Not everyone can go to Cannes, Sundance, and Toronto -- and thank goodness! Those places are crowded enough as it is. South By Southwest, heretofore a medium-sized film festival, in 2010 was suddenly plagued with sold-out screenings and disappointed pass-holders. Everyone wants to check out the big festivals, and with good reason. They have a lot to offer. But are the smaller fests completely devoid of virtues? I assert with great vehemence that they are not! Using the Oxford (Miss.) Film Festival and the Ashland (Ore.) Independent Film Festival as examples -- simply because I've been to both fests recently -- I can see several good reasons to forgo the expensive trip to Sundance and take advantage of what's close to home.
Smaller crowds = better chances of getting in. The number one thing people complain about at the major fests is holy crap there are too many people here what the hell we're never going to get in we've stood in line for two hours and now there aren't even any more &@*#@&* wait-list tickets. At fests like Oxford and Ashland, screenings tend to be full, but not so full that you have to get in line first thing in the morning for even a chance of getting in. And for lesser-known titles, you can often stroll up five minutes before showtime and get a seat just fine. Try that at Sundance and see what happens.
Tickets are cheaper... The Oxford fest, held Feb. 4-7 this year, charged $50 ($40 for students) for a pass covering all four days of the festival, all screenings. Ashland, which ran this past weekend, charged $225 for a similar pass, and tickets to individual screenings were $10, with senior and student discounts available. Meanwhile, a five-day pass at Sundance, with access to all screenings, was $3,000. Or you could pay $750 and get 20 individual tickets. At Tribeca, which runs April 21-May 2, it's $400 for 20 tickets. You get the idea.