That's when I realized how big TIFF is really getting."
As for rubbing elbows with the stars, both Kouame and Perchaluk said it isn't a motivator (though Kouame did meet Pierce Brosnan one year).
"Most of the starts I wouldn't know if I walked right into them," joked Perchaluk.