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Packing for a Film Festival

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I love a good film festival. I’ve written a 3-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) on my best tips for film fests. I share my experience with anyone who’ll listen. So, I just got back from a 10-day trip to 2 fests and brought my family… There was a lot to consider. You may be in this same position soon, me too, I hope.

This past month, I was invited to speak on a panel on filmmaking at the inaugural year of Ozark Mountain Webfest in Branson, MO. I ALSO had a film selected to screen at the 10th year of Fayetteville Film Fest in Fayetteville, AR. Only 2 hours’ drive between them, so my husband and I made preparations to attend both. With the kids.

As an esteemed guest and honored participant in the Ozarks (Missouri), I was expecting to attend the opening night ceremony/festivities, a day of panels (I spoke on 3 different panels!), schmoozing with local legislators/decision makers in support of tax incentive campaigning, and presenting multiple awards at a TELEVISED awards show… How do I pack for that?

At Fayetteville’s 10-year celebration (Arkansas), I was expecting to attend multiple parties and screenings and filmmaker’s luncheons and another awards show… How do I pack for that as well without packing 10 bags?

Packing for a Film Festival

The Schwartzman family at Fayetteville Film Fest at a casual filmmaker lunch, IG: @JennicaRenee

I’ve seen it all with panels among haystacks in an outdoor tent at the Knoxville Film Fest, all-indoors all-weekend at Houston’s Inspirational Film Fest, overheated at a now closed Phoenix area film fest, hiking at Twain Harte’s fest in Nor Cal, all snow and plaids at Sundance, several perfect weather perfect everything Los Angeles area film fests, and the comfort of walkable Fall perfection at Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest.

Here are my tried and true tips after 10 years on the film festival circuit:

  1. Check the weather (humidity too). Weigh the inside vs outside time commitments. Always focus on comfort for the temperature first. Nothing good can come out of a freezing or overheated experience.
  2. Check the venue. How far is it from the hotel? Is it an indoor/outdoor space or all inside affair? Will you be walking a 1/4 mile in heels? Will you take a Lyft? Are you walking in snow between screening venues? Shoes matter. Wear your most comfortable choice? Or bring options? After 2 days of walking, will I be able to wear another pair of heels, or would boots be best by the last day?
  3. Red carpets. How many, which nights, what to expect as far as actual photographic looks vs theater comfort. Think ahead. Or, better yet, CALL AHEAD. Know which nights and participate when appropriate. Opt to if you want, just do at least 1.
  4. Who is the star? Am I the main actor repping my film (then I better be ‘Getty Images’ ready for most non-screening events)? Am I a panelist? Am I a producer? I like to dress the part. I like to make a point of standing out as the lead actress but taking a back seat as a producer. I like to dress more formally as a panelist as opposed to comfort focused if I’m in screenings all day. If a few actors are there together, I want to coordinate with other actors, I don’t want to be in a floor length gown and up-do next to my costar in jeans and flips. And I don’t want to wear full body Spanx to sit in a theater and watch movies all day – visualize each event on the fest itinerary and visualize who you’ll be sitting alongside and dress accordingly. AND LOOK AT PICTURES ONLINE of the fest, get a vibe of the fest before you go. 5 minutes can tell you all you need to know.
  5. Hydration. Your own reusable bottle. Or two (water/coffee). Is this a hot or cold event? In either case, you’ll need enough purse or bag space for water and coffee/tea. How many waters? Will the film fest provide water? Most fests provide alcohol at some point, don’t be caught losing a whole day of the fest to alcoholic consumption above your level of comfort. And you don’t want to be hungover – ever. It’s not worth it.
Packing for a Film Festival

Q&A after a short film block, IG: @JennicaRenee

  1. Swaaaaaag. you’re gonna collect it. Where are you gonna put it all? Don’t fill your bag on the first day and carry it around every day. If you are emptying out your bag every night, you’ll be fine with a medium sized bag or purse for the events.
  2. Promotional materials. Do bring promotional materials for your work. Don’t bring 10,000 business cards. Do bring a pen and paper to write down other’s info. Don’t feel pressure to take notes on everything (although it would be great if you could, be present and look things up later). Do enter social media info of each person you meet AS you meet them, you can connect throughout the fest and create a deeper lasting relationship this way. Don’t leave your program or helpful materials behind (or in the trash), it’s your physical guide that’ll get more use than your digital guide (digital is more up-to-date, but you may lose service in certain types of venues).
  3. Don’t plan on sight seeing. Just be present. Pack for the work/play trip at the fest. Don’t pack those hiking shoes for ‘just in case’ you get a chance to take advantage of this travel experience. Pack for what you must do on your itinerary, otherwise it’s a slippery slope to bringing the whole closet. But DO throw in that bathing suit- It’s the smallest piece of clothing that is the hardest to replace if a networking opportunity by the pool comes up.
  4. Cash, ID, Credit Card, Extra phone battery pack. These are called ‘adulting essentials.’
  5. Fly in style. Let me just share that you are likely not the only person on that flight attending this fest. You might also arrive on the day of an event and your bag has no intention of arriving with you. Be smart. Be comfy. But Fresh.

And if you have kids…

  1. Bring an entire bag of toys, electronics, headphones, coloring books, and hotel appropriate comfort items. Everything. Bring the whole gosh darned house with you!
Packing for a Film Festival

Flying out to the fests, alone time with my 1 year old, IG: @JennicaRenee


What have you decided is most important to bring to a film fest?

Tell me about it @JennicaRenee

Jennica Schwartzman

About Jennica Schwartzman

Jennica Schwartzman, a member of The Producer’s Guild of America, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution. Jennica has been published in the Producer’s Guild Magazine Produced By, Legacy Arts Magazine, Bustle and she is a guest writer on the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion pictures’ #WomenKickAss Forum, & WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a teacher & workshop speaker for The International Family Film Festival’s Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has 6 feature film releases scheduled for 2018. Her films have collected TOP awards from Bentonville Film Fest, Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest, Eureka Springs Indie Fest, Film Fest Twain Harte, Worldfest Houston, Fayetteville Film Festival, The Int’l Family Film Fest, & the highest honor from The Dove Foundation. Jennica and her husband/producing partner/writing partner Ryan have 2 kiddos and reside in Hollywood.