A students guide to the Venice Film Festival

This last September, I was extremely lucky to be invited to the oldest film festival in the world, Labiennale or as it’s known, the Venice film festival.

It was an incredible special two weeks, of press conferences, films, premieres and exhibits. Over the two weeks I managed to squeeze in as much as I possibly could, and I also wanted to see some of Venice on top. Lets start with how it happened.

LaBiennale was posting a lot on social media about attending the festival if you were a student, I hadn’t really given going a thought before, I thought it was just for people that had the connections, or were working with the films and company’s. But as it goes, students are allowed to apply to attend this festival, and a hundred or so are chosen and invited to come. I applied on a whim in March, and I forgot about it until June/July when I got an email saying “welcome to Venice” (I then proceeded to scream and jump) I was so excited, but then I realized, this meant going solo…

I managed to get a room and en suite with the university of Venice that I’m pretty sure cost £340 for the 11 days. Then my sister and grandma decided to come for the first week of it, so that was pretty amazing and they had a nice apartment also on Giudecca.

Here’s the thing, Giudecca is not the main island of Venice, it’s a five minute boat ride to Marco square, but at night (when leaving premieres at 12am) this was somewhat stressful and resulted in a rather funny run around the boat terminal at 2am in a ball gown. The festival itself is held on an island called the Lido, this is such a lovely little island, and shocker there are cars on it! (not actually sure why, it’s small) anyhoot, the festival has been held at the cinema there since 1932, and is about a 15 minute boat ride from S.Marco (making the journey about 30 minutes with walking) my advice? WAKE UP! re-runs of the films are held at 8am sharp and not everyone with a pass gets in, you have to que from around 7:15am, so figures I barely slept for a long o’l time but it was soooo worth it.

Your pass (which cost’s £30 for 11 days) will allow you into most films and some of the press talks if their is space, but for the larger premieres you have to go online at 12pm every day to secure tickets, don’t worry they are free if you have a pass, it just means that you need to be on it fast. These are the 7pm red carpet films, and you have to try to go to as many as you can it is so wonderful. Through this I saw, The Favorite, A Star is Born, and Driven. I was super cross one day because I lost track of time on the beach and forgot to get First Man tickets, but hey there are worst places to be lost!

Speaking of the beach, the festival is run around the Hotel Excelsior it is a fantastic Hollywood vibe hotel with a gorgeous bar and beach (try the cocktails) this is the place if you want to see some celebrities, in fact I was sitting at the beach bar, reading my book, when a group of teenagers were screaming and running up to this women (I clearly was missing something, I had no idea who she was) and they were despite for photos and stuff. It was really interesting for a film student to witness that, and she looked amazing (everyone did, constantly. Hard to keep up!)

I know this seems a long post, but stick with it if you are interested in going!          Here’s a tea break.


Okay, here are just some useful tips I wish I had been told before going. You will most likely spend a lot of time by yourself, queuing for the films, sitting in the films, waiting at the box office, be prepared to que and wait all day by yourself.  I also didn’t see a lot of mainland Venice at all because all of my time was going towards watching the films. This I didn’t mind at all (heck I was at a massive press film festival!) I had such a grin on my face opening Facebook and seeing websites like the Hollywood Reporter and Empire post about Venice, it is so exclusive and happy.

This brings me to my next point, it is NOT just films! There was an amazing VR section this year and it was on a really small and cute island. I saw a 1940’s blitz one and it was actually really creepy, but so realistic. There is also a private boat they put you on to get to this island and it’s so old and posh, it was a weird highlight of the trip…damn I love that boat. As well as VR, they had inside Excelsior and in some of the festival buildings, press conferences, photo calls, a VIP bar that I could some how walk into (still not sure how that worked, maybe it was a happy hour but for students lol) and there’s a magical place called ‘film market’ it’s basically what it sounds like, big names discuss deals and films, but anyone can walk around it with pass.

There is also restoration films such as one day I saw a remastered premiere of Some like it hot, and yup this film still holds up after sixty years, it is SO funny.

Yet, the absolute highlight of my trip was a really special night with the Jaeger Lecoultre venice film festival: glory to the filmmaker award night. I just managed to get a ticket to this, and it was such an amazing night. The award went to Director Zhang Yimou and I was lucky enough to see the first viewing of his film Shadow. This night is what cinema was born to do, it was perfect, I was in my element, and everyone looked amazing in the main hall.

So with that information I will leave you with a few stats and links, so you can decide if you ever want to apply to attend this incredible festival.

British Airways: £120 Return

Festival pass: £30

University accommodation: £320

Transport (including airport water bus): £100

Food and other stuff: £300

give or take this trip costs around £550, and I wasn’t eating out much because #glutenfreelife was like hell no, but I did have a few cheeky cocktails at the Campari bar.


I cannot recomend this enough, yes someday’s I was a little lonely and wanted to come home early, but looking back it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done! I have never traveled solo before but I would do it again. And getting lost in Venice (I mean truly lost) wasn’t so bad at all, I stumbled onto a street, and then another street and finally I found Dior oops!

Basically, go and have fun! I even met Ryan Gosling and Natalie Portman!

10 thoughts on “A students guide to the Venice Film Festival

  1. Hi Heather.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I also want to attend venice film festival in this year but I have few questions about accreditation.

    1. Could you explain the differences between cinema and university student accreditation?
    2. Is it easy to get tickets or opportunities to watch competition films?
    3. What is limitation for Cinema or Student accreditation holder?

    Actually, I attended this Cannes film festival but student badge have many limitations and official information is not enough to understand it. So, I ask some practical information which is not explained by official website to you.

