Fantastic Fest at Any Age: Breaking the Stereotype

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Steve DaigerContinuing our theme of crushing Fantastic Fest stereotypes (see my previous look at women at the fest), today I'm talking with a man whose many years have given him a great context in which to enjoy the festival. Steve Daiger (yes, he is the author's father) recently turned 70 years old and proudly proclaims his place among that minority of Fantastic Festgoers who remember when movie tickets were $1.50.

Hailing from Canton, Ohio, Steve is a research scientist and geneticist at the University of Texas in Houston. Since 2010, he has taken that weird and wondrous pilgrimage to Austin alongside his younger counterparts and has never looked back. Here's what Steve has to say about his own unique festival experience.

Why did you decide to start Fantastic Fest-ing?

My son-in-law had always talked to me about the festival. It seemed like something I might enjoy, but I definitely wouldn't have gone without encouragement from him and all my friends in Austin. And, they were 100% right. This is my third year and every year I've enjoyed the current year more than the previous year

What do you enjoy most about the festival?

Being surprised. Seeing something I wouldn't normally see. Something completely out of left field that is interesting and holds my attention.

What are some past films you've enjoyed?

I think like everyone I really enjoyed Juan of the Dead. I thought it was a very funny movie and great action adventure. But, it also showed something of Cuba that you could never see otherwise and really fits the idea of a surprise.

I had seen anime, but I was blown away by Summer Wars. I thought it was a beautifully crafted movie, but what really struck me was the depth of story in terms of the family. It was just a wonderful thing to see.

And then, I have some secret guilty pleasures I don't think I'm going to say out loud.

Would you call yourself a genre fan?

No, I think I like films of all sorts, and I see complete mainstream films and I see action adventure films and science fiction and genre and anime. I just like movies and my imagination to be captured.

Do you think you experience the festival differently from the younger Fantastic Fest fans?

There is a certain advantage to living history for, in my case, 70 years. I wasn't conscience of history till I was 15, so let's make that 55 years of history.

It definitely shows you a broader perspective on films. When I mentioned Juan of the Dead, Cuba has been a part of my life since my teenage years. So, yes, I bring a historical presence to the films. But, other than that, No. I'm the classic 13 year old who woke up in a 70-year-old body.

Do you have any advice for people your age that might be hesitant about attending the festival?

I would say relax and, in a sense, be anonymous. Come and just enjoy it. Don't give a lot of deep thought to the perfect movie or the perfect way of dressing or the perfect way of acting. Just go for it, if I may use that cliché. And, bring enough money that you can buy a drink when you need one desperately. Don't over think it.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Well, my friends in Houston surprised me before I left with a list of films they wanted me to see. One of those was Looper, so I want to be able to report back. I also want to see Dolph Lundgren live, so I'm looking forward to Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning.

What is your secret wish for this year's Fantastic Fest?

I'm waiting for that brilliant director, after a couple drinks, to come up to me at the closing party and say, "Well, Steve, what do you think is going to happen in biology and genetics in the next 50 years." That'd be cool.


As a footnote, Steve reminds his compadres to always bring their ear plugs.

[Photo credit: "Steve Daiger" courtesy of Katy Daiger Dial.]

I love this! =)

I love this! =)