Now in its 16th year, the programme offers young people the opportunity to see how an international film festival works, meet industry experts, and have their say on some of the best documentaries being made today.
It's perfect if you're looking to break into the world of documentary film, festivals and the media industry. It offers the chance to dip you toes into something new, learn new skills, make connections and enjoy everything the festival has to offer.
If you're thinking about applying, but not sure whether it's for you, take a look at what some of our previous Youth Jurors had to say about their experience.
"I would say being part of the Youth Jury gave me the confidence and motivation to get into making documentaries."
– Ibrahim Ahmed, Documentary Filmmaker (Steel Films)
"When I was selected to be a part of the Youth Jury, it really changed my perspective on the way I looked at documentaries. I remember the surreal moment of going down to London and visiting the US embassy to watch some amazing documentaries. This was one of the many experiences that sticks with me alongside the masterclasses by documentary filmmakers such as the great Asif Kapadia. As one of the Youth Jurors we watched 10 documentaries and from this, one was selected as the winner. I took the role very seriously as we would then have to present the chosen winner at the award ceremonies that took place at the end of the festival.
This was the first time I had attended a festival. I had never watched as many documentaries in one festival, and I really soaked up all the great films and workshops on show. I would say being part of the Youth Jury gave me the confidence and motivation to get into making documentaries. Since then, I went to pitch at Sheffield DocFest, winning the BBC 3 pitch and making a short documentary on my close friend. I was also selected to be part of the film-maker challenge in this year’s festival where I was set the challenge to make a short documentary in 24 hours. This was an amazing experience as it really pushed me to the limits. I am currently in the process of making more short documentaries which I hope will be showcased at next year’s Sheffield DocFest."
"I love the festival and have been back many times since, in my early career I volunteered multiple times, and last year I returned as a finalist at the BBC3 Northern Docs pitch."
– Hannah Ruddle, Development Producer at The Garden
"The Youth Jury was my first ever step into the world of documentary filmmaking. Being from Sheffield, I was amazed to get the opportunity to step into what seemed like an unattainable world of filmmaking in my own city. It taught me that there was a space for me in the industry. I loved getting to watch such a broad range of films from around the world and debating with my co-jurors about why a film resonated with us. I love the festival and have been back many times since, in my early career I volunteered multiple times, and last year I returned as a finalist at the BBC3 Northern Docs pitch. Being on the Youth Jury taught me to analyse and articulate my opinions about films, and how to present those thoughts in a persuasive way – skills I use every day as a Development Producer at The Garden! If you’re thinking about applying – don’t be put off by feeling like an imposter or that you don’t know enough, the experience is so supportive in teaching you about the world of filmmaking and festivals, you’ll meet tonnes of amazing people and watch a LOT of brilliant films!"
"The opportunity to speak to distributors, filmmakers, critics and producers is invaluable, and really paints a picture of how these amazing events come together."
– Natalie Peteranna, Marketing Manager at Glasgow Short Film Festival
"Being a Youth Juror at Sheffield DocFest was a real game-changer for me. Studying film at University can be very theoretical so after graduation, I was raring to immerse myself in the industry. It’s a difficult circuit to break into so the Youth Jury Programme is an excellent way to meet and learn from industry experts. It’s also a great space to make connections with your fellow jurors, develop programming and critical skills - and watch a tonne of world-renowned, amazing documentaries!
The festival embraced us fully - and gave us all the tools and advice we needed to help guide our selection process. One of the highlights for me was attending the industry workshops. The opportunity to speak to distributors, filmmakers, critics and producers is invaluable, and really paints a picture of how these amazing events come together.
We were lucky to have Jurors selected from all over the UK, with different insights and backgrounds, and I think we all learnt a thing or two when championing, defending and debating our favourite titles!
If you are interested in film festivals, programming and documentaries - then definitely apply. Since my time on the jury, I’ve been lucky enough to work on the marketing team for the 75th Edinburgh International Film Festival, and recently I’ve taken the reins as Marketing Manager for Glasgow Short Film Festival 2023. So go for it! You never know where it may take you…"