Monday, April 9, 2012

Dallas International Film Festival Survival Guide

As we ramp up for the 2012 incarnation of the Dallas International Film Festival, we figured we'd share some of the little hints that we have learned in our collective three years of covering the festival. These can (and will) apply to other festivals, and some suggestions might be more obvious than not, but hey, whatever keeps you going during this time.

- Plan enough time between screenings

This should be a given, but I am always amazed at the amount of people showing at the last minute to a screening. Press included. Give yourself at least 45 minutes between screenings and up to 1.5 hours if you have to leave either the Magnolia or the Angelika during the weekend rush hours. There are always at least ten minutes worth of bumpers before the films, and most films usually have a Q&A after. So just plan on giving yourself plenty of time. And unless you're from out of town or have limited passes, don't worry about making all of the weekend screenings. Most movies play at least twice, so you can give yourself some downtime by not making your schedule jam-packed.

- Bring a reusable water bottle plus some vitamin C

This should be a requisite to any nerdy event. Whenever I hear about other movie festivals or even my dear Transformers convention, Botcon, I see this come up. But think about what conventions of any sort you attend. You are in a room full of people of varying degrees of hygiene (seriously people, how hard is it to shower), and you are all sitting next to each other when you have very little to no sleep, add in drinking, and any potentially bad eating and your immune system will hate you when it's all said and done. So do yourself a favor bring some vitamin C rich foods as well any of those Emergen-C packets. Use this along with a reusable bottle, like one of those trendy aluminum ones. The water bottle is a great way to keep hydrated and quench the thirst without having to resort to buying soft drinks. By the fourth or fifth movie in a row, you will be glad you are well hydrated

- Have some good snacks on hand for in between films

You could say that this tip and the previous one go hand in hand. Let's face it, unless you're at the Alamo Drafthouse, the food in movie theaters is pretty lame. It doesn't help that you're sitting on your ass the whole day so go to either Whole Foods or Central Market nearby and get yourself some of their bulk snacks. I am a fan of raw, unsalted almonds and Clif bars. These will sustain you for a longer time than say a sugary granola bar

- Mindful of parking. Parking garages are your best friend.

Don't be like a certain someone and get towed, without a cellphone, and having to get your car at 2 am from an impound lot. Be mindful of the parking around a few different venues around the festival. While the main part of the festival will take place in Mockingbird Bird Station and there's plenty of parking in both of the parking garages, the Magnolia and Texas Theatre area  can be a little tricky.

With the Uptown/Magnolia area, it's very easy to forget that you're in a popular bro-bar area and everybody tows. There is a parking garage, but that can fill up fast on the weekends. My suggestion is if you're going to be going to the Magnolia and can help it, go there for your first screening and either stay there all day or go later to the other venues. Trust me when I say that trying to find parking in the Magnolia for a midnight movie is the biggest pain.

With the Texas Theatre the key is to get there early enough so you don't have to park in the back alley. I've heard (not experienced) of people's cars getting broken into. So just beware, and of course, be mindful if you leave valuables in your car.

And while it's easy to forget due to the movie- haze you will be in, you are dealing with ridiculous Dallas traffic. Leave your self enough time for the trek on 75 and 35, in some cases.

- Make time for some of the shorts programs. They're some of the best surprises of the festival.

This is more of a institutional preference, but it has been in my experience that the shorts programs that have been programmed are some of the highlights of the festival. Even years ago, I think more about the short films like THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM and the short film that is now a full-length THE PACT. They are short (duh), sweet, and some of the most inventive stuff in the festival. Much like Damon, I recommended the midnight shorts and the animation shorts.

- Talk with people around you. Make new friends.

This is something I feel very passionately about. If there is one thing that I enjoy the most is the ironically social aspect of movie festivals. This makes sense of course, you are standing and possible sitting next to people for up to three hours at a time. Why not make a friend or two? I will always praise movie festivals for being much more friendly and less pretentious than say...35 Denton or any music festival. The only way it seems you can make friends at music festival is to make a joint to share. But with movie festivals you can just compare and contrasts what you've seen.

- Food/Drink suggestions: Urban Taco, Trinity Hall, Village Burger Bar, Union Bear, Cafe Express, Qdoba.

This the most delicious tip! Seriously, I'm so glad there is all of this delicious food all over the venues. Last year there was a deal that Festival badge holders got 10% off their meals when they presented them all over Mockingbird Station. I personally recommend Urban Taco in Mockingbird Station, and Union Bear over in the West Village by The Magnolia in their respective areas. (Of course there are plenty more options at both areas, but these are some of our favorites).

Mockingbird Station:
Urban Taco serves great Mexican food. The atmosphere is cozy, and they have a nice shady spot towards the evening in the patio. Try their Chips & Salsa Trio with at least the Spicy Peanut Habanero dip.

Trinity Hall is a great Irish pub where Damon plays all the time. They have great beer, good atmosphere, and it's literally next to the Angelika.

Cafe Express is great, and they have a wide variety of food. A lot of it is pretty healthy, plus they have wifi, lots of outlets, and spacious seating. I dig this place quite a bit, although it can be a little pricey, but honestly, I like writing here a lot more than the perpetually overcrowded Starbucks stores in the areas.

West Village:
Union Bear is the new kid on the block and is already making a big impact amongst the trendy West Village types. My friends and I, we mostly like it for the amazing beer selection, and all of which are $5! I am pretty biased given that these are the most vegetarian friendly options around and both Urban Taco and Union Bear provide these.

Village Burger Bar is a trendy burger bar near the Magnolia with some great gourmet burgers. 

Qdoba across the street from the Magnolia. For just some quick food that will probably sustain you for the whole day, Qdoba a fast burrito place much like Chipotle and Freebirds. Probably not the healthiest of stuff, but hey it's something.

That's it for this guide. I hope you guys found the little guide useful. This is not to say that we are at all the authority, but you can be damn sure we are recommending the good stuff. Hope to see you any of you guys around. Follow us on Twitter at @WDYMS, @JaviFuentes, @AngJonesy, @jessicadorrell, and @zombiefreak during the festival for updates as well as our reviews on the movies.

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