A PA’s Guide to Film Festivals

Will writes in about attending film festivals:

Are film festivals useful in terms of networking for film crew/PAs? Or are they mainly for aspiring directors and writers?

What are film festivals for?

Film festivals are for anyone who likes to watch movies. Seriously, buy a weekend pass to virtually any fest, and you’ll get to see dozens of new, obscure, and classic films for a fraction of what you’d pay buying individual tickets. And there’s specialty festivals for whatever genre you like, from horror to sci fi to animation. Or just, y’know, general purpose festivals that show whatever.

But Will’s question is about networking at film festivals. First off, don’t think about networking; think about making friends. Everyone you meet at film festivals are there to enjoy the movies. That right there gives you something to talk about. “Hey, did you see that great short that played last night? What did you think about the director’s Q&A after?”

But what about me?

Does this apply to below-the-line crew as much as above-the-line? Hell, yes!

Again, focus on the making friends part, but you can meet a lot of impressive and accomplished people at film festivals. The directors, producers, and stars all try to attend. They want to show off their movie, but they also want to network make friends who might want to work on their next film. Maybe that’s you.

Don’t forget, every movie has its ups and downs. Sure, they’re playing on the festival circuit now so it seems like a success, but maybe the director didn’t get along with the DP, or the producer thought the editor was a jackass. They’re on the look out for replacing those people on the next project.

As always, 90% of the job is being there. Sometimes “there” is on set, but sometimes it’s at film festivals, or the local coffee shop, or your film school reunion. Just be open and friendly with everyone you might. Maybe they’ll be a friend, maybe they’ll be a business contact, maybe both. Who knows? But either way, you come out ahead.

If you’re thinking about attending the Sundance film festival, check out this two part guide to the fest written by a previous TAPA.


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2 Responses

  1. It can also help to volunteer. Maybe the big festivals are more wary about it, and you have to have specific experience, but at mid-tier festivals they look for local people to help out. You may be asked to escort the VIP’s around, and if so, you’ll be the person they’ll chat with when the crowds die down.

    …Or in my case, picking up a VIP from the airport after a delayed flight landed at 1:45am, and speeding him to the closest liquor store before dropping him off.

    Like TAPA said, though… don’t “network”. Do your job, and maybe ask politely interested questions. If they want to trust you, they’ll ask questions back. Even then, don’t talk too much.

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