How the Black Nights Film Festival runs a film festival smoothly with Zelos

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“Zelos has engaged our volunteers at a completely new level of enthusiasm. They are active and devoted as fans, just like in the early years of the festival. In the age of social media, having visible support from the crowd really makes a difference.”

Tiina Lokk-Tramberg, Festival Director

400+ volunteers using the Zelos app
500+ tasks completed
1,200+ shares in social media
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A fast-growing film festival with an innovative spirit, Estonia’s Black Nights Festival (or PÖFF) is always striving to improve. Every year new volunteers are recruited as the festival nears, creating an exciting creative environment that filmmakers and audiences love. However, as the festival grew and evolved, the list of unexpected changes and last minute surprises also expanded.

PÖFF now lasts over two weeks and has added many side events to its busy film festival schedule, therefore increasing the number of tasks needed to be completed by volunteers.  Figuring out the right number of volunteers for a festival activity has become increasingly complex, as well as keeping key positions filled since the festival takes place during the Estonian flu season.

Gamification is key to keep volunteers motivated

People who have volunteered in a festival can understand the pain that is to deal with the never-ending flow of activities. Concerned to keep volunteers committed throughout the festival days, PÖFF and Zelos collaborated to organize all volunteer activities in a competition mode that rewarded task completion and personal engagement.

To keep up with the growing number of tasks, PÖFF’s volunteer coordinator uses Zelos to track which person is available, manage tasks across all festival events, and most importantly, be able to know what needs to be done at any given time. The festival staff also used Zelos to share assets and information needed to complete activities, so volunteers had everything to do their work.  

Sharing is caring

In addition to keeping its A-grade status, it is also important for PÖFF to engage the local audience and convince them to buy movie tickets. To make sure all film lovers in Tallinn and abroad knew about the festival, PÖFF created social media tasks so volunteers could share festival updates, invite their friends to special screenings, and welcome VIP guests.

Back when it had fewer than 100 volunteers, the social media outreach was pretty informal and did not follow a particular plan. With a team four times that size and with movies competing with streaming services, now social media is a tool used by volunteers to inform more people about the festival, its film screenings and industry events.

“Zelos has engaged our volunteers at a completely new level of enthusiasm. They are active and devoted as fans, just like in the early years of the festival. In the age of social media, having the visible support from our crowd really makes a difference.”       

-Tiina Lokk-Tramberg, Festival Director,  Black Nights Film Festival 

Since the festival has activities split across several venues, it was also crucial to keep all staff and volunteers connected. Using Zelos allowed everyone to coordinate better and know what was going on every single location.  

Tracking day-to-day work

To achieve top efficiency and maintain regular communication, members of the festival team attended daily morning meetings to discuss priorities. Then they used Zelos to instantly create and assign activities that needed to be sorted out according to their level of importance. Zelos’s quick task dispatch was key to distribute shifts and unscheduled jobs among the existing 400 volunteers, without having to do extra recruitment during the festival. 

Since the core team could manage tasks directly, the volunteer coordinator was no longer personally responsible for solving every single short-coming and missing shift. The festival staff could source help from the whole volunteer community, and make direct contact with people who were not strictly in “their team” but wanted and could help them solve specific problems. With Zelos, PÖFF was able to handle small details of bigger projects or events as well as keep up with ongoing tasks.  

Rewarding accountability

By using the competition mode, PÖFF staff members were able to reward volunteers with points for signing up for tasks and completing them successfully. These points were counted on a public Zelos leaderboard, which ensured a fair competition and motivated volunteers to keep going. The top volunteer of each day received a reward, with special prizes being given once the festival ended.

In 2019, PÖFF had 504 tasks completed, 1,278 Facebook posts shared, and captured valuable data regarding how volunteers visited the festivals’ screenings. By promoting accountability, the Black Nights Film Festival achieved to finish its two-week schedule with the same energy and volunteer engagement from opening night.