Paisley Sutton ’20 shares her tips on attending film festivals IRL

Mid-May normally marks the kickoff of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera. Like other festivals, it has moved online this year—but last spring, Paisley Sutton ’20 had the opportunity to attend it in person as part of an SFTV internship program. The new alumna shared her experiences and offered tips for students who will one day attend festivals in person again.

What did you do, watch, and see at Cannes in 2019?

Going to this festival was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. While I was there, I had the chance to go to the opening ceremony and the first film premiere of the festival—The Dead Don’t Die by director Jim Jarmusch. And I was able to connect with a number of executives at production companies, along with organizations around the world and in L.A.

What was your favorite thing about being there?

Walking the red carpet. It was exhilarating! The flashing cameras, the beautiful gowns, being able to strut down it myself—it was definitely a highlight. 

What are the top three things you took away from the experience?

My experience in Cannes taught me how strong I am as a person. Although it was glamorous being in the French Riviera, there was a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. I learned how much I can handle, and that the skills I learned in my production classes can apply to a number of different jobs and situations. I also gained a lot of confidence in myself and my networking abilities. Finally, I learned the value of treating people kindly and with respect. Cannes is filled with a lot of important people during the festival, and you never know who you’re talking to. I learned that being friendly and honest is a great way to make genuine connections.

Any tips for future students on going to Cannes, or to other film festivals?

Going to a film festival can be overwhelming. It’s important to plan down to the minute. There are so many events, films, and panels happening simultaneously, and it’s easy to miss great opportunities. Mapping out exactly what you want to do, what you want to see, and who you’d like to meet is crucial. And setting goals for your attendance, in general, is a good habit to get into when it comes to festivals. It’s important to know exactly what you want to get out of your experience.