Recovering From Fantastic Fest: A Beginner’s Guide

So you’ve just returned home to your respective municipalities, run completely ragged from the relentless wonder that is Austin’s Fantastic Fest. For an entire week, you’ve ignored our patented Survival Guide, leading to the untempered imbibing of alcohol, gratuitous flirting with women well outside of your league and the viewing of films that include — for example — upwards of 45 consecutive minutes of rape. Now you’re home, and even your cat isn’t impressed. Congratulations, you survived the Fantastic Fest experience. It’s an experience that, while designed to torture your many regular body functions, is also meant to be survived so that it can be savored throughout the other 51 weeks of the year. Or as we call them around here, Las Semanas Muerto (we’re hip like that).

As any righteous outlet should do, we’re looking out for your mental and physical well-being. And while we’re no experts on the subject of healthiness, we do know a thing or two about getting rid of a hangover. Especially one that’s the size of Texas. So here are a few tips to help you get through the post-Fantastic Festicus depression (and indigestion).

1. Cleanse Your Innards

The first most important thing to do is to work on getting all of that Alamo Drafthouse food out of your system. It’s lovely at the time, but it will try to kill you once it gets inside. There are two parts to this: (a) try and stick to a diet that includes lean meats, lots of veggies and less gallons of beer; and (b) go get an organic cleanse kit from Whole Foods or your local purveyor of fine organic wares. The kits usually take about two weeks to complete and it involves taking a few pills throughout the day, but it will move some of that gunk out of your body. I love the food at the Drafthouse just as much as the next guy, but it feels great to know that my intestines aren’t having to reenact that Battle of Helms Deep just because I was goaded by Devin Faraci into drinking a half-glass of gravy. Also, if you ate more than 30% of the whole cow that was served at the closing night party, you may want to seek immediate medical attention, as you may be dying.

2. Start a Workout Routine

Screw New Years. This is the time when renewal begins. Think about it like this — you’ve got 363 days to train for next year’s binge. You need to be able to run faster, jump higher and sit in one spot longer than everyone else if you’re going to take your Total Movies Seen number from 47 to 50. I would recommend something simple, like swimming (if you’re comfortable taking off your shirt) and/or biking. Other options include walking, walking quickly and yoga — the latter of which involves many of the principles used for a successful Fantastic Fest week, including bending your body into awkward positions and being very quiet for hours at a time.

3. Launch a Preemptive Strike Against Withdrawal

It’s very hard for those who don’t get to attend Fantastic Fest, as the chances of them getting to see some of these movies will be very slim without a considerable amount of effort. Some films just won’t get distribution here in The States. That said, it’s just as difficult for the attendees of Fantastic Fest. You’ve spent an entire week bombarded with some incredible films, regardless of genre or nationality. Now you have to go back to your hometown, where Jackass 3D will soon be playing on 5 of 7 screens. We recommend healthy doses of Donnie Yen and Adam Green, both of whom can be found in your Netflix queue. The saving grace here is that it’s October, a month that will yield 31 Days of Horror from the FSR staff and a few Fantastic Fest replays in theaters, such as Red, Buried, Let Me In, Stone and FF’s spiritual partner, Paranormal Activity 2. These aren’t quite Golden Slumber, Kidnapped or Bedevilled, but they will do a solid job of reminding you what it was like back in Austin.

4. Participate in Naptastic Fest, But Not All at Once

As Ain’t It Cool News regular and noted Austin local C. Robert Cargill would be happy to tell you, “when you feel the need to sleep, sleep.” Chances are that you didn’t listen to such advice and you “powered through” the countless midnight shows only to wake up early in the morning to stand in line for tickets. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just leaves you exhausted come the Saturday after the fest. It leaves you yearning for a big, long nap. But despite what your body is telling you (“Sleep ’til November”), you shouldn’t get all of that rest at once. Catching up properly means moderation. Take a nap this afternoon, but stick to something in the 1-2 hour range. Then try to get a solid night’s rest. Repeat tomorrow. Come Monday when it’s time to go back to being a faithful worker bee, you’ll feel rested and relaxed. Sleeping too much all at once will make you feel worse. Trust me, I do it every year.

5. Now Might Be a Good Time for that Second Job

In between all of your naps, your pill-popping cleanse routine and your walking quickly, you may want to sit down and balance your bank account. Take note of how much money was spent in the quest for queso fries and plan accordingly for the future. It’s the first of the month already, so it’s time to pay your rent (or mortgage payment) as well as all of those other “real world” bills. This is a good time to start planning your budget for next year. Start packing a bit of money away for next September and you won’t feel so bad about the four consecutive nights you spent eating Drafthouse cookies. No matter your status, be it virgin or veteran, you probably spent more money than expected. It’s the food, the awesome t-shirts, the gargantuan donuts sold right across the street and the many non-Ambhar tequila related drinks you bought at The Highball. It adds up quickly, but it’s all worth it. Just be more prepared next year. That, or prepare yourself mentally to feel very broke come October 2. That’s what I do.

6. There’s Always Other Festivals

Sure, none of the festivals I’m about to list are Fantastic Fest, but they all have something worthwhile to offer. The Austin Film Festival (October 21-28) is a great screenwriters fest, complete with a conference and a lot of solid hold-overs from Venice and Toronto. It’s also a great excuse to come back to Austin very soon (and to see me on a panel about film criticism). The Sundance Film Festival (January) is a very serious affair, but its also where the world of indie film begins every year. A few Sundance flicks, including Buried, made it all the way to Fantastic Fest this year, so its not a bad (if expensive) way to get back into the festival mode. South by Southwest (March) is Fantastic Fest’s closest kin, though. It’s Austin-based, well-programmed, full of parties and other extra-curricular activities and comes complete with a Fantastic Fest programmed selection of midnight movies. It’s undoubtedly the next best party on Austin’s film-related social calendar and well worth the trip.

If you follow these five steps that we’ve laid out before you, your chances of survival until next year’s fest jump to 90%. Just remember to keep your eyes on the proverbial prize: September 22, 2011. And if you really need a fix, just check out our (still ongoing) Fantastic Fest 2010 coverage. It will give you a sense of nostalgia that will undoubtedly make you feel all warm inside. Like Alamo Drafthouse gravy, but without the “I want to die” after-feeling.

What are some readily available titles (on Netflix, DVD or otherwise) that you will use to fight off Fantastic Festicus Withdrawal?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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