Initially, the plan was to include my adventures at my first BFI London Film Festival as part of a wrap up of what turned out to be a rather eventful October. But I changed my mind. So, over this and the next few posts, I will lay out some of the hits (and misses) from the films that I saw.
First, let me share a summary of my general impressions of the festival overall.
The thing I like about attending a diverse array of film festivals (besides the films themselves) is the opportunity to take in the atmosphere and get a sense of how each festival is run and operated. From queue management to programming categories and scheduling blocks, it really is very fascinating. So that I do not get ahead of myself, let me shout out the LFF team for the hard work that took place behind the scenes to make this festival happen.
Also being as this was my first time in London (for this purpose) I basically “worked” as I have grown accustomed to when I first participate in a new festival. That is – I took it a bit easy. Which helped tremendously for when I got sick in the middle of the week, I did not feel overly disappointed or that I missed out on anything I was planning to do.
In the lead up to the festival I reviewed the schedule, highlighting films that were of interest? Did I get to see everything on my “wish list”? Of course not. But that is okay. Because think about it – you spend 5-6 days in a city and you get to see as many films, plus take advantage of the odd festival-only events which are available? I really could not ask for more. For me, any trip to a film festival is a journey into paradise.
The only thing that I will highlight as an area for improvement is the queuing system. My experience for public screenings and events did run rather smoothly, but one thing I noticed on the P&I line which made me a little uneasy was in relation to the queues for the more popular films. And that was the issue of queue jumping. Now I consider myself a rather fair minded and understanding person. If I am standing in line and waiting for a screen to open I do not care too much if there is someone ahead of me who lets a friend or two in – especially when they have the courtesy to ask me if I mind. My usual response is “I don’t mind, but you might want to think about the others behind me.”
But there was at least one instance where, what I can only describe as an obscene group of people converged and met up with their “mates.” By my count it, was at least 7. Now I am not a boat rocker and did not want to cause a ruckus, but I would definitely ask in the future that folks consider others – especially when people take the time and care to arrive at a venue for a screening HOURS before they know they will be let it. One possible solution? I am sure this has been done at one time or another, but maybe create a cordon where you are “forced” to stand in the queue in a single or double line at most. Besides that I really did not have any complaints.
With that, here are some additional tips for any film festival goer wishing to attend LFF in the future.
LFF Tips/Planning Suggestions
Be flexible. You might get there with an ironclad plan. But sometimes things happen and you make alternative plans. Often this can be to your advantage. Example: I arrived a bit early on Monday and was not planning on going to any screenings that day. Unfortunately my hotel room was not ready, but I turned this into an opportunity. I left my luggage at the hotel went straight to the BFI (Festival Central) picked up my badge and headed over to Leicester Square to take in the atmosphere. This led to me queuing up for a film which was not even on my schedule! Not only did it allow me to pass the time, but it allowed me to do so in entertaining style.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Surroundings. this of course is easier if you are familiar with a location. But if you have never visited a city before, check out the maps and get a real sense of where you are in relation to the venues that will be a part of your festival circuit. Luckily I am a bit familiar with the city and the transportation system so I chose a hotel which was easily accessible by the underground and within reasonable walking distance as well, for times when I was not against the clock (which on this go around was quite often).
Don’t just go to the movies. As I previously mentioned, while the films are the particular draw of these festivals, attending panels, filmmaker teas (for press and industry) and other talks are a fantastic way to get some inside perspective on the filmmaking process as well as the industry at large. So while I did not attend any “teas” myself, I did manage to attend a filmmaker discussion with director Kasi Lemmons. More on that later.
Take advantage of the contacts you make in person and on location. Queues and theater seats are great ways to spontaneously strike up a conversation. You are all here for a similar purpose after all! And while I probably did not heed my own advice on this particular occasion, it is generally a rule I follow in one way or another. The second part of this is especially relevant to my fellow “bloggers/hobbyists/social media influencers” – particularly the smaller outlets. Your festival does not end here. Once you are on “the list” take advantage. Was there a film you did not get a chance to see? Contact the film’s rep and see if you can get insight into additional screenings/screener opportunities you can take advantage of in the comfort of your home office.
So in summary, I really enjoyed myself and feeling aptly prepared for any future trips I choose to take to good ole Londontown for future festivals.
Were any of you there? Hit the comments and let me know what your experience was like.