An eclectic crowd of locals will be walking around the Full Frame Film Festival this year–as they do every year–directing traffic, taking tickets and answering questions about the films. Volunteers make up much of the festival’s behind the scenes efforts, and they’re also a big part of festival culture, with its strong local roots and DIY spirit.

This year there are more than 160 volunteers–twice last year’s turnout, and so many that organizers had to turn a few away. It’s not surprising, both because of the festival’s rising profile and because word gets around that Full Frame volunteers are well taken care of. They get a festival pass that allows them to see movies during their down time, and they even have their own pre-season festival of sorts, curated by the organizers, of about eight films.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the festival,” says Volunteer Director Ann Tharrington. “We could not run this festival without the volunteers, it would not happen.” In the fall, she contacts past volunteers to invite them to come back. Starting in February, staff and volunteers meet on Wednesday nights at the Center for Documentary Studies and see about one film each week. “We try to screen films that we feel are going to be very strong or popular, that we don’t want the volunteers to miss.” This year they saw Seabiscuit, Secret Lives and Berga: Soldiers of Another War, among others.

These early screenings generate excitement and buzz early on, and make the audience feel like they’ve already gotten something for their time before the event even starts. They also get to enjoy opening night parties and food from sponsor Whole Foods. “We try to keep ’em real sturdy,” Tharrington says. Luring them back year after year ensures that knowledgeable people will be on hand when questions and problems come up.

So if you want a recommendation, ask a volunteer. Or consult the Indy‘s preview of upcoming films. EndBlock