Volunteer For Many Different Reasons – Brendan’s Story

I volunteer a lot, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s because I want to mingle with important people or I want to hone some skills and beef up my CV. Other times I simply want to get some free food or free entry into a music festival. Neither of these are necessarily good or bad, but each volunteer’s motivation is important to know. If one offers to help at an exposition on sustainable food systems hoping to get some relevant experience and make connections, they might be disappointed when they are tasked to do coat check (this happened to me and it was an important lesson). One might also be annoyed when they simply wanted free entry into a theatre festival and found themselves to be way over their head in technical jargon..

In this story, I volunteered for the most simple reason: I was bored.

I was stuck in a rut and needed some new stimulation. I looked up “speed volunteering” on the Team London website, as since my job has unpredictable shifts I can’t commit to a set time slot. I found a posting for a video transcription assignment with Worldwrite in Hackney. Watch a video of an interview, write down what they say, and send it back. I had a vague desire to work on my writing skills (yes, that is why I’m also doing this blog piece), so I gave it a go.

Turns out it was a lot more work than I expected. I struggled to get it done on time and had to stay up really late on the last night to finish. They asked to simply do as much as I could, but I gave my word, and I was determined to finish and do a good job. The hard work paid off: They were very happy with it, and followed with an invitation to do a two-day film making workshop the following week.

Day 1: An intensive hands-on camera training session to learn lighting, filters, exposure, aperture, angles, sound, microphones, etc.
Day 2: Set up a film shoot outside Dalston underground station and interview strangers on the street for a documentary project they have in the works. The other volunteers and I jumped in with both feet!

We also got the rundown on all the projects they had on the go, what they needed done and how we could help. I was hooked. Since that first video transcription, I have done two more, worked on multiple film shoots, did some archive research, helped set up for a fundraising party, pitched an idea for a segment, and met loads of people.

What’s noteworthy is my original motivation. I was just bored! If I had really been specifically interested in writing, I probably would have turned down the filmmaking tutorial and missed out on everything else. But since I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I decided to ride with it and see where it could lead. In this case, it has awaken a dormant passion for film.