SXSW 2008: Get Your Film Passes Now

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The first year I went to SXSW Film Festival, I did it on a film pass, not a badge. The badge is great -- it gets you into the conference and also puts you in the top-priority line for all screenings. Plus you get a nifty canvas bag. But the badge can be a little pricey for some people, especially if you live in Austin and plan to go only to night-and-weekend movies.

I recommend the film pass. It costs $70 this year and gives you second priority for all films. This means you're probably not going to get into any midnight movies with great buzz over at Alamo Ritz. And if you are able to get into a big splashy Paramount premiere, you may be walking a few flights of stairs to your seat. But when I did SXSW on a film pass, I got into every movie I wanted to see -- I just tended not to go to the big premieres. I spent a lot of time at Arbor (no longer a venue) and Dobie. Some of the big movies screen again later in the festival after the conference, and it's a lot easier to see them then. Or you could stick to the smaller, less hyped films, which I like to do anyway. I can see the big-name movie in a few months (or weeks), but who knows if I'll ever get another chance to see that low-budget documentary about cheesemaking?

Waterloo Video is the place to go for SXSW film passes (as in previous years), which are on sale right now. Look at it this way: individual tickets for SXSW movies cost $10, assuming there's even room in the theater for people who want to buy tickets. If you see more than 7 movies (and the festival is 9 days long -- so if you saw one per day), you're coming out ahead. If you see 14 movies, you're paying less per film than you would at a theater. The film passes do sell out so if you're buying one, go sooner rather than later.