Over the last three years I have been extremely lucky to attend Berlinale (2017), LaBienale – The Venice Film Festival (2018) and The Cannes Film Festival (2019). As a BA Film student this was a dream come true. My university: De Montfort in Leicester made Berlin and Cannes possible with DMU Global (The university travel program) and I applied to Venice of my own back. After seeing all three of the ‘big’ festivals, I feel like I have a good understanding of what to expect, therefore this is a guide to fellow university students wondering where the heck the begin to attend a film festival, and before you skip the read – you can go!
Whether you are a fan of film, an avid traveler, a student or a local. I really want to break down these incredible cinematic events in a simplistic way that doesn’t seem to be out there. It will mainly be from a students point of view, because that was what I went as, but I will try to touch on other sections as much as possible! I’ll also include at the where I stayed, flights, cost and what I wore (the most asked questions I get) ~ so lets get started:
THE BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL – BERLINALE
My pass: Student delegate
Duration of the festival: 10 days
Flights and hotel from London (11 days/10 nights): £400
The Berlin Film Festival was first held in 1951 in the centre of Berlin, Germany. Considered one of the ‘big three’ festivals all mentioned in this post, Berlinale was my first film festival in 2017 and it blew me away. It is always held in February so yeah it is freezing!
When breaking down different passes to a film festival, you will quickly notice a students one is not at the top of the food chain. That being said, Berlinale offered some amazing tickets and screenings to students. Many of the films screened at Berlinale are global films, for example I saw “The Dinner” by Oren Moverman (USA), and of course the global hit “Call me by your name” (2017, Dir. Luca Guadagnino). I didn’t even want to see CMBYN, I’ll be completely honest, I was a bit annoyed we were queuing for so long to see it! Crazy right? Within seconds of being in the screening, I realized how special it was and the best thing about the Berlinale screening of CMBYN was that nobody knew what it was then, and for the lucky few of us that had seen it, we had to publish posts and quickly spread its talent across a pool of social media.
That is the beauty of all of these film festivals – you are able to see some huge films and talent, before anyone else in the world. Moreover, Berlinale for a student had a great red carpet area. Students with a pass could hang out just before the press on the red carpet and watch the celebrities coming in. We also discovered that we could get into the Audi and L’Oreal Paris lounge. This gave us a better area to watch the arrivals in, plus we had the chance to talk to other film professionals as it was a pass only area. I’m pretty sure we were all too nervous to do that, but DO IT!
Passes? Tickets? Well, this is the only annoying part about Berlinale. Your pass, does not get you into the main films. It will let you into the shorts and some of the out of competition films, but if you really want to see a film, you are going to have to wake up early and que for them inside the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden shopping centre. (Located right next to the festival) The desks for the festival are inside the centre and from around 6am people will que to grab to hot tickets. Our hotel was around a 30 minute walk or 10 minute train from here, so we did not sleep a lot, because guess what… you have to do this every day! If you get the tickets you want, it is fantastic, but sometimes you didn’t get them at all, or one person in the group got it, and when this happens, you just have to let the person go and not be grumpy about it, these films are a big deal and they can be your inside on it!
I know the biggest question I get asked by you guys are about the premieres, so let me touch on that. You’ll find it very hard to attend the main premiere at Berlinale, just because they don’t give these out to people with a student pass. They are held back for press and people invited with the film. However, like many festivals, they next day or evening they screen the films in other cinemas for you to catch (If you get a ticket queuing in the morning). This doesn’t stop you from going to the premiere and watching the carpet in the areas discussed above though. As for what to wear, Berlin in February is cold! It’s so blooming cold so please don’t freeze yourself to get the perfect Instagram post. (I saw it happen). You don’t need to dress up a lot, I just kept it smart casual for the day and maybe tried a little harder for films around 7pm, as they are the films where people and press are likely to be there for a reason (in competition films).
All in all, Berlinale is a wonderful little first time festival! For students it’s exciting and useful. Likewise to Cannes, Berlinale has a packed out film market where anyone with a pass is allowed in (yes that’s you!). Use it to your advantage and talk to people about their companies and films. Make some company cards for yourself ~ you don’t have to own a company to do this, just print out 300 or so cards with your name, contact details and what you are (eg. Film student, blogger).
THE VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
My pass: Education/University with press allocation if available
Duration of the festival: 12 days
Flights and Hotel from London (13 days/12 nights): £480
The Venice Film Festival or as it’s more widely known in the film world ~ Labeinalle, is my favourite of all the film festivals I’ve attended. It is the worlds oldest film festival and it’s also happens to be the best location (yup this matters). Venice is quickly over taking Cannes and Berlin to be the top of the film festival board, there are a number of reasons this is happening. Firstly, it has an exceptional programme. The talent that is presented at Venice, is only heightened by the fact that a student pass will let you into almost everything! My most read article is a students guide to the Venice film festival, and that goes into a lot of detail on its attributes, but I’ll dive back into them on here again!
