How To Survive A Film Festival


by Joanna Orland

If you’re a film lover, attending a film festival may be the highlight of your year, but it can also break you to the point of no return. More films screen in the span of a few festival days than you’ve managed to see over the duration of an entire year – it can be a daunting task to try to fit them all in. And it’s not just the films! Film Festivals are also a great place to do some celeb-spotting for the fans and networking for the pros. So how is it possible to fit in all of this fun in such a short amount of time? As film festival season approaches, here are a few tips to help you cope:

1) A Solid Schedule: Read the programme once you’ve decided you’re going to attend the festival. Highlight the films that you really want to see, and try buy tickets in advance for those that are sure to sell out. For those that do sellout, there are often rush tickets before a screening – get to the venue early to make sure you’re one of the lucky ones who can get a seat! Don’t forget to leave enough time between screenings to get to the next one! Running between screenings is likely to be the only exercise you’ll get!

2) Forget the Plan: Remember that schedule I told you to make? Now forget about it. It’s good to have it in your back pocket, but once you’re at the festival, you’ll be hearing a lot of recommendations for films that sound too good to miss – and they probably weren’t even on your radar to begin with. While the plan is important to start with, flexibility is even more so. It’s always best to go with the flow – sometimes the best discoveries are made spontaneously.

3) Quality over Quantity: There comes a point in a film festival where you just can’t watch any more films that aren’t groundbreaking or Oscar-worthy. This usually kicks in at the festival’s halfway mark, at which point you can afford to be choosier. For the remainder of the festival, go with festival attendee and critic recommendations. Also remember that just because a high profile name is attached to a project, it doesn’t make it good. Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon was the worst film I saw at Venice last year!

4) The Power Nap: The good news is, when you see a film like The Zero Theorem, you can catch up on that much needed sleep! It’s even ok to take a quick power nap during films that you do enjoy – ads and credits are great for this! I slept through some of the slower scenes in Under the Skin last year and it still proved to be one of the greats. When not napping, drink coffee. And always carry snacks and a bottle of water. Eating an actual meal at a film festival is for the weak.

5) Celeb-Spotting: Filmmakers and celebrities are in abundance at film festivals. If there’s anyone you’re dying to see, the festival will often announce in advance if they’re going to be in attendance. You can watch them walk down the red carpet for their premiere, or even better, they are often on hand to do a Q&A after their film’s screening. And sometimes movie stars just want to be moviegoers. You’re likely to find incognito celebs checking out other screenings! Always keep your eyes open!

6) Make Friends: Filmlovers love talking about film. If you’re at a film festival, you either love film or you work in the industry, so either way you have something to say. You’ll make new best friends that stick to you like glue, who you may never speak to again (until the following year), but it’s a glorious friendship that must be celebrated. Sharing your experiences helps the festival excitement to thrive, and new filmic discoveries can be mutually made. And who knows – you may even get invited to a party or two!


For further film festival coverage, please visit

Leave a Reply