How I choose my SIFF movies

By kate on May 18th, 2009

Every year, I try to go see some movies at the Seattle International Film Festival. I’ve had a few off years lately, but I had a great time in 2004 and 2005, so I’m ramping it back up this year and planning to see fourteen films. A few years ago, I described my film selection process this way:

“The process is very instinctive (and random). I’m basing my choices solely on the paragraph-long blurbs in the festival program, which is pleasantly limiting and challenging. It’s a lot like a puzzle, to try to figure out the most optimal viewing schedule based on the movies you REALLY want to see, and the movies you ‘kinda’ want to see.”

I thought I’d expand on that a bit in case anyone is looking for guidance. The SIFF schedule can be an intimidating thing to get started on. I use the Seattle Times SIFF Program Guide (mostly because it comes out early and comes right to my house with the paper).

First, I sit down with the guide (a tabloid-style section about the size of the weekend entertainment section) and three colors of highlighter pen. I quickly read through the paragraph-long film descriptions. After each blurb, I mark it in one of four ways: no mark if I have no interest in the film, one color for films I MOST want to see, a second color for films I’d like to see, and a third color for films I’d see if it were convenient. These are usually quick, almost instinctive decisions.

Next, I turn to the schedule grid. I highlight all the films I’d previously marked with the same color, making sure to highlight every showing of each.

SIFF schedule

Then comes the puzzley part: I eyeball the grid and try to identify a handful of days containing a clump of films I want to see that are showing at the same theater. I circle potential days. I check over the films I most want to see, and check if they’re included in those days (or decide if they’re worth seeing on a separate day). I re-read descriptions for non-marked films sandwiched between ones I want to see and decide if they’re worth seeing. I cross-reference the potential movie days with my real-life calendar to avoid conflicts.

Finally, I check with my husband and make sure it’s OK with him that I spend so much time away from the family in the upcoming month. I try to cluster as many movies together as I can to minimize the number of days involved, and remind him that May is an unusual month.

Then, it’s just a matter of buying tickets (single tickets for matinee showings, cinematic six-packs for non-matinees). It’s too hard to try coordinating other people’s schedules with all this, so I try to drum up company after I’ve already bought my own tickets. I don’t plan to post my schedule publicly, but I’m more than happy to share it with you if I know you.

Note: there’s a new site called b-side festival genius that purports to help you with your SIFF schedule. I tried it after the fact but didn’t find it as useful as I had hoped. Your mileage may vary.

Filed under: film, seattle
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