From liaising with filmmakers to helping with local publicity, two Edge Hill Film Studies students had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a major US film festival – thanks to the University’s Student Opportunity Fund.

Samantha Steele and Ben Loveland won the coveted internships as part of a flourishing partnership between Edge Hill and the Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF), the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America. To help them with the high costs involved in flying to, and staying in, Michigan they applied to the newly-launched Student Opportunity Fund, which provides financial support to enable students to access career-enhancing projects or activities.

During the two-week internship, Sam and Ben were involved in all aspects of the event, giving them an authentic taste of what it takes to deliver a six-day festival, featuring 180 films plus exhibitions, panel discussions and community programmes, and allowing them to gain the skills and experience to impress future employers.

After a busy first week meeting the team and helping with festival preparations, including decorating the Michigan Theatre, the AAFF’s main venue, the pair were given roles for the duration of the festival. Ben was based in the Michigan Theatre helping volunteers, greeting filmmakers and even going on food runs across Ann Arbor to keep the team fed. Sam, meanwhile, helped to manage an exhibition that included workshops and installations, making sure the artists had everything they needed throughout the festival.

Sam said:

“I experienced Ann Arbor in a great way through the festival, I got to know local people and companies that felt like close friends by the end of the two weeks. I also learnt about the distribution of films and the behind the scenes intricacies of film festivals. The best thing I did would probably be filming out there. I got some great footage and I am now making a promotional video to help get the festival more volunteers.”

Both Ben and Sam believe their experience at the AAFF will have an impact on their future employability in the highly competitive film industry.

Sam said: “We had an amazing time and gained so much from it. I am now in contact with multiple filmmakers, artists and funding people from all over the world that should hopefully lead to more amazing opportunities.”

Ben added:

“In terms of preparing me for my future, Ann Arbor helped me immensely, just getting the internship helped my confidence when it comes to applying for film related jobs and helped broaden my horizons when thinking about what a film related job might entail. Getting this internship has helped show me that a difficult career path in analysing films is something that I am able to strive for and succeed in.

“The Student Opportunity Fund was probably one of the most important things in ensuring I was able to have this experience, without it I would have had a much more difficult time acquiring the money needed for the trip. I’m indebted to Edge Hill for this fantastic opportunity.”

Kyle Stefek, Executive Assistant at AAIF, said: “The greatest highlight of my position at the Ann Arbor Film Festival is how closely I am able to work with our team of interns, and each year I eagerly look forward to the energy the Edge Hill interns bring to our team during Festival Week. Sam and Ben were no exception. It was a pleasure to have them on board.”