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7 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Film Festival

Jourdan Aldredge

Attending your first film festival can be an intimidating experience. Here’s some things you should know to get the most out of your trip.

Cover image via Shutterstock

Whether you’re screening your debut feature film, a student short, or just going for fun and connections, there’s a lot to take in at your first film festival. While there’s no right way to fest (and all festivals are going to be slightly different), they all share many of the same formats and elements. If you keep the following points in mind, you’ll have a good time, make some new friends — and hopefully screen there again soon.

1) You’re Going to Be Busy

7 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Film Festival: Busy
Image via Wikipedia

It’s important that you do your homework and make a schedule beforehand of all the things you’d like to see and do. Make sure you include a diverse array of activities. You don’t want to watch films for twelve hours straight without doing some workshops and networking. Leave some gaps to improvise and go on adventures.

2) Who Your Transport Person Is

Right off the bat, find out who your driver is. Most festivals will have at least one person dedicated to getting filmmakers and out-of-town guests around. You may very well be staying with one of them if you’re not put up in a hotel. Make sure you’re in contact with them before you leave and have their information ready to go when you get in.

3) Who the PR Coordinator Is

7 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Film Festival: PR
Image via Shutterstock

If you’re press, you should already know who this person is, but if you’re a filmmaker, you may not think to seek this person out. You’ll want to — this will be your brand support and champion to any news outlets or bloggers out there. Getting access to as much press as possible is key to get your name (and your film) out there. Even if it’s not in the cards for this year, using the PR coordinator to build some connections can help out in the long run.

4) You’re Going to Want to Find a Buddy

Especially since this is your first time, you’re going to want to connect early with someone who is either in the same predicament as you or (better yet) someone who’s been there before and can show you around. Either way, having a buddy will make your experience more fun and less intimidating. Plus, what a great way to build a friendship that could last a lifetime!

5) You’re Going to Need Business Cards

7 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Film Festival: Business Card
Image via Shutterstock

I know this sounds cheesy, but a film festival is a way different environment than a business lead luncheon at the local regional chamber. However, exchanging business cards can actually be very helpful.

You’re going to meet a lot of people and a lot of people are going to meet you. It’ll be a whirlwind trip and once you’re done, it might be hard to remember every person you talked with about staying in touch and possibly working together with in the future. If only you had a small, sturdy piece of paper that displayed their name and contact info for you to look up later…

6) Where the VIP Lounge Is

This honestly should be number one on the list, especially if you’re lucky enough to be an invited guest (or purchased a VIP badge). This is the space where you (usually) get free food and drinks — and it’s the best place to meet the very important people like festival organizers, judges, press and other filmmakers. Plus, I mean, free drinks.

7) Where the After Parties Are

7 Things to Know Before Attending Your First Film Festival: Party
Image via Busan International Film Festival

Similar to the VIP lounge, you’re going to want to use all of your new connections to find out where all the after parties are being hosted. People go to film festivals to have fun. Whether it’s dive bar karaoke or house party beer pong, you’ll find ways to have a good time with people who share your same love of filmmaking. As long as you do that, you’re doing it right.


Have any film festival advice or questions? Let us know below!