The festival started Tuesday evening, but I didn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon. We decided to make the Austin trip a full (film)family affair, so my husband Justin came along. He spent Thursday evening catching up with friends who recently moved to Austin, while I went to the Filmmaker Mixer, joined by About a Donkey cast member Alexandra Clayton (who also flew in for the festival). We mingled a bit with new faces, but spent most of the hour catching up with each other (Alexandra moved to LA shortly after we wrapped production in 2017), and with a few filmmaker friends I’ve met at festivals in the past. It was a fun night at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we watched that night’s screening of one trailer, a music video, 5 shorts, and a feature — over a 3 hour block. It was a long lineup for one sitting, but mostly compelling enough to warrant the length.
That night was, unfortunately, the last screening at Alamo Drafthouse. It’ll admit, it’s a bit disappointing that only 1/3 of the films got a chance to play at their fullest quality in that venue; but I do appreciate the festival trying to squeeze in as many there as possible. The festival director explained that their weekend conflicted with Fantastic Fest (Alamo Drafthouse’s own resident festival), and as a truly independent festival that doesn’t allow the industry and celebrity to dictate what they program, having all of ARFF hosted at the theater just wasn’t an option. I totally get and respect that.
Friday and Saturday moved to the Crowne Plaza hotel, where two rooms where converted into theaters, along with a third space for panels. I’ve been to a few festivals held at hotels and have mostly experienced poor screening quality and non-stop tech issues, so I was a little wary of this one. However, ARFF clearly put in the prep work to make sure the spaces felt as much like theaters as possible. And while the picture and sound didn’t have Alamo Drafthouse crispness, there were no tech disruptions that I encountered throughout the fest.
Having arrived late Thursday night, Kelsey & her fiancée (and CongestedCat collaborator) Dani Thomas, joined me & Justin for breakfast Friday morning. Matt and About a Donkey actor Katherine Wessling flew in that morning, and met up with us, as well. (Like I said, full film-family affair.) As our first time in Austin, we tried to balance sightseeing, eating all of the things we could, and film watching/supporting as much as possible. We spent the first half of the day walking around South Congress street, taking in the artsy area of the city.