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My Experience at ‘3 Days in Cannes’

Olivia goes into detail and shares her experience at the Cannes Film Festival.

Cannes Film Festival

The 3 Days in Cannes program provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young adults from around the world to get to experience in the international film festival first hand. So without thinking twice, I applied right away.

With the ‘3 days in Cannes’ program only being 2 years old, there is very limited information about it online. This left me with so many unanswered questions when I landed in Nice only a month after I had been accepted to the program.

When my friends and family asked me what exactly this program was, I really couldn’t tell them before I went. All I knew is that I got a 3 day pass to go see screenings, premieres and round tables. While this is only my personal experience at Cannes, it might shed some light on what this program is and if its worth it for you. So, for anyone considering attending the program, here is what you need to know about 3 Days in Cannes:

Sleep

Another writer for The Simple Cinephile who also attended the festival, Matt Bilodeau, simply summed up his experience as “definitely overwhelming but in the best way possible”. I couldn’t say it better. There is no doubt that attending the festival for only 3 days pushed me to see so many films in so little time. And with such a busy schedule, I left feeling completely exhausted but in a fulfilling way. Maybe it was adrenaline, or maybe it was the outrageous amounts of great coffee I had at the festival, but being tired wasn’t something I was going to surrender to; The Cannes Film Festival is Disney World for cinema lovers.

Before attending the festival, 3 days in Cannes seemed like the perfect amount of time to spend at the festival without it costing too much – but I quickly realized that was not true. 3 days in Cannes goes by faster than I could even process I was there. While it obviously is not the most relaxing ‘vacation’ I’ve ever been on, I would recommend mentally preparing yourself to have long days standing on your feet and little sleep.

Before arriving at Cannes, I had completely unrealistic expectations of what my experience would be. I figured I’d go see a movie, and then just walk into the next one without any concern or doubts. But, just like any type of festival or large event, Cannes requires meticulous planning as to what films you will be seeing each day, where they are and if/when you will get a chance to eat. The first day, you have to figure out your way around. Your second day, you get the hang of it. And on your third day, you should be a pro.

Your Pass

While the ‘3 days in Cannes’ pass gets you into all of the daytime screenings, you are never guaranteed inside a premiere unless you managed to attain a ticket through a lottery system. All premieres take place at the Palais. Furthermore, my pass got me into much more than I had even realized. On top of getting access to Cannes screenings, there are three other film festivals going on simultaneously in the Cannes area that you can also attend: Directors Fortnight, International Critics Week and L’Acid.

Inside the Palais des Festivals where you can pick up your tickets

Screenings typically begin starting at 8:30 in the morning and go until around 10 at night. This gives you plenty of time to see at least a handful of movies each day. I ended up seeing a total of 8 films in my 3 days there, which I felt was fairly appropriate considering I also spent some time exploring the city. Meanwhile, I have also spoken to some other attendees of the program who had made it their goal to see as many movies as possible while running on practically no sleep. With that, you can see about 11 movies in your time there.

So while you get access to all of these screenings and premieres during your 3 days, getting into these theaters can be a lot more tricky even with your pass; even though you might have access to see all of the screenings, you might not get in due to a limited amount of seats in the theater. Waiting in line for screenings is a big chunk of what you do at the festival, so here is my advice: if you are planning to see a film, it is recommended that you get in line about an hour and a half before showtime. If you think about it, for every film you will be seeing, you’ll be waiting in line for almost the same amount of time.

Lines

Waiting in lines for so long can easily be seen as one of the worst parts of this program, but it really amazed me how much of an opportunity this turned out to be. The lines never felt as long as they actually were because it was the easiest place to meet people who were also in the program and also loved cinema. It was a perfect time to converse with people from all over the world and get their input on what screenings to go to. If I had to wait in an hour and a half line for something, I would undoubtedly want the line to be at the Cannes Film Festival. You should most definitely use this time to socialize and take advantage of the fact you are surrounded by people who know what Letterboxd is.

Premieres

Premieres are a little bit more tricky than just seeing a random daytime screening due to the fact that they require you to have a ticket in advance. To be clear, premieres are opening screenings of a film that only take place at the Palais. Through a web portal, you are able to request tickets to premieres, as they are given out randomly. If granted a ticket to the premiere, you can pick them up prior to the showtime at the Hall Méditerranée inside the Palais. Premieres only take place between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm, and while you may already be in the Cannes area, premieres require that you dress the most formal, so make sure you bring semi-formal clothes.

What most people do is request premier tickets for as many premieres during their time and hope that at least one of them gets granted. In my case, I got a ticket to the Baracau premiere, however I decided to pass on it to see 400 Blows on the beach instead (400 Blows on the beach, I had to). But, because of my decision not to attend one of the premieres that I got a ticket to, I was penalized and less likely to get granted another ticket to a premiere. Without sounding too confusing, if you receive a ticket to a premiere, use it or give it to someone who will.

400 Blows screening on the beach

Cannes

The festival is amazing, but there is also a whole city to see so take advantage of it. Make time to walk around, try the food, go shopping and explore the night life. While there are tons of high end shops and restaurants, with a little determination you can stay on budget and still appreciate whats around you.

One of my biggest worries while being in the south of France was breaking the bank. Yet, surprisingly eating and living on a budget there is very doable. While searching for accommodations I was able to find several nicely priced AirB&Bs and hotels even with only a month until the festival. It was also really easy to not spend so much because of your busy schedule waiting in line and seeing movies all day.

One of the meals my friends and I shared right near the Palais

If you love cinema, then take advantage of the ‘3 Days in Cannes’ program like I did. This program is completely what you make of it. Cannes gives you the pass, but how you chose to go about your short time there is totally up to you. The Cannes Film Festival recognizes that students and young adults who are just beginning their careers in the film industry deserve a place in their festival and I am so grateful they included me in their program.

While this might’ve not been the most glamorous article, I hope that it was in some way a help in choosing to apply or attend Cannes. If you have any other questions or concerns do not hesitate to leave them in the comment section below! 🙂

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Olivia is currently a Sophomore in college majoring in International Studies with a concentration in World Cinema. As a film school drop out, she wants to make sure she stays involved in the film community and loves to write about movies. If she's not watching movies, she's either thinking about movies, playing with her cat, or on twitter. :)

2 comments on “My Experience at ‘3 Days in Cannes’

  1. Anonymous

    A massive thank you for this article! It was very useful, indeed. I would like to know a bit more about the application process: how difficult this phase was? Also: it’s possible to enjoy the festival without speaking a word in french?

    Like

    • Olivia Goodman

      The application process was nothing more than a few basic questions and a cover letter 🙂 if you are passionate about film and can express it in a few paragraphs I think you’ll be fine! I sadly don’t speak any French either but that was no problem at all. Cannes during the festival becomes an international space where no one language is dominant (and most people do speak English there). I’m glad to see that my article was helpful!!!!

      Like

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