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Favourite Films of 2012

Chris Campbell

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Every year there are a lot of great films and it is good to make up a list of the films that I really enjoyed. It's funny, but over time it seems that it has become a bit easier in making up the list. The number of films is kind of arbitrary. There is no reason to limit it to ten films, but that seems to be the general rule. It's really not about making up a list, but sharing your love of films with people, so in that spirit here are some of the films that really made me think and moved me and made me laugh.

Holy Motors

I was looking forward to Leos Carax' Holy Motors for a long time. I wasn't sure what it would be like or even if it would work. His previous films have all be interesting, but flawed, but they were always magnificent failures that had utterly transcendent moments. With Holy Motors, his first film in over a decade it seems that he worked quickly and came up with something that is lighter and more fun than anything I've seen in a long, long time. It's episodic and a bit rambling, but in a strange way it is the most focussed of his films. It is about filmmaking and acting and it is so much fun that I can't wait to see it again.

Rust and Bone

Every one of Jacques Audiard's films that I've seen have resonated with me on one level or another. They take people from the margins and put them through harrowing situations. The premises are always fascinating and really close to melodrama, but somehow through the writing, acting, and direction he manages to make them utterly compelling. So when I heard that with his latest film, Rust and Bone was about a street fighter and a killer whale trainer, I knew that it was probably going to be a lot more than the premise would suggest. It gripped me right from the beginning and completely devastated me by the end. Powerful, beautiful, and remarkable, it was amazing and unexpected.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Quiet spaces and indirect narratives are something that I like and with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan it is a film that I didn't know much about and was fascinated by as it slowly emerged before me. Mostly set at night with people driving through the countryside it is about a murder and finding a body, but that's not really what it is about. I wasn't sure who the main characters were, but gradually it became clear and emotionally powerful. It works slowly and deliberately and it stuck with me for days.

The Loneliest Planet

A few years ago I saw the film Day Night Day Night, directed by Julia Loktev and set in New York with a young woman who is preparing to detonate a suicide bomb. Frustratingly oblique with little dialogue and information, it kept me transfixed throughout. Then I heard about her latest film, The Loneliest Planet with different subject matter, but it has the same naturalistic style and control. The smallest detail can become significant and this time the story focusses on a couple hiking through the mountains in the country of Georgia with a guide. Most of the film consists of them walking and we see the evolution of the relationship as they hike. It's slow and beautiful and haunting.

Killing Them Softly

After seeing that the director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford had another film coming out with Brad Pitt, I was anticipating it eagerly. But this time Andrew Dominik changes things up and while it is visually interesting, there is a tightness and focus to Killing Them Softly that was unexpected. It's built around a series of scenes with characters mainly talking about their lives, but it is punctuated through bursts of violence. A different character study that is challenging, but rewarding.

Magic Mike

While the film was marketed as being about strippers (and there is a bunch about strippers), Magic Mike is part of Steven Soderberg's ongoing series of films that work in a naturalistic way within genre conventions that feel like they are from the 70s. With Magic Mike Soderberg begins the film with the old Warner Brothers logo and he shoots it in a controlled style with the actors being loose and improvisational. It's a character drama disguised as a film about strippers and it's yet another confident film from Soderberg.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

There were rumblings about Beasts of the Southern Wild from the festival circuit and I was very glad when it showed up and it surprised with in the understated tone and magical realism of the story. Much more moving that I thought it would be it was a unique look at an isolated community with an inventive approach to cinematic storytelling with an ensemble cast and confident direction by Benh Zeitlin. Quite magical.

Looper

My most-anticipated film of last year had to be Looper with Rian Johnson teaming up again with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for their second film since Brick (one of my favourites). With Looper Johnson was telling a time-travel story with film noir elements, so it looked as though it would be good and it was. Very good in fact, so I went to see it a couple of times in the theatre and kept enjoying it more each time. Crafting good science fiction that makes you think and forms a compelling thriller is a challenge and Johnson rises to it.

Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley is intriguing and challenging as a filmmaker. Choosing diverse projects to direct she had Take This Waltz which I really liked for the complicated portrait of Michelle Williams, but with her documentary Stories We Tell it was an emotional and beautiful look at her mother and how her family related to her. A dazzlingly complex and personal image emerges as it shifts and changes over time and filtered through the memories and experiences of everyone who surrounded her. It's an amazing documentary that manages to tell a great story and make a statement about the nature of truth.

The Hunt

There is something about Scandinavian cinema and the combination of melodrama and naturalism that seems to work really well for me. This year I was glad to see The Hunt from Thomas Vinterberg who created the truly stunning The Celebration which kicked off the Dogme 95 movement. While The Hunt doesn't work within the Dogme restrictions, it's a carefully constructed story about a man in a small town wrongly accused of a crime and how that completely disrupts his life. At the centre of the film is an amazing Mads Mikkelsen with a great supporting cast. It's a great drama that is subtle and challenging.

I'd been working on this list for a while and in 2 sessions I sat down and wrote about these films without looking at my list to see what stood out for me and it came out to ten. But looking at the full list there are a few other films that were great and deserve honourable mention. My honourable mentions would be the odd comedy Wrong, the Pixar drama Brave, the fun Scottish whisky heist film The Angel's Share, Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways, and Steve McQueen's Shame. In the strange gap between festival screenings and release there are some films that were on lists last year, but they didn't get widely distributed until this year. So in that category I would include Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Steven Soderberg's Haywire.

Hopefully I'll write bigger reviews of some of these films, but let me know what you saw and loved last year.

Twitterrific 5

Chris Campbell

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My iPhone is a slab of glass and metal that can be a bit magical. A new app can change your perception of the whole device. The same thing can happen with services and websites too. It's a challenge for me to separate Twitter from Iconfactory's Twitterrific app. I started using Twitter early (back in 2006) and initially I used it with my pre-iPhone and on the web. But it was in January of 2007 that Iconfactory launched Twitterrific and that changed the way that I used and saw Twitter. The colour scheme and look are burned into my brain, so that's how I think about the different types of tweets. My tweets are green, replies are brown and direct messages are blue. I got into the iPhone game late (the iPhone 4 is my first iPhone), so I was able to dive right in with Twitterrific there and I loved it too.

With the right app it changes the whole experience. Above having a smoothly-functioning app, the Iconfactory create things that look great. With Twitter the actual content is relatively simple as it is text, so if you can display the text well, it's good. Combine that with additional functionality in terms of posting and viewing other content and it makes it all quite seamless and wonderful. Within Twitterrific they’ve innovated with features that have become standard and many associate Ollie, the icon for Twitterrific, with Twitter itself.

While others moved to more complex apps with multiple columns and accounts and looks, I stuck with Twitterrific on the desktop and my phone. This is software with an opinion about how it should look and work. I agreed with that opinion and I'm so glad that I've stayed with them. They have a point of view, but they listen and evolve and it's fascinating to see how it has changed over the years. Every major update had a few changes. It was all recognizable, but there was a bit of an adjustment period in getting used to some of the refinements.

The app keeps up-to-date with innovations in the operating systems without being too bleeding edge. The vast majority of my tweets have been created through it and I expect that it will continue. The sad spectre lurking over app developers for Twitter is that there is a finite limit to the number of people who can use their apps. It's complicated and most people who use Twitter won't know or really care about it. But it's sad for me as it means that things are moving towards a single web-based interface. I'm hoping that the space and tools enjoyed by more advanced users will remain for a long time.

My other fear was that with the changes that there wouldn't be another update to Twitterrific, but today there is a quite wonderful update for the iPhone and iPad. With version 5 there are no longer two separate versions, but just one. The interface is cleaner with new gestures. Swipe right to reply to a tweet, swipe left to see the conversation. That's nice and fast. It fills the screen more and overall is easier to use. I'm still trying to figure out the best combination of theme and font size, but right out of the box (app store?) it's solid and easy to use. There are three buttons at the top of the screen for the unified timeline, replies and direct messages. This makes it clearer what is going on and there are subtle and beautiful light indicators at the bottom of the buttons to let you know when there are new replies or DMs. You can pull to refresh and there is a delightful animation where you have to pull down and break an egg so a bird emerges and starts to fly.

