Self-discovery Through Queer Film

June 22, 2021

An interview with Volunteer Ryan Lim

Volunteers are an integral part of Out On Screen and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Volunteers have taken on a variety of roles over the past 33 years, from being the first friendly face to scan your ticket as you enter a venue, to preparing packages behind the scenes, to representing the Festival at the Pride Parade, to even providing tech support during our first digital Festival last year. Our Board is also all volunteer – helping to steward the organization as we work to fulfill our mission

As a past volunteer at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, I have experienced firsthand how the festival fosters a sense of community and friendship. Not to mention, I learned a lot about myself and gained valuable skills through volunteering. For many folks, the Festival is their celebration of Pride. Recently, I sat down (virtually) with longtime VQFF volunteer and recipient of the 2020 Volunteer Service Award, Ryan Lim (he/him), to discuss what volunteering means for him, and what has him coming back to join us at VQFF every summer.

Hey Ryan, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Ryan. I go by the pronouns he/him. I’ve been a volunteer with Out On Screen and VQFF for seven years now, going onto my eighth. Outside of the Festival, I’m in marketing and communications work. I’ve done a lot of work (and volunteering) within the film and the entertainment industry, so this whole festival is definitely in my wheelhouse.

Do you remember when you first discovered the Vancouver Queer Film Festival and Out On Screen? How did you first get involved with volunteering?

I didn’t actually come out until I was in my early 30’s, so it was definitely a bit later in life. I’ve always been into film, but my experiences with queer cinema were very limited. Back in the day, as I started to come to terms with identity and became more comfortable with it, I think that’s when I started to be more open to it. One particular year—I don’t remember the exact age, but it definitely would have been a year or two before I actually came out—I noticed the Festival and decided to go see a film. I had a really good experience, and then a couple years later when I finally was out, I thought, oh, now what do I do? I thought back to when I saw that film at the Festival, and I thought volunteering for this Festival would be a great idea because I had volunteered at other film festivals before and had really enjoyed the experience.

Do you have a favourite memory from volunteering?

So many throughout the years—it’s hard to pinpoint one! Maybe it’s not one specific memory, but I’ve just met so many great people at the Festival over the years. There have been some years where I’ve met people that I’ve maintained good friendships with still to this day. That’s a big thing for me that has kind of come out of the Festival; sometimes you participate in these things and you meet people, but maybe you don’t keep in touch with them, or maybe you just see them at the Festival the next year. But it’s nice that I’ve actually kept in touch and become good friends with some of the people that I’ve met at the Festival.

Do you have a favorite film or program from your years of volunteering?

I always remember this one film that I saw really early on, it was called Jongens (Boys). I believe it was one of the first films that I saw. I think it was even maybe the first year that I volunteered, or if it wasn’t the first year, one of the very early years. It was this coming of age film about two teenage relay race runners and their journey to self discovery with one another. I just remember seeing it and it was really impactful. It was a really well made film, and also I hadn’t seen a lot of these coming of age films at the time. Seeing it in the theatre with all these people, in this atmosphere where you’re surrounded by people that you feel really safe and comfortable with, it was just this amazing experience that I always remember. 

In your own words, why do you volunteer with Out On Screen?

I volunteer because I love to be a part of the community and give back. I know the Festival and all these events, they can’t run without volunteers, and I enjoy being apart of it. I’m also not necessarily the person that just goes out and just talks to people. I kind of need a structured thing, and volunteering provides that kind of really great opportunity. As a volunteer, you’re there to work and help out, but at the same time you can socialize and meet people that you have things in common with or relate to. That’s one of the things that definitely brings me back to the Festival, and it’s something that I look forward to every year.

You’ve been volunteering with us for quite some time, so I wanted to ask, with all your years of being part of the Festival and engaging with staff, attendees and other volunteers, how have you seen the Festival and Out On Screen change?

It is interesting because I’ve volunteered for so many years, that I’ve almost seen the majority of the staff at the Festival change. The Festival itself, from the time I’ve done it, I wouldn’t say has changed that much. Every year there’s different programs, different spotlights in different areas, but the Festival itself I feel has been pretty consistent. 

It’s been interesting to see the staff of the Festival change, but I have to say that even though it’s changed, it’s always such a great group of people. I think every single Executive Director that I’ve worked with, from Drew to Stephanie to now Brandon — they’ve all had this great vision of their own for the Festival which they’ve carried through. 

Is there anything you’d like to say to folks who are interested in getting involved as a volunteer?

I think you’ll get out of the experience what you put in. You might have a particular position or role that’s not very lively, but at the same time, if you’re in that atmosphere and you’re around other volunteers, I feel like, you put forward what you want to get out of it. I found that I’ve always had a great experience because I’ve gone in, like, okay, this can be a really exciting, really busy shift, or maybe this one’s going to be really slow, and that’ll be an opportunity to chat with and get to know other volunteers and hear about their experiences and such, which I think is also a big part of volunteering.

Our 2021 festival theme is Longing – something that touches upon both the sense of loss and nostalgia after the past year and half in the pandemic, as well as the hope and joy ahead of us as a community. What is something you long for or are looking forward to?

I’m sure lots of people would say the same thing: emerging from this cocoon, being able to start seeing your family and friends more, getting to do some of the things that you haven’t been able to do for the last year and a half. Things that before, you wouldn’t have even thought about, or you definitely would have taken for granted. Something as simple as going to see a movie or attend the Festival. For me, it’s things like going to the theatre or going to a concert. The way you interact with people has been so different, and so, even if things don’t necessarily go back to exactly the way they were before, I think the idea of just being able to connect and do some of the things that we haven’t been able to for this period of time is definitely something that I’m looking forward to.

Are You Looking to Volunteer? 

With both remote and in person opportunities available, there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are in the province. Pre-Festival opportunities include Website Testing, Mailout, Festival Guide Distribution and more. During the Festival we will have opportunities like Tech Support, Photographer, Bartenders, and more! 

Volunteer perks include free screening tickets, our VQFF 2021 t-shirt, and our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party. 

For more information, or to register, visit our website or reach out to our Volunteer Coordinators, Jarred & Muhan at  

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