The Insider's Guide to the Film Festival


The Film Festival isn’t just a series of screenings. It’s a weeklong festival including everything from adjudicated films to panel discussions; from fabulous opening night receptions to intimate after- parties. You’ll want to do your research to find out which parts of the festival you want to experience. Do you crave a couple of independent or foreign films? Would you rather hang around downtown and hope to spot a celebrity? Do you want to buy the all- access pass so you can do it all?

It’s important to do your research before the festival starts so you can plan accordingly. The studious can go to the Savannah Film Festival website throughout the year, at; starting in early October, you can obtain one of the festival’s “Pocket Guides.” This will be your roadmap for your festival experience, including everything from screening schedules to film synopses to event locations.

The Accidental Tourist

Whatever you want to see, buy your tickets in advance. Whether you are attending an afternoon screening or one of the evening premieres, shows sell out early. Festival veterans and Savannah residents Jackie and Ken Sirlin have seen the festival grow over the years, and with that growth has come increased demand for tickets. “There never used to be a problem walking up a few minutes before the show and getting a ticket. Now the evening screenings are sold out, and there is a line of people waiting for a chance to get in. It’s great.”

The Sirlins purchase passes so they can attend all he movies and the post-screening events. The passes, ranging from Bronze ($150) to Reserved Seating ($750) are a great option, especially if you are the kind of high-energy, long-attention span personality who can sit through two or three movies in a row, then head to the after-party, and get up the next day and do it all over again.

If your schedule (or your budget) doesn’t permit you to become a pass holder, there are still plenty of options for you. Individual tickets start at $5 each, and you can purchase them in advance beginning October 2.

Eat Drink Man Woman

No matter which movies and screenings you choose, be sure to leave some extra time for a drink or a quick bite before the show. At least half the fun of the Film Festival is to be had soaking up the atmosphere in and around the festival’s two main venues, the Lucas Theatre and the Trustees Theater. If you want a cocktail before the show, head for the bar at Tantra (8 E. Broughton St., 912.231.0888). For a light, healthy meal, you can’t do better than the Kayak Café (1 E. Broughton St., 912.233.6044); and when the burger and beer craving hits, head straight for B&D Burgers (13 E. Broughton St., 912.231.0986). For coffee, pastry, and light bites, try B.Matthew’s Bakery-Eatery (325 E. Bay St., 912.233.1319).

After the show, anyone who’s anyone makes a beeline for Leopold’s (212 E. Broughton St., 912.234.4442) to enjoy homemade ice cream and soak up the post-screening buzz. You may have to wait in a line stretching around the corner, but it will be worth it. If you’re lucky, you will be waited on by none other than Stratton Leopold, Hollywood producer, film festival advisor, and shop proprietor. Plus, it will give you a chance to eavesdrop on your fellow ice cream lovers and see who has the skinny on the best places to head for the after-party.

A Beautiful Mind

The festival isn’t all glitz and glamour. It is, after all, a project of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the school has worked hard to create and maintain a learning environment through a series of workshops and panel discussions.

Workshops and panels may not sound like the most exciting thing happening at the festival. The sound of it conjures up college lecture halls with droning, bearded professors. Not so at the festival. The workshops offer up some of the most candid moments of the week; the speakers, many of whom are attracted to the festival by the promise of interaction, aren’t shy. The panel discussions are what they came for.

Guest speakers often include the “nuts and bolts” of the film industry—producers, title designers, and casting directors. SCAD cinema studies professor Roger Rawlings has helped run the presenter panels and can attest to the importance of a well-rounded film student or critic-in-training. “This is the best way I can put it. If you’re Estee Lauder, you’d better have good skin,” Rawlings quips. “If you’re going to make or write about movies, it’s not about trivia.”

The panel discussions are open to Silver, Gold or Reserved Pass holders, and SCAD students with ID.

Ready to Wear

If you want to show your support for the film festival, before, during, or after, you can always drop by the Lucas Theatre and purchase your official Savannah Film Festival gear. You can buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and baseball caps with the festival logo. The gear is available throughout the year; for more information, call the Lucas at 912.525.5040.

Almost Famous

Savannah knows parties. And during the Savannah Film Festival, Savannah does what Savannah does best: We play hostess to the festival guests, with a different fête for each of the festival’s eight nights.

According to film festival veteran John Paul Rowan, “Celebrities come and party it up” in Savannah, sometimes until well past midnight. Each of the festival’s eight nights includes an evening film screening, and afterward, a fabulous reception. The opening and closing night receptions are held at SCAD’s Orleans Hall, a dedicated gallery and event space. The other six nights include receptions at six different downtown locations.

You don’t have to be a movie star to enjoy these parties, but it will take more than just a dazzling smile to get through the door. The events are for ticket holders only—to attend the opening and closing night reception you must hold a Silver, Gold, or Reserved Pass. And the receptions on the other nights are even harder to get into: Gold or Reserved Passes only.

Rowan says the organizers are sticklers for making sure that only pass holders get through the door, so it’s not simply a matter of following the crowd. The festival provides its own staff and security at the venue to ensure that only those with proper credentials get in, “unless you are really good friends with whoever is working the door,” Rowan quips.

Even if you can’t shell out the big bucks to buy a Gold or Reserved Pass, it doesn’t mean your evening is coming to an end. There are plenty of places to soak up the gossip and the atmosphere, even if you aren’t sporting a laminated badge. Il Pasticcio & Luna Lounge (2 E. Broughton St., 912.231.8888); Jazz’d (52 Barnard St., 912.236.7777); and aVida (113 W. Broughton St., 912.232.8432) are all cool hot spots, where both a New York film magnate and a Hollywood starlet would feel right at home.

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Rowan says that in years past, the attire at festival gatherings, “runs the gamut. You’ll see people in tuxedos, and people in good-looking jeans and a button-down shirt. You’ll see everything.”

Think stylish, rather than formal, Rowan suggests. “This week is the trendiest event in Savannah. You’ll see people wearing the latest style from New York, L.A., Paris….it’s upscale trendy, not a business suit.”

Overall, Rowan says you can’t go wrong with that classic combination: jeans, a blazer and a button-down shirt for guys; jeans and a stylish top for women. “Wear whatever you feel comfortable in,” he suggests, “whatever is that special outfit you’ve been waiting for an excuse to wear.”

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Once you find yourself in the right place, at the right time, with the right look, you want to make that moment last. One way to do that is to make sure you find your way into one of the many photo shoots that will undoubtedly happen at the party or gathering. Rowan says there is definitely a strategy involved.

“Draw subtle attention to yourself,” he suggests. “Be creative in your outfit. Outrageous, but tasteful.”

Rowan says that sometimes the direct approach is best. “Grab a photographer and ask, ‘Would you take our picture?’ And be nice. Ask nicely. Be sure to look like you are having a good time. And smile.”

Of course, Rowan admits that there’s one foolproof method to ensure everyone will be fighting to snap your smiling face: “Actually being a celebrity,” he laughs.