From Venice to Telluride to Toronto: How to Navigate 3 Festivals Over 10 Days

Illustration by Katie Carey

Hitting all three fests in a short time span puts your film firmly on the awards map, but it takes some packing strategy (and a really good blowout).

Every year, only a handful of industry vets attempt to accomplish the film festival triple-play of attending Venice, Telluride and Toronto. It's a daunting journey for even the most experienced fest regular, requiring the stamina to hit three cities in three different countries — covering roughly 16,000 miles — in less than 10 days. But, according to most who have done it, it's worth it.

"On top of it being a fun and tiring experience, it was also a very educational one," says producer Jordan Horowitz, who took the journey with La La Land in 2016. "Because we went to all three festivals, we were able to get a really good read on how the movie was playing."

As in years past, there are multiple films screening at all three fests this year, including Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, Paul Schrader's First Reformed and Alexander Payne's Downsizing. Insiders say the first trick to pulling off the trifecta is scheduling.

"The biggest challenge is to get from Venice to Telluride, because the festivals are almost at the same time," says producer Ehud Bleiberg, who did the triple with The Iceman in 2012. "We had to ask a favor from the Venice Film Festival to put us in the first two days, or we wouldn't have made it."

Talent is often flown private, with their clothing shipped ahead. But for executives and other awards-season players, commercial flights come with the usual beyond-your-control snafus. Producer Shawn Levy, who pulled off the three-fer in 2016 with Arrival, suffered several flight hiccups, including getting stuck in the Frankfurt airport on the way to Venice for several hours.

"I literally ended up in the airport massage spa with several agents, and it turned into a very bonding experience," says Levy. He also had an issue on his way to Telluride from Venice when, halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, the captain announced that they were returning to Germany due to an engine issue. His advice: "Bring almonds, Handi-Wipes, noise-canceling headphones and an iPad loaded with classic movies you should have already seen." Travel vets say the most important thing to do on the Venice to Telluride leg is to make every attempt to get everything into a carry-on, so there's no risk of lost luggage.

When it comes to packing, Horowitz says that because Venice and Telluride are such short stops (often just 48 hours), the best strategy is to keep it simple: Bring a handful of formal clothes for Venice and casual togs for the Colorado-based fest. Adds Schrader: "You just stick to one color, and then you're all right."

Schrader, who is making the trifecta journey this year with First Reformed (starring Ethan Hawke), acknowledges that it's a strong advantage for a film looking to rise above the crowded, and competitive, landscape. “Festivals are the new gatekeepers. These days, there’s a tsunami of film product, and it’s very hard to differentiate it," he says. "If you can make it through these high-profile festivals, then you’re going to get some attention that you would not have gotten otherwise."

As is usually the case, there are two days between Telluride and Toronto this year, which offers time for a stop home to repack. According to one female studio exec, the real challenge is hair care: "Honestly, the key is finding a really good place to get a blowout. If you can figure out how to get somebody to do your hair so that it will hold for a couple days while you’re running around, that's key."

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.