How to SIFF
A guide to navigating the 2012 edition of SIFF, which runs from May 17 to June 10 at various venues in and around Seattle.
Seattle Times movie critic
Seattle International Film FestivalMay 17-June 10, 2012, at various Seattle-area venues. For information: 206-324-9996 or www.siff.net.
Got questions? Here's a SIFF FAQ. Other answers can be found on www.siff.net.
Where do I find a printed SIFF guide?
SIFF's glossy guide, complete with a full schedule handy for carrying around and marking up, can be picked up at any festival venue or at participating Starbucks outlets.
What's the ticket protocol?
SIFF has three main box offices this year: at Pacific Place (second level), the SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center campus), and the SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N.). All are open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon-6 p.m. Sundays and Memorial Day. You can also buy tickets and passes by phone at 206-324-9996 or online — usually the quickest way to get tickets — at www.siff.net. Exceptions are Secret Festival passes (which can be ordered online but need to be picked up and signed in person), Student/Senior Reel Deal discounts and Teen Tix (day of show only, at venue) and gift certificates, which need to be bought in person at the box office. Telephone and online orders are subject to a $1.25 handling charge per ticket, capped at $5; no handling charge for in-person orders.
You can pick up Will Call tickets or buy individual tickets at any SIFF theater after the festival begins May 17 (it doesn't have to be the theater in which your film will show). Day-of-show tickets can be purchased online or by phone up to 30 minutes before show time, as well as at any SIFF venue; check www.siff.net to see if a screening has tickets available.
A bargain option is a Cinematic Six-Pack (six admissions, $57) or a Film Buff 20-Pack (20 admissions, $180), both of which offer savings over the usual $11 per-screening price. You'll need to choose shows in advance for these packages.
What if the movie I want is sold out?
Some popular titles will sell out their ticket allotment in advance — but that doesn't mean you can't get in. Generally at least a handful of tickets become available 10 minutes before the movie; go and wait in the standby line outside the venue (earlier is better) and you might luck out. Note that standby tickets are full price and cash-only.
Where to park?
Take the bus — please. Festival venues are served by numerous bus lines, helpfully listed on the venue pages at www.siff.net.
If you must drive, you'll pay dearly for the privilege — in downtown Seattle anyway. The best deal I know, if you want to park all day, is the Harvard Garage at the corner of Harvard and Pine, which costs $5 for the day and/or evening, seven days a week (entering after noon Monday-Friday). The Egyptian's right across the street, and you can walk to the Harvard Exit and Pacific Place from here if you don't mind a bit of a hike (approximately eight blocks and 10 blocks, respectively).
Pacific Place, at Sixth Avenue and Pine Street downtown, is $6 in the evening (entering after 5 p.m.) but is much pricier in the daytime. On Queen Anne, you're at the mercy of (paid) street parking or various small lots. There's always plenty of room in the Mercer Garage, if you don't mind walking a few blocks; prices vary, from $9 to $15 for up to 10 hours.
Better deals are available out of town: At Kirkland Performance Center (hosting SIFF May 31-June 10), free parking is available for up to four hours at the Kirkland Library's Municipal Garage, about half a block west of the theater. The Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center (May 18-24) has a free 150-spot parking lot; if it's full, a city lot on the next block offers free parking for the first two hours. At the Everett Performing Arts Center (May 24-31), there's no free lot parking but street parking is generally plentiful.
How early do I need to get in line?
Depends on whether you have an attachment to a certain seat. SIFF recommends being 30 minutes early, but ticket holders are guaranteed a seat up to 10 minutes before the screening. Passholders, however, should plan on being early; seats are not guaranteed (except for platinum or gala passes) but virtually always available if you're in line 30 minutes before the film.
Can I bring in a sandwich?
The official rule from SIFF is no outside food in the venues. If you simply must, be discreet. Or eat while waiting in line.
What's the Secret Festival?
SIFF newcomers are probably most mystified by the Secret Festival, which veteran festgoers tend to shroud in a maddeningly superior "I'd love to tell you about it, but I can't" attitude.
Here's the deal: Movies at the Secret Fest (every SIFF Sunday at 11 a.m., Egyptian) come from a variety of sources: perhaps an early showing of something up-and-coming, a film that's tied up in litigation and can't be shown otherwise, a film that's making its "official" premiere someplace else, or a lost classic. You might be overwhelmed, you might be underwhelmed — but you won't know unless you go.
In any case, you have to buy a Secret Festival pass from the SIFF box office ($45 for four movies; no individual tickets), and sign an Oath of Silence, meaning that you won't tell anyone what you've seen. Hence the maddening vagueness. SIFF is actually quite serious about enforcing it (understandably, as the availability of the movies depends on keeping them a secret), so don't go telling.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org