How to Stifle That Film Festival FOMO

By  · Published on September 23rd, 2016

Does it seem like everyone is attending [Festival Name] but you? Time to find the brighter side of being left out.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fest (Jack Plunkett)

My schedule may not allow me as much freedom to attend festivals as I would like, but this hasn’t stopped me from coming up with my own theory about the months of September and October. The fall festivals are considerably less significant ‐ at least when it comes to distribution deals and release dates ‐ than earlier festivals like Cannes or Sundance; therefore, what pushes things like the New York Film Festival or Fantastic Fest over top is the fact that they take place in cities where large film communities already exist. Many writers and movie fans are drawn to these urban hubs for the opportunities that exist in their respective film industries. While no cinephile in their right mind would turn down the opportunity to travel to Berlin, it’s not the same as renting out an apartment with a dozen of your friends for weeks at a time.

That’s what gives the rest of us such a strong sense of missing out when these festivals occur. Any film fan knows that the buzziest titles from Sundance will eventually find their way into a local arthouse or onto VOD, but these big city festivals ‐ the late nights and big crowds that come with any new releases ‐ have a communal environment sparked by the tight-knit communities that already exist. For the people in cities like Toronto and New York, these festivals are taking place on their home turf; that makes it something of a party atmosphere, regardless of whether the centerpiece of the party is Isabelle Huppert or Scott Adkins.

Maybe Fantastic Fest and the New York Film Festival cause you to feel the pain of missing out. Maybe it’s another festival altogether. Whatever the source of your FOMO, here are five easy tips to help alleviate the pain of being left out of the cinematic loop.

Find a Local or Regional Film Festival to Call Your Own

Even if you don’t live in a New York or Los Angeles, odds are good that some kind of regional or topical film festival occurs an hour or so away from your hometown. People start film festivals for all kinds of reasons: to highlight local talent, bring outside entertainment into a static arts scene, or even to publicize their own film or production company. Websites like can be a valuable way to track new festivals in your area. And since so many these festivals operate on a shoestring budget, they are always looking for volunteers or people to lend a helping hand. While I rarely get accredited for the major New York festivals, I try to attend the regional horror festivals whenever possible; this is how I find a niche for myself in the festival community.

Make Going to the Movies an Event Again

Even the most dedicated cinephiles can sometimes fall victim to simply wedging movie screenings into an already busy schedule. You choose a theater and a start time based less on the quality of the experience and more for convenience and overall cost; why drive all the way out to the indie theater on the edge of town on a Friday night when you can simply catch Hell or High Water at your local AMC the next morning? Sometimes it’s important to treat going to movies like a proper event. Drive to the out-of-the-way theater; gather a group of people to go with you; plan your evening around the movie screening instead of the other way around. You may recapture some of that enthusiasm and wonder you had as a kid.

Host Your Own Outdoor Screening

September and October are the perfect months to bring your movies outside. With cooler evenings and shorter days, an industrious group of friends can pool together some money and equipment and host their very own outdoor screening in their backyard or patio. I’ve always been jealous of the young couple who used to live down the street to me in Queens; every Friday, they would project classic films on the apartment building across the street from them and gather in their backyard to drink beer and hang out. It may not exactly be the same thing as a similar event put on by a major film festival, but it has all of the communal charm without having to take time off from work or shell out big bucks for a festival pass.

The 11 Films We Can’t Wait To See at Fantastic Fest 2016

Set Time Aside for Your Backlog

It’s one of the hazards of this industry that we sometimes amplify upcoming releases at the expense of older films in need of a revisit. Every one of us has an embarrassing backlog of movies that are neglected in favor of bigger and splashier titles; that being said, if a bunch of people you know are all headed to Austin to see the same group of unreleased films, why not counter-program your own life and dedicate some time to your backlist? Pull those documentaries off the shelf or put together a list of movies to check out from your local library and see how many movies you can make it through before the festival ends and life gets back to normal. It may not be quite as much fun as seeing Arrival in theaters, but being out of the loop is the perfect opportunity to start your own loop.

Indulge Your FOMO

Alright, not everyone prescribes to the adage that life opens a window whenever it shuts a door, so you know what? Screw it. Lean into your FOMO. Cancel plans with your friends and sit in the tub, fully clothed, with a bottle of wine in one hand and your phone open to Twitter. Did Park Chan-wook just throw Spike Lee’s adaptation of Oldboy under the bus? It probably wasn’t that funny in person. Drink. A film critic just lost a bet and had to shave his head publicly? That probably was a lot dumber than it sounds. Drink. Do this long enough and one of two things will happen: either your drunkenness will make you giddy or you’ll pass out in the tub. Either way, missing out on film festivals doesn’t seem so bad!

Matthew Monagle is an Austin-based film and culture critic. His work has appeared in a true hodgepodge of regional and national film publications. He is also the editor and co-founder of Certified Forgotten, an independent horror publication. Follow him on Twitter at @labsplice. (He/Him)