There’s no denying it, Fantastic Fest is getting bigger.
Maybe not bigger by way of numbers or anything. After all when you’re selling a badge that guarantees people a seat in a screening, you’re limited in how many you can sell. Not that The Alamo Drafthouse hasn’t come up with some clever ways to blur these lines from time to time. For example, this year two of the opening night films, Kevin Smith’s TUSK and the Alamo Drafthouse ultimate team-up follow-up ABCs OF DEATH 2, will be simulcast across multiple screens around the country.
Which is great for film fans stuck in Denver, who couldn’t make it down for the Festival proper. It’s also great for the Alamo Festival attendees, because there’s not another several hundred people actually *in* Austin vying for a seat.
I’ve often maintained that part of Fantastic Fest’s charm is its relatively small size, and thus offers a more intimate over-all festival experience.
After seeing a few things last year, though. I sometimes wonder if the outside world isn’t bleeding in a little too heavily. Not that I’m any kind of authority or voice for the festival. It’s simply my observation. So, I’d like to share some ideas, take them or leave them, so that you and yours can have a penultimate Fantastic Fest X.
1.) It’s nearly impossible to have a bad time. But what you take out of it is largely what you put in.
Keep a good attitude and a positive mind. Things not going your way? Got all third picks? Didn’t get to shake hands with a filmmaker you admire? Did the system hiccup and screw up your reservations? Don’t worry… it’s all good. Don’t be sad. We all still love you, you’re still here to have a good time, and some of Fantastic Fest’s best surprises come from those bottom of the barrel picks.
2.) Don’t bring anyone else down.
It can’t all be about your attitude, unfortunately. I think the two people I’ve ever talked to who had a bad Fantastic Fest experience did so because other people brought them down. Which is really tragic. It’s heart breaking, really. To think that the only difference between this person having a great time and having a bad time was the way someone else treated them. We’re all here because we share a passion for film, and the festival is high energy. With that passion and energy we have to be careful that we’re not impacting someone negatively. Spirited discussion is fine. Fair and respectful debate is wonderful. But if the line is crossed into mean-spiritedness, the wrong line has been crossed.
3.) Leave the movie stars alone.
I love shaking hands with the artists and filmmakers at Fantastic Fest as much as anyone. And it’s great to see people you admire. Maybe, even get a picture with them. But remember, they’re just people. People who are, like you, at the fest to have a good time. Fantastic Fest is not the place to shop your script around. It’s not the place to see if you can score an audition. It’s not a good place to get a stack of memorabilia signed. It’s not the place to bring your reel and get it into the hands of industry pros.
Fantastic Fest *is* a good place to, maybe, get a handshake and engage in some polite conversation. But, also, don’t force yourself on anyone. Another wonderful thing about the fest is that filmmakers come and hang out, and they do it because it’s a low-stress environment. You don’t want to be the person that ruins that and starts giving Fantastic Fest a bad name.
4.) Do something outside of your comfort zone.
Back in 2009, filmmaker Nick Robinson successfully got #ChaosReigns trending on Twitter during Fantastic Fest. This was fitting in two ways. It the year that Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST played the festival, featuring the famous line. Also, Fantastic Fest has a habit of being chaotic. Chaos and unpredictability are in the festival’s blood stream. So try some new food, or go to a movie that may not be your flavor any other time of year. Talk to strangers at the festival. Do something to make your experience that much more memorable. Who knows, maybe the movie won’t be any good, but you can have just as much fun talking about a movie that wasn’t your bag as you can about a movie that you loved.
Don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble. You’re surrounded by friends, this is a safe place.
5.) Be safe.
Be fun, be wild, be crazy; but don’t get hurt. I don’t think we’ve killed anyone yet, and it’d be nice to keep it that way. Especially now with a huge construction area surrounding us for Fantastic Fest X, let’s not get carried away.
6.) Fantastic Fest is its own thing.
I can’t stress this one enough. Especially for new-comers. Fantastic Fest is not Comic Con. It’s not SxSW. It’s not Austin Film Festival. If you go in with expectations of it being like any of these, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. The best way to take the festival is to have no expectations and let the Festival take you in its warm embrace to whisk you off to wherever it wants to go. Just let it happen. You’ll be glad you did.