Top Tips for Pordenone Silent Newbies

Are you craving to see some rare, silent films?
Or perhaps you just want to experience a different kind of film festival in a delicious (mmm pizza) country?
Or maybe you want to widen your circle of of like minded peers, who love films just as much as you (who, unlike the films, talk)?

Pordenone Silent Film Festival promises all that and more!

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Like cheap, delicious gelato!

It’s quite the commitment, and pretty daunting a task to actually take time off in October (30. September – 7. October 2017) to go to a festival like this but it’s well worth. But maybe it’s not your schedule- maybe you feel like you’re not smart enough, not enough in the “know”, not that caught up with the business of silent films.

I went there without any other qualifications beyond the fact that I was a student in film sciences who was interested in silent films. I can tell you that as a member of the Collegium, I felt welcomed with open arms. The festival organizers seemed really keen on having us young(er) people around, and it usually didn’t feel too intimidating to ask questions about anything. Which brings me to the first tip:

1. Apply to be a member of the Collegium

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Award ceremony for the best paper of last year’s Collegium.

The Collegium consists of 12 individuals interested in film, who also happen to be under 30 years of age. They are in attendance for screenings, but also to learn more about what’s going on in various silent film-related fields, through dialogues and presentations from experts within the field. The only thing you have to do to be considered is to write an application some time before the deadline, which is typically in July, just before festival. In the application, you state your reasons for going to the festival, and what aspects of silent films you are interested in. You can read more about it here.

If you are accepted as a part of the Collegium, you need not worry about purchasing tickets for screenings, booking hotels and the breakfast every day, since all this will be arranged for you at no cost. And because the group is small, you get to socialize with like minded peers and colleagues. Usually you are booked together with another Collegium member at the hotel, so you get to know at least one person quite well during the week. After the daily screenings, there’s usually always someone up for drinks – another opportunity to socialize! Because of the nature of the festival, you tend to go together for dinners with the group as well or parts of it. Being a Collegian, you are also invited to special events during the week.

After the festival is done, you have to write a paper on a broad aspect of the Pordenone experience (or you could be more specific and focus on one area too!). It’s not required that you know everything about what you are going to write about when the week is over, and you are given time to write it (however, you shouldn’t delay it too long to start on it). As for how to write it – it shouldn’t be a diary or travelogue of the experience and it shouldn’t, on the other side of the spectrum, be a dry academic paper.

2. Plan your stay

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With a Collegium class at 1315, I could not see the entirety of this program, but planning made me certain of just how much I had time for.

If it wasn’t clear from the not-so-daily updates, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival is a busy affair. From 0900 to past midnight there are few substantial breaks, other than the 1.5h break at 1900 each day-for dinner! Beyond that, don’t hold your breath. This is because there could be mistakes in running times (mostly the archives sending longer copies than planned), which means the 15 minutes between programs might be cut short by a few minutes as well.

So unless you are a film-watching machine, you can’t attend everything. It is very tempting to, but it’s not physically possible. Therefore, in order to maximize your time efficiently, you should plan what to watch and, more importantly, what to skip. Everybody needs a pizza break and a stretch from time to time. My tip would be to look at the program and catalogue as soon as it gets posted on the website. If you have no time to do it before leaving for Italy, save it as a .pdf, and do it on the plane and train. You can thank me later.

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The festival catalogue is as thick (or thicker!) than some books.

It should be mentioned that reading the catalogue is a joy in itself. You learn so much from it, which enriches the experience before watching the film, so the earlier you start reading it the better. It also gives you clues if you have no idea if a program is to your taste or not.

3. Diversify- don’t hole yourself up in the theatre!

I would strongly recommend to take off time from watching films, especially in the early days to go for events such as Masterclasses and Dialogues. I’ve raved about my experience going for a Masterclass here, but it was the last one they did ,and honestly I wished I had gone for all of them. Not only is it a musical show, but it is also greatly educational about film analysis. The hands-on (the piano *ba-dum-tsss*) but in-depth analysis of how comedy taught me a lot and gave me a fresh perspective on my “field” (film sciences). You don’t need any experience in film analysis or knowledge of music to follow the Masterclass, and I think anyone would be swayed by the idea of film analysis being worthwhile and useful after attending one of these. Not only does it make the accompanists better (which is very noticeable in the class itself) but it enriches the experience of watching movies, give them more meaning.

I attended every Dialogue, alongside other talks (a book presentation about early German film theory that was an eye-opener) and very often, they gave me lots of fresh ideas and taught me new things. Even if I was just listening and not actively participating or engaging with the experts. But for those who are less anxious about that, rest assured that they are all very friendly, approachable and are open to talk. There are plenty of opportunities to get even more insight from experts from around the globe. The varied topics, from early cinema to digital archiving, kept things fresh and interesting every day.

4. Have a look around!

Pordenone is a “sleeping” city in the sense that the bars close early, and not much is going on apart from the festival, but it is a very beautiful place. The river, the parks, the architecture and the many cool shops are worth seeing. I would sometimes take different to the screenings at Teatro Verdi (where all the screenings are) just to see new parts of the town. This is also good for spotting new places to eat – I’ve been to Italy before, and it’s becoming very clear that each town has many great options. Often the restaurants and bars are situated nearby, sand you are in the middle of historic parts of town, which really adds to the ambience and experience.

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Only a pink Ferrari will do for a wedding in the rich town of Pordenone.

Questions? Feel free to put a comment down below!

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