Austin Film Festival Guide for Newbies and Non-Badgeholders


Red Carpet by wenno on Flickr

Austin Film Festival starts today and runs through next Thursday, October 29. The screenwriters conference ends on Sunday, but the films play for a whole week. Here are some tips for those of you who just want to see a few films, and not bother with buying a badge.

New this year: AFF has a few new venues for the film screenings and conference. Learn the lay of the land by viewing our AFF Film Festival 2009 Film Venue Guide.

Seating priority: For every movie at AFF, badgeholders are seated first, then film-pass holders, then anyone who's bought tickets if space remains.

Best value: If you only plan on seeing a couple of movies, take your chances and buy individual tickets at the box office . If you plan on seeing at least five films, I highly recommend the 2009 Film Pass. For only $42, film-pass holders have access to the second-tier Film Pass line, admitted ahead of individual ticketholders at all venues.

I've used the film pass for several years to see movies during AFF, arriving early to improve my chances of getting in. I have never had trouble in the past, but with a few smaller theaters being used this year, there might be some screenings that sell out to badgeholders.

Individual tickets for AFF screenings are sold about 30 minutes before a movie starts, if space is available after badgeholders and passholders are seated. This year tickets cost $9.

Best seating time: The earlier in the day, the better for getting a good seat in movies. In podcast #15, Kelly tells us that for most movies, all badgeholders and film-pass holders can easily get a seat. However, if you're not a badgeholder, you may want to get to the theater 30 minutes early ... perhaps earlier if you're planning to buy individual tickets and the theater is small.

The only theater we know about this year where it may be difficult for passholders and even badgeholders to get into movies is Alamo Ritz. AFF will be using the smaller Ritz theater, which seats no more than 90. This is probably not a good venue for buying individual tickets.

Planning your fest: Although a program guide is available, I highly recommend that you use the nifty B-Side film festival programming tool to schedule your AFF events, whether it's for a fewt films or a combination of conference panels, films and parties. As with any festival, my recommendation is to always have a back-up plan, and be flexible. With that in mind ...

Changes in conference and festival programming: I've taken time off from my day job to attend a conference session that was open to the public, and wandered about the Capitol grounds searching for the location only to find after 45 minutes that the session had been cancelled. Save yourself a headache or missed opportunity by checking the 2009 AFF Changes page regularly.

Here are a few tips and tricks for non-badgeholders from Slackerwood contributors, as well as input from helpful commenters:

  • Aim for seeing the second screenings of films that play more than once. Many out-of-town badgeholders may leave after the conference ends on Sunday, so the lines may be shorter. The talent who appeared at Q&As earlier in the festival may not be available, but chances are higher that you will be able to get into a film. The only time this doesn't work, however, is if buzz has really built for a film and everyone's clamoring to see it.
  • The Paramount theater nearly always has seats available for AFF movies. However, plan your arrival accordingly as parking downtown can be difficult, especially during the day and on the weekends.
  • Movies shot in Austin or with Austin ties may fill up quickly. Sometimes cast and crew members and their families are invited and a number of seats are reserved. However, these movies often draw more ticketholders than badgeholders so if you get there early, you might be okay.
  • Make friends with badgeholders and have them save seats for you near them. That way, if you get in, you might not have to sit in the front row. (This doesn't always work, though, especially if it's a full screening.)
  • Hang out at the Driskill Bar during the conference. You don't have to be a badgeholder, but you can mix and mingle with all kinds of people who are in town from AFF ... maybe even some panelists and filmmakers. This is an excellent networking opportunity, and also a lot of fun.

The parking situation for locals:

The ideal solution for local attendees with cars who aren't concerned about attending the conference appears to be the Arbor Cinema and the Alamo Lake Creek, because both theaters are comparatively large, have ample free parking on-site and are far from downtown crowds.

However, if you want to see movies downtown and get to multiple theaters I recommend using the nifty Capital Metro trip planner. The 501 Studios theater is a block from my favorite downtown coffee stop, Progress Coffee, and parking is usually available. However, on Sunday, October 25, a new Farmers Market is opening at 4th and Waller so if you are trying to make the 2 pm screening you may have some difficulty finding a parking spot.

If you live in north Austin, you can try an option with free, non-towed parking: Park in a park-and-ride space in the Triangle garages, then take the #101 or the #1 to downtown. Bus fare is currently $.75 each way. You won't have to walk a mile to your car, and it's free covered parking. The ride should take 20-30 minutes depending on the time of day, and the buses generally arrive every 12 minutes or so.

Please share your own tips and tricks for passholders and ticketbuyers in the comments. As with the venue guide,  we will update this entry whenever we receive any new information or tips.

[Photo credit: "Red Carpet" by Wendy Underwood. Found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]

Thank you.

Thank you.


A 24 hour bus pass is $1.50, which is extremely helpful, if you have to take more than one bus, go round trip, or need to take multiple trips during a 24 hour period.