From earning a degree to going overseas: Students embark on trip to Cannes Film Festival

August 08, 2023

Girl leaning on Cannes Festival sign next to the ocean

For many, Commencement is a fun-filled, packed day within itself, but for Isabella Foley ’23, MA ’24, this was especially the case as she received her diploma and hopped right onto a bus to the airport.

Her destination was Cannes, France, a coastal town on the French Riviera known for its annual international film festival.

This was not Foley’s first time attending a festival, being a member of the Quinnipiac Film Society, Q30 Television, WQAQ Radio and the Quinnipiac Culture Organization, she had the opportunity to travel to the Sundance Film Festival in 2021.

Foley and other dual-degree film students spent the two-week study abroad experience in May with Blythe Frank, assistant professor of film, television and media arts, and Mary Schmitt, assistant professor of film, television and media arts. Frank is the program director for the master's in cinematic production management.

“Many of us walked right off the graduation stage and into the bus for the airport,” said Foley. “It was a whirlwind of 24 hours as we earned our degrees and boarded a flight across the world in the very same day.”

The opportunity was possible because Frank cultivated a strong relationship with the American Pavilion, the center of activity for the American film community at the Cannes International Film Festival that offers programming for students all over the world.

“Those of us from Quinnipiac had a unique experience,” said Foley. “Since Professor Frank developed a relationship with the pavilion staff, she created a one-of-a-kind study abroad opportunity for us. We were the biggest group of students from one school, hailing 25 students.”

Among the group of students were Audrey Scafati ’23, MA ’24, and Krista Birong ’23, MA ’24, Foley’s best friends, who she has completed countless film projects at Quinnipiac with as well as managed school clubs with.

“A day at Cannes typically consisted of four hours working at the American Pavilion, watching a film screening or attending a red-carpet premiere and exploring the city through food, entertainment or sight-seeing,” she said. “It was an internship-type of setting where each student had a different placement of work in exchange for access to the festival. I was placed in the social media team where we would create content surrounding the Pavilion and all its events and sponsors.”

With the festival being so exclusive and prestigious, receiving festival badges was close to impossible, said Foley. Yet, because of all the work Quinnipiac students completed, they all received one. This access opened many doors for exploring new genres and facets of film, added Foley.

“I tried my best to see one movie each day,” she said. “Whether this be a film that is in competition, a short film where the director attends or another foreign film that catches my eye. I wanted to see art from around the world and watch a variety of works, which I am happy to say I now have. Many of the films were in French with English subtitles or even in other languages, which was a new experience for me altogether.”

Additionally, students were able to walk the red carpet during premieres alongside famous celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks.

“Now that I have returned from Cannes, I have been reflecting on how this trip has affected my professional and educational journey,” said Foley. “I was able to watch movies from directors I had never even heard of that don’t even speak the same language as me. I met professionals in the industry through the Pavilion and I explored a country that I had never stepped foot in before. I will carry all these memories and lessons with me for the rest of my life. I now understand international filmmaking at a higher level, have gained many networking connections and have expanded my passion for this industry after attending the festival. Studying abroad is truly a form of education that can’t be replicated anywhere else."

For Foley, the whole experience still feels like a vivid dream, even months later.

“I can still hardly believe that I attended the Cannes Film Festival and I hope one day I can return, perhaps even for my own film,” said Foley. “This experience was truly special, and it wouldn’t have been possible without my professors, fellow classmates and my family in their support of my travel. This was a dream come true!”


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