It’s my favorite time of year! No, I’m not a winter person. And, though I am no Scrooge, I just don’t get that excited about the holidays. No, something amazing is happening in my corner of the world December 7th-10th- Other Worlds Austin Science Fiction Film Festival (OWA)! Let me explain why this event so awesome I had to get a babysitter for my dog.
OWA is now in it’s 4th year as Austin, Texas’s only dedicated science fiction film festival. And yes, I’ve been every year. It has grown into a 4-day fest that screens and celebrates the diverse spectrum of scifi, as well as adding horror in 2016 with its Under Worlds sidebar. There are independent, international feature films and short films all making their Austin debuts at least, some as much as making their world premiere.
Films are voted on by festival attendees for Audience Choice awards, as well as given awards from the programming staff (Cthulies). In 2015 OWA added the Mary Shelley Award, awarded to “the artist (writer, director, or actress) whose film best furthers the involvement and representation of women in genre filmmaking.”
This year’s Launch Film is the 20th Anniversary screening of Event Horizon with writer Philip Eisner in attendance. I just had to painfully hold myself back from writing that entire sentence in all caps to show my excitement. Eisner is also leading a screenwriting workshop Saturday morning at the Austin School of Film Motion Media Arts Center. I will be there taking all the notes.
Did I mention the parties? One very important thing that sets OWA apart from other great festivals is the community it builds. Brunch, happy hour, preshow parties, and after-parties are scheduled with the attendees in mind. Though some are reserved for top-tier badgeholders, there are parties available to everyone. They have specialty drink menus appropriately themed for the occasion, and this year they’ve added a trivia night. Every year I get the chance to meet other fans and some of the film casts and crews over cocktails to talk about the films and scifi in general. I’ve made many great friends and valued acquaintances during these fun mingling times.
The staff really are the reason why OWA is able to build such a great event. I would know, I used to work with them. They are kind, funny, true fans who want to do the best they can to bring OWA to the scifi fans of Austin and beyond. They work year-round to find the best new scifi films to screen in Austin and make each fest better than the last. They can always be found around the fest, are helpful and ready to engage in any conversation about their favorite films. They’re good people doing stellar work. I am over the moon for all of them.
Last year OWA moved it’s base from central-ish Austin to the far north end of the city. I must admit, traveling to a galaxy far, far away (driving from South Austin to Round Rock) is not ideal. However, having Flix Brewhouse host the fest was the right move. Flix has a wonderful kitchen, a superb microbrewery, a huge free parking lot, great screens, and convenient food and drink service during the films. Their tables even slide out to meet you at your seat so eating in the dark isn’t quite as messy. I definitely need that. The venue upgrade vastly makes up for the drive.
The only real complaint I can come up with is that each film is only offered once in the program and with two theaters running, I will have to miss some of the film selections. I know how much work and care the staff puts into curating such an incredible program and I want to see all of it. I think this is just a symptom of the fest still being on the newer and smaller side, and something they could possibly remedy as the festival continues to grow. But getting the twelve guaranteed screenings, the film guest Q&As, the pre and after parties, brunch, and the screenwriting workshop that all come with my top-tier badge, at under $100, I actually feel selfish and guilty for complaining that I can’t get more.
So, this week I am faced with decisions. I haven’t figured out all my film picks yet. But these are what I know for sure. The shorts programs are always my favorite. This year there are three collections of short films- one horror, and two scifi. These take priority for me. Beyond Skyline is the only film that plays both theaters at the same time, so that is a sure bet. I think it should go without saying that I’ll be there for Event Horizon. The other films I’m leaning toward (probably?) are Flora, Tuftland, Restoration, and The Black Hole. This really is a tough one to call. I might just do blind picks and know I’ll be happy either way.
If you’re a science fiction fan in the Austin area, you’d be doing a huge disservice to yourself to miss this film festival. Badges are still on sale, and tickets for individual screenings are also available while they last. I hope I see you there. I’ll be the overly excited girl in some sort of spacey dress. Please say hello if you see me, so I can reiterate to you in person why Other Worlds Austin consistently makes me so happy.