    Many thanks.


    1. Hi! No worries!

      I applied for university accreditation because I was in education (so apply for that one if you are in school or a teacher) you can also apply for a cinema fan type pass which I believe is more limiting. Here is the link to all the accreditation’s: https://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/2019/accreditation

      If you are under 26 or over 60 you can apply for the cinema card which lets you into certain films, but the university accreditation was the best for me!

      Once you have your accreditation, much like Cannes cinephile you can attend certain screenings, but (unlike Cannes!) you can apply online at 12pm every day for premiere tickets and these are free and actually very easy to get a hold off. If you miss the premieres, the very next day at 8:30 am, they screen all the competition films from the day before, so I missed first man, but saw it the next day. But I was able to go to the closing ceremony and premieres all over the two weeks I was there!

      I hope that helps you out! In my experiences, Venice was 100% better than Cannes, but the deadline for accreditation is soon so check that out asap if your interested, good luck!



  2. Hi Heather,
    I’m going to the Festival this year, where I’ll be using an under-26 promotional card/pass, and I have a few questions for you.

    Do I just turn up to venues with my pass, or do I have to book seats in advance?
    How early should I get to venues?
    What’s the general attire?
    How do I attend a premiere? If I get to attend a premiere, would it be odd if I turned up not wearing a tuxedo?

    I know these are a lot of questions, but the Festival’s website, doesn’t provide particular detailed information…


    1. Hi Mike!

      That’s so exciting for you, congratulations on getting in!

      You don’t need to book tickets for the any of the films if you have a pass! Just make sure you are there around 45-60 minutes before if you really want to get in.

      For a premiere, it’s a little harder, you can log onto a website they will give you (or its in the program) and at 12pm every day you can try to book tickets for the next days events. These sell out fast, but they are free and I managed to get lots! Ask at the desk for your pass if you have any questions!

      Attire is more relaxed than you think! It’s unlikely to stop you getting into films. However people do dress up in the evenings (I did for a premiere) and you won’t look out of place at all! In the day keep it more relaxed and just look smart still! It can be super hot!

      They give you a big pack of information when you pick up your pass, read it all and highlight what you want to see!

      Hope this helps, and if you have any more questions I’ll try to answer it!



  3. Hi Heather!

    I was thinking about applying for the University Accreditation for 2020. Do you have any tips on how to successfully apply? How do they pick who gets a pass? I’m sure there is only a limited number of passes.


    1. Hi Steve,

      I’ll be completely honest! I just applied and didn’t think anything of it, and then was a little shocked when I got in!

      But I do remember that for Venice, you need an academic transcript from your uni (you can email the main office to get one, it’s just a piece of paper with grades on) I guess they need that for prof of being a student? I think I also did a little paragraph or document on word that wasn’t massive, it just explained why you want to come and if you’re as passionate as film as you can be in words I think you’ll be fine!

      I’d mention that you’ve been following the festival for years and that you’re excited to go into the main theatres on the Lido Island! Basically just show that you love film, and that you are knowledgeable about the festival (google everything if you need to!)

      I’m sure you’ll get in! I stayed at the university on Guidecca which they offered a room/en-suite combo for around £300 for the whole two weeks.

      Hope that helps! And best of luck,



  4. Hello Heather,
    thank you very much for your lovely post-entry. It honestly helped me so much.
    But I have one more question. I thought about applying to the University accommodations, and I wanted to ask you what your opinion is. I couldn’t find many up to date information on the internet and I would like to ask what your experience was like.
    Thank you so much for your time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading!

      Accommodation in Venice is so expensive all year round, and the options at the time of the festival (August/September) make it the most expensive time to go. For this reason, I was slightly panicking about where to stay!

      Luckily, I was offered university accommodation on the island of Giudecca, here’s the website if you want to have a look! (https://www.hostelsclub.com/en/hostel/residenza-universitaria-hostel-junghans-for-backpackersit) was called “Residenza Universitaria Junghans” and it was a little basic, but not too bad.

      I had an accommodation email after I was approved by the festival, to apply for this, so don’t worry if you can’t find it on the festivals website. They gave me the option of a few places, but I ended up with this one as I wanted my own bathroom and private room. In total it was around £320 or 364 Euros for the two weeks (so cheap!)

      Giudecca is very small, but its a five minute boat ride to mainland Venice and from there, you can catch another boat to the Lido Island that takes 20 minutes with a lot of festival goers getting it every day, so its very easy to get to the festival from the accommodation. (Just follow anyone with a festival lanyard)

      The boats are:

      From Giudecca take either the number 2 (red) line or number 6 (blue) from the stops Palanca or Redentore direct to S-Marco (5 mins) from there you can either take the number 20 Line direct to the Lido Casino (use this for early premieres at 8am) which takes 20 minutes or take number 6,10 or 4.2, and 5.2 to the main station at the Lido. Sounds very confusing but I promise its not! Make sure if you have a film at 8am, to get there 30 minutes early to que. I’d leave Giudecca at 6:45am (Yeah…) This is because they play the competition films at 8am every day!

      Basically, Giudecca is a cheap and good location for the festival, there’s a supermarket for dinner and you get a really basic but nice room next to the canal! I enjoyed staying here, but if you book early (June/July), you could even try AirBnb or Hostels?

      Just remember things get very booked up quickly around the festival but best of luck!

      I hope that helps you, if you have any more questions I’ll try to answer them!


      1. Thank you very much for this detailed answer. This was more than helpful! 🙂
        I do actually have one last question. How was the condition of the university accommodation bedroom and are bedsheets included?
        Again, thank you so very much for your answer and time!!


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