The Beginners Guide to Fantastic Fest

Is this your first year attending Fantastic Fest? Are you lost in a sea of options? Do you have no clue where to turn because all your friends and family are watching the latest Kardashian escapade instead of attending the most epic film festival in existence?

Don’t worry you’re safe here. For your ultimate guidebook, I’ve polled a seasoned group of experts known as The Fantastic Fest Fiends. Below are the top five things you need to know for Fantastic Fest.


#5 – Tip the Alamo staff and be nice to volunteers.

I hear if you even sniffle a rude comment to a member of the staff, Krampus will take a break from promoting his new self-titled, holiday film to come eat your soul.

But seriously, these people are working ridiculously long shifts, and slaving away to pull off an amazing festival that goes practically around the clock for two weeks straight. So just remember, while you are having the time of your life, these people are helping make your dream a reality. Bring a roll of ones, muster up your most sincere grin, and tip even for a glass of water.


#4 – Get a Flu Shot

Remember how they were releasing the festival films in waves? There’s a fourth wave and it happens a week into the festival. It’s called Influenza. You’re about to be shoved into a festival with thousands of other people from all over the globe. Not only will you be exposed to some germs you probably wanted to stay away from the rest of your life, but there will be people of all ages and immunity levels there. While you may not be infected with the flu, you can still incubate and pass the germs onto someone less fortunate and less able to overcome the virus. Out of respect for your immune health and the health of others, please prepare accordingly.

Don’t believe me? Check out the twitter handle @FantasticFlu


#3 – See Something You Normally Wouldn’t

One fiend stated he’s only regretted watching a small handful of festival flicks in the decade+ years he’s attended Fantastic Fest. The way the festival works, a festival goer will select a top three list the night before the festival day for show time slots. Sometimes a person won’t always get their first pick (don’t worry, there will be more showings further on in the week) but the festival pass guarantees a showing of a film during that slot somewhere, enter the second or third pick. Just go into the festival with an open mind and no expectations. Think of FF as a schmorgus board of new flavors for your film palate to explore. I dare you to randomly pick one film, don’t read anything about it, and just see what happens. Worse case scenario you’ll have a great anecdote about adventure.


#2 – Attend an Event that isn’t a Screening

You thought the festival was just about screening films? Dodged a major FF faux pass by reading this.

While movie are what brought you to the Austin, you really should pace yourself. If you’ve ever had a Netflix binge watching experience like I have, you’ll know how burnt out you can get. Don’t be afraid to skip a flick. Give yourself a break and check out something like the Starcade – 2015 Arcade Awards or Karaoke at The Highball, and shame on you if you miss out on the Fantastic Debates. Dare I say the events become more talked about than the films?

#1 – In Every Showing Turn to the Person on Your Right And…

Eat their heart for power! Kidding. If you’re hungry, eat a delicious Buffalo Chicken pizza you Aztec.

As for the person on your right, before each showing, turn to them and ask “What was the last film you saw?” ***

Sometimes those random hello’s will end up turning you onto a film or event you didn’t even have on your radar. One of the most incredible things about this festival is that the people will become family if you open up and venture out. Several Fiends mentioned friendships they made their first festival and now years later, they use the annual shindig as a way to reunite and catch up. At the end of the day, all film aside, we’re here to make human connections and memories that will inspire us for a lifetime.


***Disclaimer if you are on the aisle, turn to the person on your left. Or talk to the wall. It is FF. I’m sure stranger things have happened. ***

Now get out there and get weird people! It’s the city’s motto for goodness sake, and everyone knows a motto is pretty much a call to action.

Special Thanks to all my Fantastic Fiends for your input.

(In order of comment appearance)

Roger Joseph Clark IV, William Lindus, Trevor T. Trujillo, Max Isaacson, Justin Msc, William Lindus, J.C. De Leon, Brad McHargue, Adrian Charlie, Suzanne Bonifaz, Alex Shaggy Alston, Kent Lundblad, Max Isaacson, William Lindus, Wendy Comeau, Mark Martinez, Brad McHargue, Charles Kent Buttermann, Ben Glasthal, Kevin Williams, Brad McHargue, David R. Strong, Elizabeth Vasconcellos Woodcock, Charles Kent Buttermann, Debbie Cerda, Terry Flemings, Jon Partridge, Devin Steuerwald, Antonio Quintero, Doug Wicker, Denis Mcelwaine, Kristen Bell, Dan Cofer, Tom Nix, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra , Jen Yamato, Rod Meek, Daniel Zmud, Jon Partridge, Jenni Lee, Johnny Donaldson, Janet Harvey, Cheri Nightingale,  Paul Alvarado-Dykstra.


Wasn’t enough? Here’s a lightning round for you:

-Bring Kristen Bell Oreos! (No not that Kristen Bell, the Kristen Bell who miraculously pulls this festival off every year along with all the countless other volunteers).

-Know your limits and pace yourself.

-Pay in cash rather than credit cards if you have a tight turnaround between screenings.

-Ladies restroom lines are shorter.

-Don’t complain.

-Try a strawberry balsamic milkshake at the Drafthouse.

-Sleep! Don’t be that person who falls asleep in the theatre.

-Adults can order off the Drafthouse kid’s menu.

-Don’t be a giant jerk about a film you didn’t like, you never know when a filmmaker is sitting nearby and we’re all here to have fun not be a bunch of pretentious gits.

-Don’t stalk the celebrities, there here as cinema lovers just like you. Engage them with some legit conversation and you may be able to weasel out a photo.

-If you want a tattoo at the closing night party, make sure your one of the first 50 in line.

-Courtesy Flush.

-Bring Ibuprofen, Tums, and Emergen-C.

-Buy a soda at the first showing and carry it around with you to other screenings for free refills (You still better tip though).

-Don’t eat french fries at every showing.

-Stop fanboy stalking Elijah Wood!

-Drink one glass of water at every screening.

-Ask questions! If you’re overwhelmed or confused, almost everyone around you would be happy to clear things up.

-If you skip a screening, cancel your tickets.

-Pick up your badge a day ahead.

-If you didn’t get into a screening you wanted, check with the front desk to see if anyone canceled their ticket.

-Don’t obsess over the secret screenings, usually they get a wide release anyway.

-Be flexible.

-Bring a sweater and wear long pants; the weather outside may be warm but inside they crank the ac.

-Stick to designated smoking areas.

-Bathe and wear deodorant.

-Seriously get more sleep, this way you can keep your eyes open while you’re weirdly staring at Elijah Wood.



Katie’s Top 5 films to see at Fantastic Fest 2015

‘The Long Dark’: Surviving the survival genre