Fantastic Fest survival guide

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If you're like me you're going to be spending the next week haunting the halls of the Alamo South Lamar for the second-ever Fantastic Fest. Here are a few guidelines for making FF a better experience, formed from observations at last year's Fest.

1. Buy a badge. Unless you want to see just one obscure film at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, a badge is the only way to guarantee admission. Individual ticket holders get in last, if at all. Last I checked the VIP badges were gone but "regular" badges (the little green hatchet-shaped bottle openers) should still be available.

2. Plan your screening schedule well. Most films play twice but there are a number of pictures/events that get play only once. Fortunately, Fantastic Fest has a personal schedule builder on their web site (full disclosure: I work for Bside Entertainment, the company that created the FF community site). You can even check out what other festival attendees have added to their calendars to see what screenings are likely to be crowded. I'm told that there will be a public wi-fi network in the Alamo*, but if that doesn't work be sure to have a printed version of your schedule handy and pick up a pocket guide to help with those last-minute changes of mind.

3. Leave your camera at home or in the car. I'm an avowed shutterbug and Flickr-hound, but the studios are becoming increasingly paranoid about cameras and recording devices in advance screenings, including festival screenings. Cell phones with cameras are also suspect. Last year there weren't too many metal detectors (the opening night screening of Zathura is the only one I can recall, but better to get into that packed screening without your camera than miss out because you were turned away at the door.

4. Watch those calories. The Alamo Drafthouse serves the best food you're likely to find at any movie theater anywhere, but there can be too much of a good thing. Last year I ordered something at practically every screening for fear of getting the evil eye from the wait staff. After surveying the wreckage of my diet and bank account, however, I won't be shy about saying "no thanks, I ate at the last screening" this year.

5. The weekday afternoon screenings can be sparsely populated - don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with the guy four seats down from you while waiting for the movie to start. After all, at what other event are you likely to be surrounded with as many people who share your taste in movies?

6. There is no number six. Enjoy Fantastic Fest.

* Looks like the wi-fi is working at Fantastic Fest - I'm posting this during the opening night Q&A with the cast and crew of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Beginning." Not a great flick, but it's fun listening to the people on stage.

welcome!

Welcome to Slackerwood! I'll be attending FF vicariously through your and Jette's postings.