Thoughts on… Film Festivals

This year I attended the Cambridge Film Festival for the first time. This was mainly because I now live in Cambridge but to be honest previously I didn’t know it existed. I was lucky enough to receive press accreditation, so I got to see a lot of films both as screeners and in the cinema for free as I was reviewing them for JUMPCUT Online. I also went to the London film Festival a couple of times this year. I try to see a couple of films at least at the London Film Festival each year, it’s not that hard for me to get into London and spend a Saturday or Sunday seeing films.

I was pretty exhausted after a week of festival viewing and it took me a while to write up all my reviews. (This is in part because my laptop decided to die – the charger port stopped working so I sent it away to be fixed and it was almost three weeks before I got it back. But that’s another story)

I’ve been thinking about what I want to get out of film festivals. Obviously, it’s a chance to see a film before the general public. Film festivals are especially helpful for that in the UK as, in comparison to America, we sometimes get smaller indie films or films that are likely to get awards buzz anywhere from one month to about three months or even longer after our American friends. For me, the films I make an effort to see at festivals are ones that are unlikely to get a cinema release, or if they do it would be a very small one and hard to find it in the cinema or even online on streaming or rental sites.

For instance, at the London film Festival this year there were films like Widows and Colette and they were all going to get UK releases – Widows was released last month, and Colette is set to be released in January. Take Widows for instance, from its UK premiere at the London Film Festival to when it was released in the UK, it was three weeks which is nothing really and so I would rather see the films that might be a foreign or indie film (or both) which I am unlikely to see in my big local cinema chain.

There’s also the community or networking side of film festivals which I do enjoy. A twitter pal arranged a #FilmTwitter meet up at the London Film festival and is was great to meet new people and to talk to people I’d met online in person. I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent with all of them before we all went to another film screening or off home. It was a nice bonus for me as generally speaking my film festival experiences on the whole are quite solitary. This is due to what I’m interested in seeing, the cost and just the timings and people’s availability.

Due to the fact I was press at Cambridge Film Festival, and I lived so close to the cinemas so could go after work or walk from my flat, I packed in a lot of films in just over a week. I would see three films in a day, and in amongst the film watching I tried to review as many of them as possible. I was exhausted when I was finally finished and to be honest, I don’t think I paid as much attention to some of the films because my brain was getting over-saturated.

From that experience I definitely learnt that less is more with me and film festivals – I say that as if I won’t apply for press accreditation again next year! It’s cool to see films early before “everyone else” but I would rather spend the money on seeing more obscure films that don’t yet have a UK release date than ones that I know will get a decent to large scale release in a matter of weeks or months.

Have you ever been to a film festival? What was your experience and what do you like to get out of them?

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One comment

  1. I went to some film festivals when I lived in California, primarily to see indie films I might not have seen otherwise, attend Q & A sessions with filmmakers, and network with anybody who would talk to me. I have since moved out of the area and recently became a parent, so my opportunities to get to a festival are quite limited now. I am hoping that will change in the next couple of years, but I am trying to write my own movie in the meantime.

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