September 22, 2011

the pre-FANTASTIC FEST post

So here I am in Austin, Texas. I'm here (as I hope y'all know) for the annual Fantastic Fest: an explosion of genre films and drinking the like of which the planet sees but once a year. From Wellington I've had some 20-odd hours of travel time, across three (maybe four) time zones and two airlines. I've been in Austin the last couple of days, checking out the city and generally recovering from jet-lag (I'm only now feeling close to "right"). So here's a quick run-down of the last few days. 

Chilling out at Auckland International Airport in
a very cool pod chair. Oh, the flight-time
that awaits.

As always, flying Air New Zealand was great - and I even had a spare seat! Not many movies watched sadly, as I tried my best to rest up when I could, 'cos I knew I was gonna be messed up otherwise. That didn't really work out. Also, American Airlines? Not a fan.

But hey, I made it to Austin and on my very first day took a walk to here:

Should really have some sort of heavenly light
shining on the sign...
Yep, the Alamo Drafthouse. A cinema I've been wanting to get to for a loooooong time, and one in which I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time in over the next week. 

In front of the Alamo you're greeted by this guy:

A ticket robot! YUS!!
And then the interior looks something like this:

Spaceships and fighter-planes and aliens OH MY!
Basically, the Alamo Drafthouse is pretty freakin' great. The cinemas themselves have benches/bars in front of each row of seats. There are menus tucked away and you can order stuff - food, drinks, dessert - throughout the movie and have it all brought to you. At first I thought this would be distracting but it actually works (except for when I was tucking into my chicken sandwich just as an autopsy started onscreen. YUM). Before each film there are no ads. In fact, before the scheduled start-time there is a pre-show programme selected specifically for that film; so for Attack the Block it was the Queen fight from Shaun of the Dead and some clips of Nick Frost. For Contagion there were some neat info-animations about germs etc. And, of course, there are the infamous "No talking, no texting, no tweeting" bumpers. If a complaint is raised against you for talking/texting, you get a warning. Continue being a rude bastard and you get booted out. Oh, how I wish someone would implement these rules back home.

I'm staying in an area of Austin called "So-Co" with is South of the river that bisect the city:

Hmm, what's that spray-painted on the bridge?
It's like they knew I was coming!
Austin is hot. Like, really hot. No, seriously. Like, I don't know if I've ever been this fried in my entire life. The sun beats down mercilessly and the pavement holds that heat and slowly releases it through the day and night (which is also hot). You could say the heat was like a hammer... if you could imagine yourself in the hammer and the hammer was really hot. Basically, the temperatures are high (around 30-odd plus degrees Celsius. It doesn't get that hot in summer back home).

But Austin itself is a pretty cool city (yes, you can see what I did there). The So-Co area is, I guess, bohemian with lots of little independant clothing and designer stores, as well as a lot of restaurants and food-caravans. The downtown area (directly over the bridge) is where all the big skyscrapers are and where you can tell a lot of the money is. Austin is a bit of a tech town (I believe Dell calls this place home) and there are a lot of people jogging through green areas by the river, or riding bikes (or when it's too hot to keep riding them, the buses have fold-down bike-carriers on the front. Genius) or walking dogs. Yeah, it's a Texas town where


The South Congress Avenue Bridge is also home to one of the world's largest bat colonies and every day come sun-down, these little critters swoop out in their... I dunno, it must be thousands, to search for food (apologies for the poor quality - these guys are fast and it is dark):

I got a much better photo of the bat statue near the bridge:

It's called "Nightwing" and yes, I did geek out.
But the Bat Statue is not the only piece of public art around Austin. There's also a lot of massive guitars and, well, cows like this one:

It's a "Thriller" cow
There's also this very cool Daniel Johnston mural/graffiti piece on the side of a takeaway shop:

It is so iconic it has been listed as a protected work
of public art AND appears on t-shirts.
As you can tell, I've done a LOT of walking over the last couple of days. Blocks and blocks and blocks of it and it feels so much longer in the heat. Austin is a big city; it is the capital of Texas afterall. I feel like I've covered most of where I wanted to cover and I am glad that I did all that walking because otherwise I would've missed these two great things:

My house, my castle eh?
No caption required really.
And, well, that's it for now. This post has got long enough already and I'll be sure to be bringing you more in the next few days (I hope). For now, I'll just leave you with this:



  1. I appreciate how obnoxious the FAN badges are, to serve as warnings to the other attendees (say, STAFF or TALENT or GUEST) that you are a drooling neanderthal of unbridled, uncontrollable FANNISHNESS, to be avoided at all costs.

  2. Also: Where are you staying in SoCo? And how much of a pain in the ass is it turning out to be to get back there at night? There's been some heated discussion around these parts about the advantages/disadvantages of "crossing the bridge" for SXSW.

  3. Hells yes. Great post. So stoked you've got out and about. Looking forward to reading more sir.

  4. @M'ris, yeah for the photos they wanted everyone to be doing "shakeyface". As this is my first Fantastic Fest I wanted to, y'know, fit in. There are also SUPERFAN badges, but they're actually cooler (they get a t-shirt too).
    As for staying in SoCo... it's a cool place and was the closest I could get to the Alamo (September is a bizarrely crazy busy time in Austin). It's like a 30-45 minute walk, which is ok by me. Will let you know what it's like as the Fest progresses though...
    @Mr. Dirk thank-you sir. I hope you continue to enjoy reading.

  5. Awesome man. I'm glad yu made it. This is the raddest. And how cool are all the rockets and robots around. They knew... they knew...

  6. Oh so cool, dude. And to think we are leaving you with all this coolness & geekness tomorrow. Heat is good - Dave's Insanity Sauce is good.
    Where are the French art films - [complete with ze beautifool subtitles]. We await the commentary. Meanwhile we'll continue our crap tour around - choke - Holly...d et al.
    Flying back to land of rugby, racing & beer tomorrow - bring back culture!

    The Drafthouse looks amazing. And Austin has officially made it on my places-to-visit-in-America mental list.

  8. Absolutely - Austin is a pretty aces city and I actually wish I had more time and energy to check out more of it. The Drafthouse is officially one of the best cinemas I have ever been in.