Venice Film Festival: Safety Protocols Tone Down The Usual Press Conference Frenzy


This is absolutely not a plug for the pandemic, but coronavirus-imposed health and safety protocols at the Venice Film Festival’s press conferences I attended Wednesday made for a welcome change.

Typically, getting into and out of these briefings and Q&As with film talent features racing, jostling, jockeying for seats and bottlenecking. This year, however, the system Venice has put in place mandates that journalists pre-book a spot via the online hub — similar to the process for booking press screenings — to ensure social distancing, and that has its benefits.

This reservations system may mean missing out on a seat, given the reduced capacity, but could be an option even in a “normal” year at full capacity. For my part, I had plenty of space around me at the day’s first conference, and then at least a seat on either side at the jury conference — that’s helpful when you’re juggling/fumbling a bag, a laptop, a phone and a headset that feeds in simultaneous translations.


Those headsets have always been handed out at the entrance to the press conference room, and that has not changed. But this year they are cleaned and proffered by gloved and masked attendants. The actual earphones are individually wrapped in plastic and opened upon delivery. (It’s likely they were cleaned after use in years past, but I don’t recall the plastic bags.) Another new feature is the use of a microphone extension, rather than handheld mics that used to be passed around for questions from the audience.

Some press conference attendees used to rush to the dais when the discussion was over, seeking autographs and photos, but that practice ended a few years ago when it sometimes became a scary affair. I can recall seeing several frightened famous faces from my seat as the throng stormed forward. In response, the festival began putting a sort of velvet rope between the press corps and the panelists, so that distancing is not new in 2020.

Because the room must be emptied and cleaned between panels, the conferences are not crammed one following the other. If one wants to work in the press room or waiting area in between, you must take a number and line up before being given an assigned space to work. On Day One, at least, it all appeared to run quite smoothly.


The Casino building where the press conference room is housed was comparatively empty today versus previous launches, though that could also be a function of overall attendance being down. Out in front of the building, gone are the booths where the public normally queues up for screening tickets, and the esplanade is devoid of the recreational seating area that has been a staple of the past several years.

As Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman reported yesterday, heading into the festival center is relatively simple. I rode my bike up through the back entrance near the Albergo Quattro Fontane, was stopped for a quick temperature check and then similarly was checked on the other side when I entered near the Excelsior Hotel. So, so far so good: no fever, no frenzy.

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