Since 1932, film festivals have been a major draw for artists and audiences alike. Now, there are hundreds of film festivals around the world, and they range in size from small town productions to major cultural attractions. Emerging filmmakers send their films to whichever festivals their work will qualify for, and festival organizers sift through thousands of screeners to determine which films fit into their curative vision.
Attending Film Festivals
If you are considering attending a film festival, there are some things to take into account and plan for, so that you get the most out of your experience. Each film festival is different, so you should do some research about the event as well as the town or city that is hosting the festival. If you are traveling to another city or country, you should be prepared for the weather conditions, and the culture that is present in that location. If you live in the city in which the festival is being held, then attending may just involve budgeting passes and buying tickets; but if you are travelling afar, you will have to plan your accommodations in addition to your festival schedule. Try to plan your itinerary as early as possible because there are anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people vying for hotels and screenings, just as you are.
Once at the festival, you have probably set your sights on some screenings. For the first time festival attendee this is the most logical event to select. You've probably gone to the movie theater once or twice before, and a screening will resemble this familiar experience the most, out of all the events a festival has to offer. This is a great starting place, but don't limit yourself. Broaden your experience and select some interesting panels to attend. A panel or a forum usually covers a particular topic, film, or film making approach. They are a great way to get an inside perspective of a filmmaker, or to hear about an actor's process. Other panels might cover a film genre, or a new form of filmmaking technology; the possibilities really are endless and dependent on the festival.
If you look around when you are sitting in a theater or in an auditorium, you may see people sitting patiently reviewing notebooks. They aren't studying for an exam; they probably have been taking notes though. Keeping a notebook and a folder with you is a great way to preserve interesting information from your experiences. Unless you are sitting in on one film, there will be a huge amount of information and a lot of movies that you will probably be witnessing. In order to find out more about a film after the fact, or to keep track of a movie that might be securing distribution, it's important to jot down relevant facts. Having a notebook/folder will also help you keep track of passes, give you a place to store autographs and pamphlets and keep a list of restaurants along the festival route that are delicious. It's also a good way to remember the other highlights of your festival.
What to Wear?
Many people have the image of red carpets and gardens of sparkly gowns when they think of festivals. In many cases this just doesn't apply. While there are premiers of independent productions with big name directors and talent, many screenings and festivals themselves are a much more comfortable environment. The approach of a festival attendee should be less like an Oscar nominee and more like a tourist who is going to be sitting through 10 hours of screenings and walking for miles. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes with lots of layers. Keep a bag with snacks, water, medication, and maybe even a small pillow with you if you're looking for a little lumbar support. Keep it light, but keep essentials with you so you don't have to skip a screening that you want to go to because you're starving or have a headache.
Go to a party! Along the same lines as attending a forum or panel discussion, you should make plans to go to a party. Parties are usually held after screenings have ceased for the night. They are a fantastic way to meet actors and filmmakers, and talk with other festivalgoers about the films they loved or hated, and their thoughts on panels or other attractions within the festival or city. You might pick up on some buzz about a film that you didn't get a chance to see, or you might get into a philosophical discussion about women's rights based on a documentary that screened. Take advantage of the collection of film lovers that surrounds you and put on your party clothes. Some parties and events require a badge, so look into entrance requirements before you get dolled up.