Tips for Seattle International Film Festival First Time Attendees

I’ve been attending the Seattle International Film Festival for several years and was introduced to the event by two of my Realtor friends, Kyoko Matsumoto Wright (who worked on the original festival when she was a UW School of Drama student many years ago) and Ron Crider. Instead of telling you all the cool things about the festival this year, like Ewan McGregor coming to town, a better idea for curious first timers is to spend time reading the SIFF Guide. After that, you’ll be ready for some first timer festival attendees tips on how to jump in and have fun. For 2011, SIFF runs from May 19-June 12.

1) Some people harbor a secret fantasy of cancelling all business appointments and watching as many films as possible from morning to midnight during the festival.  Unless your name is Tom Tangney, you’re independently wealthy, or you are an uber film nerd, most of us have other obligations during festival time. Lucky for us, many of the movies are shown more than once, at different times of the day, and in different locations beyond just Seattle.  So my first tip is to go through the SIFF guide and make a list of the movies you want to see by day/time option as it fits with your calendar.

2) Second step is to compare your “must see” films with your film buddy.  I’ve been attending films with my nephews and daughters and sometimes what we want to see matches up perfectly and other times, not so much.  Josh really wanted to see Robo Geisha last year but I passed so he went by himself and he said the place was absolutely packed and the movie was a riot.  Together we saw Ticked off Trannies with Knives which was hilarious. Josh and I place high priority on all zombie movies followed closely by anything in the horror genre.  Miranda and I lean toward the kewl teen films (e.g.; Let the Right One In.) When my girls were  younger we saw the family-friendly films.  Ron Crider and I typically go for the psychological thrillers followed closesly by the gratuitous sex and violence genre and Kyoko and I might end up seeing an intense drama. There are plenty of people who are by themselves so don’t let a lack of a movie buddy stop you from going. 

2) Arrive early. Arrive early. Arrive early.  If you have a buddy, one person can save a place in line while the other person is parking.  Lines form fast and they’re long.  Bring a book to read while you’re in line and an umbrella and dress in layers just in case. There will be separate lines for pass holders and ticket holders.  If you’re not an overfunctioning planner, which is a personality trait that tends to run in my family, you might do just fine with spur of the moment decisions but then be prepared to be let down if your first choice is sold out.

3) I highly recommend buying your tickets online at home ahead of time.  You exchange your paid receipt for a ticket when you arrive at the theater. Find the SIFF volunteers right inside the theater. If you’ve purchased, say, tickets for 7 shows online and head out to see the first one, the SIFF volunteer will print out your tickets for all 7 shows at that first show. 

4) Be open to seeing films with subtitles. Last year, the very best film of the festival, IMO was Cell 211, which won Spain’s version of their Oscar awards for “Best Picture.” I love films with moral dilemmas and this film asked us to ponder the question, “Is it ever okay to lie and under what circumstances?”  This film has not yet been released in the U.S. in a format that would play on our DVD players and as soon as it does make it to the U.S., I’ll definitely be buying several copies. Aside from Inception, Cell 211 was the best film I saw last year.

5) Watch your budget and remember costs can add up. Parking, coffee or a meal before/after the film, snacks, gas money, can destroy a tight budget so do what you usually do to save money at the movies.

6) Many filmmakers are at the festival promoting their films and/or looking for a distributor so people from the film will sometimes be in attendance. Actors, producers, directors, have all been known to be there to introduce their film and even stay after the film is over to answer audience questions.  I’ll never forget seeing Josh collect an autograph from Rachel Dratch. He levitated for the rest of the day. We’ve been in the audience with Paul Giammatti, Edward Norton, Gus Van Sant in recent years.

7)  Plan ahead for 2012 and buy ticket packages in advance, right around Dec or Jan, at a discount.

What’s on my list this year?  

The First Grader looks fantastic.
Miranda July’s The Future
John Carpenter’s The Ward
Josh and I will definitely take in The Intruder and The Darkest Matter.
and I think Miran will want to see Beginners w/Ewan McGregor and Detention.
I’ll probably see at least 10 more in addition to these.

All the SIFF volunteers are typically identifiable by their tshirts or badges. Have fun and I’ll see you at SIFF!

6 thoughts on “Tips for Seattle International Film Festival First Time Attendees

  1. The First Grader caught my eye right away as well. If you know which presentation of that you will be attending, let me know and I’ll try to go to the same one.

    Thanks for the write up, Jillayne!

  2. I love movies and the idea of a “film festival”, but the bigger ones leave me suffering from “movie overload”.

    It’s like going to a breakfast cafe and finding 300 different omelettes on the menu!

    I’m going to save your list and see if any – or all – make it down here to San Francisco.

    And a “movie buddy”? I don’t need no stinkin’ “movie buddy”!!

    That way I get all the popcorn.

  3. Excellent write up. I’m huge film buff but never got the chance to attend a major film festival. I’d love to be able to drop everything and fly to Seattle to watch movies for a solid week…

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