One neat addition is adding locations to tweets (which had come and gone in various iterations) and continued easy ways to add photos to tweets. I haven't really used location that much with Twitter, but I think I will now. It's funny how having things added in a certain way can change your perception of them. I'm sure that there are other features that I haven't seen or explored yet that will be useful. Search has been improved which will make it easier to add other people and the usual solid sharing functionality is still there. It's a neat improvement to an old friend. Ollie, the Twitterrific mascot also looks a bit different too. He keeps getting bigger in the icon. He's the thing I associate most with Twitter and I'm so glad that he's still around and helping me connect with the world in short bursts.

Big Day Downtown 2012

Chris Campbell

One of the wonderful things about living close to Halifax is that the city doesn't become too familiar. At various times of the year I'll spend more time in the city, but most of the time my visits are focussed and relatively quick. Working in Dartmouth, but living in Wolfville means that I spend a lot of time on the road. By the time the end of the day rolls around I usually won't hang around in the city. But at certain times of the year or for certain people or events, I spend more time getting to know the place where I work and the place that I see across the harbour.

Luckily I was chosen to be part of Big Day Downtown again by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and it's a great opportunity to think about downtown Halifax and what I can do there. Working within constraints is a good thing and the basic rules are that you're given $100 you can spend however you want in downtown businesses. Being the third time poses some challenges as you don't want to repeat yourself and want to do things that are interesting. The twist this time was randomly pairing the bloggers up and getting us to share our adventures.

So often with social media and the various ways that we share words and images online we construct imaginary people in our minds. It's similar to how we visualize radio or podcast hosts or musicians whose voices we hear. Real people are complex and wonderful and any chance to meet them in person is good. To be able to socialize and laugh in person can be even better. The online scene in Halifax is active and strong with a diverse range of voices and people who share what they love in interesting ways. Sometimes we forget how special this is and projects like this that remind us of the community and the people who are part of it.

The kickoff event was at Morris East, which is one of my favourite restaurants and one of the places where I went for my first Big Day Downtown. The assembled bloggers mingled and socialized. It was nice to see familiar faces and catch up with people in a socially unmediated way. Being able to connect and share with people electronically is good, but it's nice to be a room with people (along with food and drinks). When the names were drawn from the bowl I wondered who I'd be teamed up with. Would it be someone I knew? Would it be someone who shared interests with me, or would it be a surprise?

My partner for the Big Day was prolific blogger Jill Mader, who I knew from Couchtime With Jill. It seemed as if the choice was almost too perfect with Jill's focus on tv and my focus on films. The rough outline for the day was worked out at the opening event with the discussion swirling around favourite tv shows and celebrities. A couple of weeks later we met up again to start our Big Day.

Jill figured out some of the places where celebrities had been in downtown Halifax, so that provided choices for where to go. I'm sure that we just scratched the surface, but I was happy with the list since it gave me the chance to combine old and new places. She wrote about her Halifamous tour over on her blog.

Two if By Sea

Two if By Sea

Our day was a Thursday after work, so before I met up with Jill I made a quick stop at Two if By Sea cafe to get a coffee. TiBS is one of my favourite places to get coffee and their new location in the Historic Properties is great. A simple counter that wraps around a corner holds everything that you could want if you love coffee and pastries. There are coffee beans to take home, along with cookies, croissants and mini croissants. Their slogan is "Drink drip, eat butter" which really sums it up. The menu is written on chalkboards on the walls and hanging from the ceiling and the coffee is fresh and strong. Knowing that I'd have a meal shortly the choice that I made was to have a cappuccino which, as usual, was just right. Sipping the coffee I walked through the Historic Properties and outside on my way to the first stop and meeting up with Jill.

