How old do I have to be to volunteer? 

Volunteers must be 16 years of age or older in order to volunteer on their own. Volunteers under 18 must have their parents sign a waiver. Volunteers under 16 may volunteer with a parent or guardian provided both are working and can contribute to and aid operations. Any industrious young people with a love of film and community looking for an exemption to this policy may contact our volunteer coordinator at

What is SWAG and will I receive it while volunteering? 

What is SWAG, you might ask? If you are willing to work some special festival shifts, you will get a coupon that will get you “fabulous” prizes at the Volunteer Party on Monday, August 6 from 6 to 9 pm at the Front Lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons.

All shifts on Saturday, Sunday, of the festival and the Monday after are SWAG shifts. What are the other Swag shifts? All shifts that run into midnight hour on any day (the Open Space shifts and Midnight Movies at State).

Our crucial warehouse volunteers are also urgently needed, so any time you work in the festival hub, you’ll receive not one but TWO SWAG Bucks.

Following volunteer advice, we’ve changed the SWAG process to make it a little more fun and more equitable. If you have ever approached the SWAG table at the party eager to select your goodies, only to think, “Darn it, all the good stuff is gone!” or “I ended up with a toddler sized tshirt, and I was a linebacker on my school’s football team!” – those days are over!

Under the new system, as always, the more SWAG shifts you work, the more SWAG coupons you earn. But this year, each coupon you receive is worth one SWAG Buck, and at the Volunteer Party, you’ll be able to combine your SWAG bucks to redeem different tiers of prizes, just like at an arcade. The most primo SWAG items will take more SWAG Bucks to redeem, but we can still promise that there will be something for everyone who receives a SWAG Buck. We’ve even purchased special merchandise that is only available to our volunteers with SWAG Bucks. Your turn at the SWAG redemption area will be determined randomly upon entry at the Volunteer Party.

Can I volunteer with a group?

Yes, we love to have groups volunteer at the festival. To sign up as a group, please contact our volunteer coordinator at

What should I do if I am unable to sign up for volunteer shifts online or having difficulties with the system?

We want to make it as easy as possible for you to sign up. If online doesn’t work for you, feel free to call the office at 231-392-1134, email our volunteer coordinator at, or stop on by to the festival office during business hours, M-F, 9-5, and someone will assist you.

How can I get more involved and make a bigger time commitment to the festival?

Leadership positions are available! For more info on joining the ranks of TCFF Volunteer Managers (and getting a snazzy polo shift and other cool perks) visit our Volunteer Manager page.

What should I wear while volunteering?

All volunteers should wear their festival provided volunteer shirts and credentials. Pants, capris, shorts, and skirts are all appropriate — no holes or tears, please. We also prefer that party volunteers wear black and white ensembles while on duty. Comfortable footwear is a must! Check out our volunteer dress code guide for more info.

What are credentials?

Credentials are an important festival security measure required while volunteering. They list your name, hometown, and level of security access, are enormously helpful for festival operations, and also make a great memento of your festival experience. Credentials, along with your volunteer shirt, can be picked up at credentialing the Friday and Saturday prior to the festival’s start.

What if I can’t make it to credentialing?

If you are unable to make it to credentialing during the designated credentialing period the Friday and Saturday prior to the festival’s start, you can pick up your credentials at the Festival Office (232 E. Front Street) anytime during the festival, Tuesday – Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm.

What should I bring to volunteer?

We cannot guarantee a secure area for you to store personal belongings, so do not bring any valuables or large or bulky items. You should plan to only bring what you can fit in your pockets and/or a small bag. Those volunteering outdoors should bring sun and rain protection as necessary.

Do I get to watch movies while volunteering?

Volunteers should not expect or plan on being able to watch films while on shift. That being said, if seats are available and there is nothing left to clean or prep for the next screening, volunteers are sometimes able to enjoy the film.

What do I need to know in advance of volunteering?

For most volunteering positions in areas of ushering and concessions we can train you on the spot. But each venue is different, so that is why we ask that you do all of your shifts at the same venue to make the most of your training.  It is also enormously helpful to the festival if you can read our volunteer handbook and/or MacGuffin, attend our Volunteer Movie and Orientation the Monday before the festival, and other training sessions, as applicable.

What’s a MacGuffin?

In film, as Hitchcock said, it’s the driving force of a movie, the object of everybody’s
search or desire, like the Maltese Falcon or the Ark of the Covenant. At the TCFF, volunteers are the driving force of the festival, and the MacGuffin is your guide to directing the festival’s success. Download and view the 2018 MacGuffin here. 2018 MacGuffins will be distributed at the Volunteer Screening and during the festival. Be sure to ask for one!