YFN Stories: Abby Pollock

From Youth Lab 2021 to Youth Lab Lead and Short Film Programmer at Cambridge Film Festival

Headshot of Abby Pollock
Abby Pollock is a 22 year old based in Cambridge. She was a member of the Youth Lab in 2021, and now is the Youth Lab Lead and Short Film Programmer at Cambridge Film Festival.

I actually heard about the Cambridge Film Festival on my first day in the city before becoming a student at Anglia Ruskin University, where I was studying Film and Media Studies. I came across a paper flyer stuck on a lamppost advertising volunteering opportunities at the Cambridge Film Festival. Looking back, one could argue it was fate? That paper flyer was one of the simplest forms of communication yet it has ultimately impacted my life in both professional and personal ways.

From this, I began as a volunteer in an admin role and so was kept in the loop of further ways to get involved including managing and presenting community screenings and more in house venue events. It was my priority to maintain a relationship with the festival. Programming was something I didn’t know anything about but I always wanted to be part of their work in some way or form and was willing to sacrifice my time to do a lot of unpaid work, simply because I loved the people and field I was working in. I always pushed myself enormously hard to maintain this relationship whilst also juggling my part time job at the Arts Picturehouse and finishing my BA degree. I believe that my enthusiasm and determination was noticed by the Festival Team which helped them identify me as a good candidate for different roles within the trust.

Becoming a YFP

Gaining an understanding of what programming actually was of course the most significant aspect of being a Young Film Programmer. I am now using what I have learnt to pass on this information to my Youth Lab cohort, and am consistently prioritising teaching the skills they need to create an amazing programme. I would advise any Young Film Programmers taking steps within their journey to keep their eyes wide open, their ears pricked, and have a good conversation starter ready when approaching people, especially if you feel nervous or a tiny bit intimidated by them. They’ll probably being feel exactly the same but by making that introduction you’ll be the one relaxing everybody!

Cambridge Youth Lab

The Cambridge Film Festival successfully founded the Youth Lab after the 2019 Cambridge Film Festival. Inspired by the ‘Youth Lab Jury’ group, which was a group of young people working together to exclusively award a prize to a film of their choice at the Festival (the chosen film was BAFTA Nominated ‘County Lines’.) The Youth Lab expanded into a year round project and has been successfully led by a young person since its inception. It’s been great to witness the confidence and communication skills that have increased over time within the group is a complete privilege. These connections have spurred on outstanding collaborations amongst the cohort within and outside of the Youth Lab’s activities.

Progression opportunities

Within the YFP Network I have also been delighted to become a YFP Presenter, and interview some amazing individuals, including Will Wightman, an up and coming director and winner of the Cannes Lion Prize. This once again increased my circle and helped blur my initial imposter syndrome when in future speaking to large groups of people via video conference. I have also been warmly welcomed into the community of other Young Film Programmers and have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity and support provided by the YFP Network Manager, Julia. It has provided me with a patient ear while the Youth Lab makes steps to discover what it is they want to achieve within the group, while consistently providing opportunities and advice to lead the cohort into new exciting avenues.

On a more personal note, I have thoroughly valued the opportunity to network with other members of the film industry who have always been immensely generous in their time and guidance to help me pursue an ever increasing network of incredible, talented human beings. I don’t know where these connections could lead me in the future but I am excited to find out!

Getting a job in the industry

After six months of working in collaboration with the Youth Lab members I was invited to take on the role as Youth Lab lead, therefore taking on new responsibilities including planning the content of our sessions, mentoring and providing support for the members, while continuously maintaining relationships with funders and the wider networking of relevant connections. I have also begun roles for other organisations with particular emphasis on project management with the exhibition sector. I truly believe that the transferable skills within this role have been significantly improved within my role as a Young Film Programmer and as the Youth Lab Lead at the Cambridge Film Festival.

We programmed the ShortFusion strand of the 41st Cambridge Film Festival. Within this 6 month project I had to rely upon the support of 40 individuals watching, reviewing and rating films that may or may not be suitable to the vision I had in mind. With hundreds of submissions it became tough, and at times it felt more personal than professional as I was in control of somebody’s labour of love. I learnt that this is part of the job and unfortunately the film industry isn’t always easy or fair. That is why the achievement of curating 6 microstrands, with exactly 35 short films gave me a new found confidence boost and reminded me that if I face a challenge, I need to listen to my head and put trust in myself those working collaboratively with me. This is a mantra I have taken with me and try to draw onto each day I work.

My role today

On top of my role as Cambridge Youth Lab Lead I now I have a new job as Project Manager for several exhibitions and events within Cambridge and the main skills revolve around communication, networking and exhibition curation. It hasn’t started yet so can’t give too much away!!!* so I’d like to end this with a quote which I am embarrassed to admit I live by:

‘Life’s a climb, but the view’s great’ – The Hannah Montana Movie (2009)

Essentially, wherever you are in your professional life, enjoy it.

Scroll to Top