Freak Lunchbox

Freak Lunchbox

This was a repeat visit (both in general and in the Big Day Downtown context) to Freak Lunchbox. The reason for going here again was that it apparently was visited by Rob Lowe (who crosses over both into film and television). Other celebrity visitors have been Tom Selleck, Julianne Moore, Lucy Liu, Gabriel Byrne, and Gene Wilder. Freak Lunchbox is a relatively small candy store packed with all sorts of tasty treats and novelties. The back of the store is lined with bins filled with the most amazing range of candies. You pick a bag or box and start to fill it up. Near the front of the store are boxes of candies, chocolates and a whole wall of novelty items. I looked and looked and looked, but decided to take the plunge and get a takeout box and start to fill it up with candy. The other thing that intrigued me was a Pac Man arcade console holding candy (not to scale, it's a lot smaller than an actual Pac Man machine). With a bunch of candy in our hands, Jill and I walked down the street to our next stop.

Pac Man Candy

The Bicycle Thief

There are a few reasons that I wanted to go to The Bicycle Thief and the primary one was that I had heard great things about it, but hadn't ever managed to go. The other reasons are that Pierce Brosnan ate there and it's a restaurant that is named after the great Italian Neorealist film. So this was the core of my big day.

Old Fashioned

We started off by looking through the large menu and ordered some drinks. Having a favourite television show in mind, I ordered an Old Fashioned (the drink of Mad Men's Don Draper). It looked great and tasted great as well. Jill got a newer raspberry fizz which she enjoyed. Well-made cocktails are a perfect way to start off a dinner at the end of a long day.

Red ravioli

Would it be possible for me to find good vegetarian options? The menu has a strong selection of meat-based dishes, but there are some quite great-looking options for vegetarians aside from the salads. I'm not vegan, so that opens up a few more choices for me. The menu is divided into 1st Gear, 2nd Gear, and High Gear. It was in 2nd Gear where I made my decision. The Red Ravioli filled with ricotta, Mascarpone, spinach, fresh herbs, light cream sauce looked amazing and was so good. The right thing to have while you talk about films and tv with someone who also enjoys those things too.

Desert

Having something a bit smaller was good as it gave me the chance to try something from the desert menu, which was also extensive. It all looked really good and I picked from the top of the list with the Triple layered Butterscotch Caramel cake, with crushed toasted Pecans on top. The balance of sweet and salty was just right and I savoured it. With the sun having set and the day being long, we wrapped up our day and on my drive home I thought of how I could spend the rest of money in the coming days.

Obladee Menu

Obladee Wine Bar

It didn't take too long to figure out a place to go as the next day I was downtown again, this time as guest of Kendra (@halifaxfilmgal on Twitter) who was participating in the HPX Digital conference. She invited me to the closing party of HPX Digital which was happening at Pacifico Dancebar. I met up with Kendra earlier and we went to Obladee Wine Bar which just happened to be celebrating their 2nd anniversary. Walking in I saw some familiar Halifax social media types including fellow Big Day Downtown participant Cheryl of Wry and Ginger fame.

After catching up a bit with Cheryl on what she had done with her Big Day, Kendra and I took advantage of the special on sparking wines and had a couple, along with some of the tiny birthday cake that was offered to us. We talked mainly about films (as usual) as the Epiphonics provided a jazz soundtrack to the evening. It was quite nice and I really need to get to Obladee more to enjoy the wine, the food and the comfortable and classy atmosphere there. It's a real treasure to have a place like that downtown.

Saint Lou's Gentlemen's Barber Shop

The final stop in my multi-day Big Day Downtown was a place that I'd wanted to go to for a while. I walked by it after getting my coffee at Two if By Sea at the beginning of this story (but you probably didn't notice since you only really are seeing the things that I describe here with my words). My hair and beard were getting a bit long, so when I first heard about the new Big Day Downtown the very first place that I thought of was Saint Lou's Gentlemen's Barber Shop. Nestled in to a small space in the Historic Properties with a glowing barber pole beside the door, Saint Lou's has one barber chair, one barber, and three chairs to wait in. There is music playing, a guitar on the wall and a friendly barber named Rob, who greeted me as I entered the shop and he cut the hair of a man sitting in the chair. There are no appointments, you just show up. As I sat down he asked if I'd like a beer or a coffee while I waited. This is a choice that I hadn't had when getting a haircut before. I chose the coffee and was able to have another delicious cup of coffee from Two if By Sea. Even before the haircut started I knew that I made the right choice coming here.

