What I learned from my first Venice Film Festival as press

I am back to reality after a wonderful, exciting yet tiring few days at the Venice Film Festival and I have finished up all my reviews, which leaves me with one thing left to do – reflect on what I’ve learned during the experience.

I had done the London Film Festival twice before as press, but this was my first time doing a foreign one, one so well regarded and prestigious, and one that gets so many big name premieres. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to be there in the first place, but knowing I was one of the first people to see A Star is Born, Suspiria and First Man was super exciting.

This also meant I needed to hurry up with reviews. Luckily, this year they introduced an embargo meaning reactions to films screened for press in the morning couldn’t be published until the premiere was underway that evening. That meant I had time to do other things and get my review up, rather than rush something sub-par out as quickly as possible. But there was still pressure to have it ready as the embargo lifted, as you want to have one of the first reviews of the film, which I didn’t have at LFF as it hardly ever gets big name titles for world premieres.

One thing I didn’t like compared to LFF was the hierarchy involved at Venice. Every member of the press gets a colour-coded badge which denotes their priority level. I had orange, which meant I could only go into screenings once most of the reds and blues had gone in and before greens. Luckily, the cinemas were huge so this pecking order was never really an issue. It only came to the forefront with press conferences.

Every big film gets a press conference with huge stars so I was planning to go to as many as possible. However, I queued for almost an hour on the first day and still didn’t get in. None of the orange badges got in, not one, yet red and blues were still getting in if they turned up five minutes late. We could see empty seats! It was unfair and I was furious. I didn’t attempt another press conference after that. I found out later that this is a new thing and oranges never had this problem before. What’s even more unfair is that it’s a flat fee for the pass, so I paid the same as a red/blue, and they get better access to stuff than me. LFF works on a first come first serve system, which is better.

The film festival is well organised and laid out on the Lido island of Venice. It is most convenient to stay on the Lido itself, but you have to book really far in advance and it’s expensive. I stayed in the city centre, right near a main festival waterbus stop.

They do not put on enough boats to get all the press there in time for the first press screening at 8.30am. The 20 and the MC routes were the ones needed, but I ended up having to get the 1 or 2 to a different Lido stop and walk 15 mins to the festival because the queues for the 20/MC were so long and I couldn’t get on, and they only came every 30 mins or so that time of the morning.

However, press do get a free boat pass and that saved a lot of money, which is handy since Venice is quite expensive. I only did four days of the festival because I couldn’t afford to do any longer and I don’t know if I would ever do the whole thing because it is so tiring and I was overwhelmed with reviews to write and I didn’t come across as many native English speakers as I’d imagined.

All in all, I had an amazing time at the film festival and I would go again. I felt so privileged to be in the first press screenings of those films along with critics I’ve long admired. It was tiring and the pass system was infuriating – but it was all worth it as I got to see some incredible films, see Lady Gaga in the flesh, and explore Venice!

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