Locals know that the New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF), held Oct. 16-23 2014, is a treasure. A festival befitting Hollywood South but without the hefty price tag or impossible-to-access events, NOFF includes a mix of future Oscar winners, Louisiana made-films, and stuff you probably won’t see anywhere else. There’s also a good chance you might run into an actual celebrity, but in true New Orleans fashion they will probably be super nice and down to earth – like 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o was reported to be when she attended the festival in 2013.
The NOFF, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, opens with the Kevin Costner-starring legal drama Black and White that was filmed in Louisiana, and closes with documentary The Big Beat about New Orleans music legends Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Other big titles include Foxcatcher starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo and the Sundance hit Dear White People. But beyond that, the festival will feature more than 200 other films at more venues than ever before; to the uninitiated, this might seem overwhelming. We asked the New Orleans Film Society, the group that runs the festival and all year hosts screenings (many of them free) and other events around town, for some insider tips on navigating this festival.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of the New Orleans Film Festival
Though you might be most excited to see one of the Hollywood-hyped films in the festival, those can be tough tickets. Take advantage of the festival’s selection of short films. The festival is screening more than 20 programs of short films. It’s very competitive to get a short film in this festival – the NOFF accepts fewer than 4 percent of the entries – so you’ll see some quality films from all over the world. There are also several free shorts programs sprinkled throughout the schedule, with at least one free shorts program a day.
See Filmmakers Pitch
A very cool free event of the festival is the pitch competition, where filmmakers are invited to pitch their project to a panel of judges for the chance to win $1000 to put toward their films. This year’s competition features a new locals-only pitch. If you’re interested in filmmaking, this is a great way to see filmmakers talking about their ideas and getting feedback from industry pros. The competition is Friday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).
Attend Free Panels
More free events! The festival’s panels are both free and very interesting: this year’s topics include a conversation on black voices in cinema, screenwriting and the short film form, the importance of representation, sources of film investment, and the state of New Orleans’ indie film scene. Panels are at the CAC on Saturday, Oct. 18, and Sunday, Oct. 19.
Student? Get Cheap Tickets
A little-known fact about the festival is that it offers student rush tickets to every regular screening. If you have a valid student ID and there are still seats available at the start of the film, you can get a student rush ticket for $5. Just ask any box office manager at any venue.
Get Into a “Sold Out” Screening
Even when a film is technically “sold out,” there are almost always reserved seats for ticket-holders that don’t show, or filmmaker’s guests who can’t make it — and if you’re persistent enough and stay at the venue (and even bug the venue manager), it’s very likely that you’ll be able to snag one of those seats. “Last year, we did not turn away a single person who waited until the start of the show to see if there were extra seats for a festival screening, even for opening night, which ‘sold out’ weeks before the festival,” says Clint Bowie, program director for the NOFS.
Venues: Screening locations are all over the city, from the Prytania Theater uptown to Chalmette Movies in St. Bernard Parish. Many theaters, The Theatres at Canal Place, the CAC, Civic Theatre and Carver Theater are located in pretty close proximity from each other, but others are farther apart. Be sure to take transportation into account if you want to see multiple screenings on one day.
Tickets: All-Access Passes, which are $200 for NOFS members and $250 for non-members, are on sale now, and those allow you to reserve tickets to all festival screenings and allows entry to all parties, receptions and events. Single screening, general admission tickets will go on sale at a later time. It’s advisable that you become a NOFS member: memberships start at $30 a year and quickly pay for themselves via free screenings and ticket discounts.
All festival venues will have programs on hand so you can see the festival schedule on the go.
Find the full festival lineup and other information here.