In the chair the haircut began and Rob skillfully trimmed up my hair and beard. We chatted a bit and I found out that his brother was a student of mine and that he got his barber training initially at NSCC at the very campus where I started with the college on Bell Road. He worked in Halifax and Australia and then returned back to Nova Scotia and opened the shop with a casual vibe and high-quality haircuts at reasonable prices. It's great to have places like Saint Lou's and people like Rob downtown. It's the heart of a city and the simplest business model there is - provide a service that people need, in a personal way that makes you happy. That's how you end a Big Day Downtown - looking a bit better than you began as you drive home thinking about things that you want to do the next time that you come back.

Favourite Films of the 2012 Atlantic Film Festival

Chris Campbell

The Atlantic Film Festival is an annual festival that assembles a range of great short and feature films along with the filmmaking community in Halifax, Nova Scotia to celebrate cinema. This year was a very good one and I was able to take full advantage of the screenings and many of the parties. It's the one time of year when you can watch films and catch up with most of the filmmakers from the region. The other great thing is that it usually is the place where some of my favourite films of the year will be seen and today is no exception. Here are 10 of my favourite feature films from this year's festival in the order that I saw them.

The Disappeared

The Disappeared

Shandi Mitchell's feature directing and writing debut The Disappeared poses a challenge in terms of subject matter in that it tells the story of 6 men in two boats, lost at sea. She embraced the constraints and tells a compelling story that was shot on the water to create a moving look at men in an extreme situation that held me through the entire journey. With a solid cast, beautiful cinematography and immersive sound design, it's a timeless story of courage and friendship.

The Angels' Share

The Angels' Share

The opening film of the festival was Ken Loach's lighter drama The Angels' Share that brings his social realist approach to what ultimately becomes a heist film. With leisurely pace and a fantastic cast it has some challenging dramatic moments as well as a lot of humour. It is ultimately about redemption, friendship, community and how we deal with our past and those we care about as time passes. I saw it twice and loved it both times, especially for the audience reactions the second time.

Blackbird

Blackbird

Another promising debut feature at the festival was Jason Buxton's Blackbird which is built around some great performances by a younger cast. Set and shot in Nova Scotia, it is about a teen who faces challenges fitting in at school and in the small town where he lives. A series of misunderstandings lead to the 16 year old being incarcerated and it changes him. It was engrossing and a subtle more subtle and realistic look at growing up in extreme circumstances.

Holy Motors

Holy Motors

One of the films that I was looking forward to purely in terms of knowing that it would be different was Leos Carax's Holy Motors. The descriptions were vague and strange with the images I'd seen looking compelling and different. With his previous track record of visually and aurally stunning films that made up for thin stories with their cinematic beauty I was willing to go where he took me. What surprised me was how much fun the film was. It's an episodic film that really is about cinema and actors. One of the fascinating things about the film is how it reinforces that it is a film with actors, but then somehow managed to make me forget about that repeatedly. I would love to see it again on a big screen.

Beauty is Embarrassing

Beauty is Embarrassing

Wayne White is the fascinating subject of the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing. It's always wonderful to find out about someone whose work you know, but never realized where it came from. A grounded and genial person, White takes us through his life and art in a film that had me repeatedly laughing and smiling. From growing up in the south to an art school education that led to working in television with Pee Wee's Playhouse it's fun to follow along with an artist who has a unique voice and joyful perspective on life.

