Fantastic Fest Training #2: If You Need a Friend, Make One
All the big film festivals are as much about the party as they are about the films. Veteran film-festers know the value of line buddies -- those people you meet again and again in line who share the buzz and help you keep up with last-minute changes, which films are must-see, which ones to avoid, and which parties you'll regret missing. This is an essential part of a festival experience.
Fantastic Fest is no different, but has even more events in a more localized space. You'd have to be a true misanthrope to not make new friends. Where SXSW and AFF have venues scattered around town, Fantastic Fest is primarily one location (Alamo on South Lamar), with gala events at the Paramount, so chances are you'll see the same faces over and over again. This year, the brand new Highball will have a soft opening just for Fantastic Fest, and is in the same strip mall as Alamo, which means even more opportunities for socializing.
You could keep to yourself, but why? You're in a Mecca of filmgeekdom, it's the perfect place to make new friends who share your love of zombies, aliens, and karaoke. There will be plenty of people to dissect blood continuity and gore quality. You will not be the only one who was thrilled with the idea of a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaptation because you love the idea of Lizzie taking on the undead. No one will think it weird that you can recite the entire filmography of Chan-wook Park. And you'll meet people who not only get the "make a friend" reference, but can explain the Fantastic Fest connection to that film.
Last year, the Alamo South Lamar added an awning and tables outside, which became the social mecca, especially with regular badgeholders who had to arrive a few hours prior to the first screenings to get their seating tickets. Alamo even made outdoor table service available. As one of their number last year, I couldn't justify going home or running errands between ticket pickup and first films, so I'd stay and hang out with a growing group of friends who hadn't met before.
We'd get to talking, and even started bringing in breakfast to share, as the Alamo wasn't officially open yet. Sometimes we'd just sit -- sleep deprived and incapable of coherent speech, but we'd sit together. Now I have several new friends I see all the time at Alamo events throughout the year, and a few I can't wait to see again in a few weeks.
I guarantee you that you will find someone who shares many if not all of your eclectic film tastes. All it takes is a hello, or what's your favorite film so far to make a new friend.
[Photo credits: Jette Kernion and Jenn Brown, from Fantastic Fest 2008.]