+ What exactly is a film festival?

I bet you’ve heard of a couple like Cannes and Sundance, and maybe like me, you didn’t have a clue what people did at them or who even got to go. The first I heard about the Cannes Festival was that Grace Kelly met her prince when she attended it. Guess that dates me. Anyway, if you haven’t ever been to one, you are in for a weekend of discovery, inspiration, and fun! I’m convinced OUR festival is the most exciting annual event in the Woodlands. It’s not like going to a normal, individual movie that you might pop into for a quiet afternoon by yourself. A festival is something to be savored and shared with others.

The first thing you need to do is go online to the Inspirefilmfestival.com website and purchase a Festival Pass. It might seem pricey at first, but it will be worth it at twice the price! You’ll be able to binge on movies all weekend, get to visit with incredible special guests, make new friends, participate in some fun activities, and be part of question and answer groups with directors, producers, and film “stars”!

Pick up your festival pass at the IFF box office at the old Luke’s Locker on Market St. –when you do, you’ll receive your lanyard ID badge, and you’ll have access to the handy pocket guide that will give you all the venues and times so that you can start planning your own special schedule. Download the Inspire Film Fest App and you’ll also see the show times posted there as well as trailers for the feature films to help you plan your schedule. Give yourself sometime to plan your schedule so you can chart out your films you want to see. Believe me, you’ll start seeing people you recognize that are taking this inspiring journey with you.

I have so much more to tell you, but I will save that for another day. If someone were to ask me, “What’s your favorite season?” I would immediately say with no hesitation, “Festival Season.” Plan on joining us this year. Spoiler alert—you will become addicted right away and will be counting down the days until next year.

+ Are there reserved seats for the Inspire Film Festival?

Okay, I KNOW this is going to be a shocker to the new folks, but there are NEVER reserved seats at a film festival. Part of the excitement of being a festival-goer, is leaving early, getting to your chosen venue, and taking your place in line. Yep, there will probably already be a line even if you think you’re early for the start time. While you’re in line, you hear folks chatting about the films they have already seen, or want to see. There are just so many wonderful films to see that you want to do the impossible and see them all! I like to go at least 30 to 45 minutes early just so I can see familiar faces and start brazenly listening in on people’s conversations. People are usually so excited and eager to share their feelings about what they have seen or done that they don’t even mind. Bonding with others develops early at the festival. That’s truly one of my favorite parts. And as a bonus, be sure to be on the lookout for one or more of the lovely festival girls modeling the unique festival-inspired dresses. The girls are so eager to talk about their special film. Don’t hesitate to talk to them; they are some of the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable participants at the festival. Many have been a part of the Festival since it’s inception.

If a theater is already full, there is always another treasure close by that will delight and inspire you. The films are shown more than once, so if you can’t see one at a given time, you’ll probably be able to see it at another time. It’s part of festival life. You won’t be disappointed by any film you see. Here’s the thing--be open and willing to be flexible. That’s also a trait of festival people. Some of my most life changing and inspiring moments came as a result of a serendipitous change of plans from my original festival schedule.

+ What happens if the theater for my movie fills up before I can get a seat?

Now that might seem like a disappointing problem, but as I said in an earlier chat, you should view that as an opportunity. Film treasures await you everywhere, and undiscovered gems are always close by. Let’s talk a bit about the theater venues. The traditional ones are smaller now because of the armchair seating renovations that while comfy, have resulted in fewer seats. If you find yourself seat-less in one of those, and the gracious house manager volunteers will let you know if the house is full, not to worry; everything is within walking distance, and the volunteers will gladly assist you by pointing out a new close by venue. We are blessed this year with two beautiful, lush new theaters thanks to our generous Wells Fargo sponsors. One is a 200-seat theater, and one holds 300. You may have heard that they are in the Ice Rink. Don’t let that fool you; you will be blown away by these theaters. My first experience with them came as a real shocker. I was prepared to sit on a folding chair if it meant getting to see one of my chosen films. Not on your life! The Rink will be transformed into a state-of-the-art theater experience for you. Comfortable, cushy chairs with individual armrests, surround sound, and an enormous screen--these theaters may easily become your favorites. Here’s a little secret. Maybe it’s just me, but I found them a bit chilly; some people really liked that. But for me, I take my personal Inspire Film Festival cozy throw with me which has it’s own handy little carrying case. You might want to pick up one of those when you pick up your festival pass. They are available to purchase at the festival headquarters, and we proudly display and use ours all year long (yes, we have several—in two colors. I am a Superfan after all). Seriously, they do come in handy since February can be chilly in The Woodlands. I believe in coming prepared and I like to be comfortable. One additional hint. Pack a few snacks and a water bottle. There will be concessions available, but if you’re like me and want to catch as many films as possible, you’ll be out from morning until night!

+ I got hungry last year running from film to film. Any advice?

Now that’s easy to solve. If you aren’t in too big of a hurry or aren’t an early line stander as I am, there are lots of places in Market Street to grab a bite to eat. If you don’t feel like taking that much time, there is no problem with taking a lunch or supper with you in your backpack. All the venues allow food to be brought in. A few packs of M&Ms or candy bars are always a welcome treat as well. And maybe some bottled water. Something new will be added this year, too. We’re going to have a food truck available near the Wells Fargo Insperity Theaters (the Ice Rink) that will have some yummy things available in case your stash runs low, or you don’t want to be bothered with bringing something with you. There will be plenty of food for thought as well as food for the hunger pangs all during the festival. You might want to have cash handy just in case.