BIFF 2013: Film Festival Survival Guide

Pandemonium at the Filmmakers Lounge at BIFF 2012. 47 films, 4 days — how do you pace yourself? Adam Rowan provides the answers. [Photo courtesy Peter Wayne]

By ADAM ROWAN

BIFF DigiComm Commando
Running February 14-17 on and around Boulder’s scenic Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) provides an opportunity to check out not only dozens of great films – from shorts to documentaries to features – but the beating heart of a beautiful city, too. Nestled against the Flatirons and lined with shops and restaurants, Pearl Street is the perfect place to get a taste and look at Boulder while mingling with everyone from local families to university students, not to mention colorful street performers and merchants.

BIFF is probably unlike just about any event you’ve attended, film festival or otherwise. That said, it still pays to be prepared.

BIFF 2013 Must-Have #1: Good Walking Shoes

Pearl Street is a pedestrian mall, so getting to and from screening venues on or off the mall makes pounding the pavement the most practical method of transportation. Plan to park your vehicle nearby (Pearl Street has both metered parking and garages) and hoof it to screenings and events of your choice.

Walking the cobblestone and seeing the sights is a fine way to spend a weekend, but it’s essential to have the strong sole and sturdy arch support to keep your feet from aching in line, in the theater or elsewhere.

BIFF 2013 Must-Have #2: Stay Hydrated



Whether you prefer water or sports drinks, it’s important to keep the liquids flowing regularly to fuel the aforementioned walking and standing. Beyond keeping your body in peak fitness for a film festival, though, hydration is crucial for another, environmental reason: altitude.

Boulder is situated 5,430 ft. above sea level. It doesn’t tower above the Earth like Park City, but the change in atmosphere at BIFF might come as a shock for out-of-town attendees more used to a Tribeca or Toronto.

Altitude sickness can take its toll on anybody’s body, especially those unaccustomed to such heights; symptoms include a throbbing headache, fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea. Drinking liquids and avoiding alcohol, overexertion and large meals (sorry, foodies) are keys to avoiding altitude sickness and making sure your stay at BIFF isn’t spent catching your breath.

BIFF 2013 Must-Have #3: Energy

Whether you prefer coffee, tea or energy drink, staying energized is vital to maintaining the rigorous schedule necessary to get the most out of your BIFF experience. Though you’ll spend a lot of time sitting, whether in a darkened theater, amphitheater, restaurant or one of Pearl Street’s many park benches, you might be surprised how much a film festival can take out of you.

I attended BIFF 2010, taking in roughly half of the films on the program and attending many of the festival’s signature events. Upon returning home at the end of the final night, I was surprised to find my body undergoing what felt like severe jet lag. While it’s true my mind was also reeling with positive memories and the excitement of seeing so many engaging movies, I probably would have benefited from a little extra protein (and probably an extra dose of caffeine) to prevent the post-film festival “crash.”

BIFF 2013 Must-Have #4: Cash



 

Like any tourist activity, whether you’re coming from six blocks away or halfway across the world, it’s worth coming to BIFF prepared. Not only will a well-stocked wallet mean you can take advantage of screenings, fine dining and fast-casual restaurants and the wares at Boulder boutiques and merchants, you’ll also be prepared for the oft-dreaded parking on city streets and at lots and garages.

[NOTE: City Of Boulder Parking Services offers three hours of FREE parking on Thursday night and all day Friday at the parking structure at 15th and Pearl Streets during the Festival. Present your same-day BIFF ticket or pass to the lot attendant! Parking is free there Saturday and Sunday.]

Metered parking stations on Pearl Street will take credit cards, but change might be just as practical if you can’t find a garage. Parking for an hour along the Mall costs five quarters, with a three-hour limit in place for street parking every day except Sunday.

In addition to currency, save time by arriving early: parking garages issue tickets that are payable upon leaving, so you won’t have to race or interrupt your film festival activities to feed the meter. And, on weekends, some garages are free.

BIFF 2013 Must-Have #5: Enthusiasm and an Open Mind



 

As a celebration of global independent film, BIFF is dedicated to exposing its audience to moving, engaging pictures from around the world. After perusing the program, you’ll see a number of names and titles you’ll want to check out. Be sure to allot your time accordingly so you don’t opt for screenings that overlap, and allow plenty of time to move from venue to venue: It would be a shame to miss a movie or event, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area and don’t know the travel time, because it sells out before you get there or you don’t your timetable is incorrect.

Beyond the theater or auditorium, though, BIFF brings visitors from across the country and around the world to an eclectic city with much to see. Take time to check out must-see locations like Pearl Street Mall, University Hill and the University of Colorado campus, and keep an eye open for attendees who want to talk movies.

And be on the lookout for celebrities wandering around: You never know when you might find a stray A-lister checking out the sights around Boulder!