So you’ve picked up your pass for the Venice film festival and now your wondering where does one begin… don’t panic (because I’ve already done that for you) Venice is daunting, it’s big, the transport is confusing and everyone looks more important than you! What’s key to remember at Labeinalle is that nobody knows who you are, to them your just another film person with a pass so if you don’t think you can go into an area, walk with confidence and you’ll see. There isn’t many places at Venice you can’t go to, the only that I can remember is a VIP lounge for a car company, and into the films you didn’t manage to get tickets too.
Tickets can be obtained in two different ways for a student pass. You can get into every screening that has accreditation next to its listing in the guide if you que up early enough. This is the same for press conferences, you’ll be able to que in a last minute line for these but get there in plenty of time! The second way is by logging into the ticket website once it goes live and at everyday at 12pm, tickets will go up for the following evening (7pm/10pm) films and galas. These are the big premieres and closing galas that you’ll want to sweep up! They are free with a pass, but you need to be on it quickly! There’s also WiFi everywhere for this reason. ~ and if you miss a film, please don’t panic! They screen every day at 8am so you have a second chance, again just be early to que.
Venice is also home to the Hotel Excelsior. This beautiful hotel is where the glamour and buzz of the festival really takes place. I couldn’t afford to stay here, but you are allowed to dine here and to walk round the film market still! I often sat in the beach bar and typed up film work while someone was getting papped behind me and a crowd of people where shouting. It also has a really stunning long beach which you can walk down and I had a swim one day by myself which was so relaxing. It’s quite a lonely place a film festival, often your by yourself and you don’t really take that into consideration when booking the pass. It is worth it and you will push yourself out of a comfort zone and that is not a bad thing.
Your pass for Venice will also allow you to get into the red carpet and have some fun (if you don’t get the tickets the day before at 12pm). Some press actually took a photo of me walking around in it and that was so funny because it’s me, a humble film student in a £10 Zara dress.
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.
Venice is where to go if you feel a little out of place and scared. I had a week with my family out there and then a week solo at the festival and I was so nervous! I didn’t need to be because it’s so exciting and fresh. It was the first place I truly could see myself working in an industry at.
THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
My pass: Cinephile
Duration of the festival: 11 days
Flights and Hotel from London (11 days. 10 nights): £350
Alas this brings me to my final festival! The Cannes film festival is somewhat of a treasured festival throughout the film industry. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about Cannes (journalists and students) and many people admit it’s a little frustrating. There are ways around this though! For this years 2019 Cannes film festival, I had a Cinephile pass, this is the lowest ranking pass at Cannes and don’t they know it! In all seriousness, it did get us into some pretty amazing films, but we also missed a lot of films.
The Cinephile pass is a bit like a student pass apart from it is more limiting. Anyone in cinema can apply for it, you just have to show your work around cinema and how passionate you are about it. There is also a 16-25 pass that covers three days of the festival. I’ll be doing that next time (if I don’t get press), and I think that is a better option for most students and graduates. The way a cinephile pass works is quite easy. Each morning from 8am you que outside the office (located toward the end of the international village ~ the monastery end) and a few tickets outside of the cinephile pass will be allocated to you on a first come first served basis. The two main features we saw from this were “The Dead Don’t Die” at the main red carpet cinema, and “For Sama”. We got lots of other tickets, but these were my two favourites from this way of ticketing. Again, these are free and easy to get for cinephile pass holders.
There is also an option of queuing for last minute tickets outside the cinemas. There is literally a line that says “last minute” you can try here! I say try, because we were at the very front of a very long line for a very long time and yup, we got turned away. But we did get to see the Rocketman premiere in close by doing this and it was fun.
If you are very lucky, you can try to get tickets for press screenings by either asking at the international village/film market (you won’t get in there without a ticket from the cinephile desk to the cinema that is screening there ~ cinephile pass doesn’t let you into this area so you have to play the system and hang about) or you can try to line up at the last minute press lines to see if there are any seats left. There isn’t usually any, but I did see people get in!
I’f your student pass is still making your day a bit rubbish, Cannes offers free public screenings on the beach every evening. These are fun and well free! And when we got stressed out, we just had to remember that we’re in the south of France, with a beach and a lot of cheese.
Cannes street style is a little bit more impressive. People try really hard here, don’t feel pressured too, where what you want to wear! The evenings are really where you might need to scrub up if you are trying to get into a big film. This basically means no jeans, trainers, etc. We kinda had fun dressing up in the day because it made the experience fun and exciting. Be warned though Cannes doesn’t come cheap! We stayed outside the town and got a train into it every morning, but the food, drinks, shops ~ literally everything will require you plan ahead. We ended up going to a supermarket and buying snacks and taking it to the beach most days and then grabbing a coffee for breakfast!
Well there’s a definitive breakdown of film festivals for a student! I realise they are incredible special and exciting place to go, and I appreciate that they are also very (very) expensive if you are freelance like me! Without doubt, whichever one you decide to pick, you will have a fantastic time!
If there are anymore questions I will try my best to answer them! I’m currently at press screenings for the 2019 London Film Festival, so I might as well do an updated version when this is completed.
Thank you for reading and supporting!