Wrong

Wrong

Not having seen the director's previous film Rubber, I didn't know what to expect and I took a chance and was very pleasantly surprised by Quentin Dupieux's Wrong which is a surreal and understated film about a man who loses his dog. Shot with bright colours and controlled frames, it has an odd tone that is just a bit off. It never really explains anything, but it was fun to go along for the ride in a slightly unsettling world that reminded me a bit of Visioneers in how it combined humour with a bit of melancholy. Unexpected fun for me.

Brooklyn Castle

Brooklyn Castle

Starting off a day with a documentary about chess players at a Brooklyn junior high is a pretty good day as far as I'm concerned. The key elements to a great documentary are interesting characters, a compelling story and some technical expertise in terms of filming the story. Brooklyn Castle has all of that and it takes a more understated tone and gives us a fascinating portrait of a range of students at the school who are united by playing chess and it gives us glimpses of the challenges that are faced by the school system in New York. A neat way to combine the personal and political in an entertaining way.

The Hunt

The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg made a huge impression with the first Dogme 95 film, The Celebration, and while he hasn't been making films following the rules of Dogme, he has continued to create tense, dramatic works with solid casts and a more naturalistic shooting style. In The Hunt he builds the film around a great performance by Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher wrongly accused of sexually abusing a student. The dynamics of a small town and personal histories combine in a tense story that was utterly compelling. One of the highlights of the festival for me in a theatre that was packed and silent at the end of the amazing film.

Laurence Anyways

Laurence Anyways

Xavier Dolan follows up his previous two Quebecois films with the slightly heavier, but still visually and sonically-ambitious film Laurence Anyways. Spanning 10 years in the 1990s, it's about a man who transitions to a woman and the relationship between him and the woman he loves. Melvil Poupaud is the man who transitions, but the real star of the film is Suzanne Clément who gives an amazing performance as his lover, Fred. Going in to the film at the end of the long day I was concerned with the longer running time, but the film had perfect pacing and held my interest for the entire time and it was a bit surprising when it was over as it didn't feel too long. With gorgeous colours and compositions in a narrower 1.33:1 aspect ratio accompanied by a great soundtrack, it's a lovely look at a complicated relationship.

Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone

It's always good to save the best for the last and the perfect way to end the festival for me was one of my most-anticipated films of the year, which was Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone, which I knew very little about. Going in without a lot of knowledge is a good thing with Audiard as he usually takes things in unexpected directions. His usual themes of flawed characters in seedier worlds are here, but with Rust and Bone there is less of a criminal underworld and more character and personal struggle. Beautifully shot and acted with Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts as the leads, it's emotionally devastating while maintaining hope that carries us through the struggles that the characters face. Great, transcendent cinema that had the audience totally enraptured the entire time. One of my favourite films of the past year.

Preparing for the Atlantic Film Festival

Chris Campbell

Transient

Every year there is a wonderful sense of anticipation in the fall as school starts up again and I begin a new term of teaching. But the greatest anticipation is for the Atlantic Film Festival which is a wonderful opportunity to see great films and spend time with friends talking about films we've seen and to network with the people who tell stories on the screen in our region. But to get the most out of the film festival you need to be prepared to take care of yourself, to have a plan for what you want to see, and to keep track of what you've seen. So much happens over any festival and if you have a film fan pass or a delegate badge there is a whole lot to do and by the time it ends you will have forgotten many things. Here are some of the ways that I get ready for the Atlantic Film Festival (but the tips will help for any festival) and the systems that I use to track what is happening.

Choosing Films

This year the Atlantic Film Festival runs for a week with films every day. Assuming that you don't go to the press / delegate screenings there are roughly about 2 - 3 slots every day with feature films and shorts playing. Your first task is to figure out which of those films in each slot you want to see. Sometimes you'll have about 4 or 5 different choices. Depending on how many films you are going to see, take some chances on films you haven't heard anything about. The programmers have watched a lot of films and you'll be seeing the best of what they've seen. Everyone doesn't share the same taste, but it's great to take a chance and see something new. If you've heard a lot about something it probably will be easier to see it later, so seek out the more obscure titles. There are some films that take years to be released on DVD, but you can see them on a big screen and not have to wait. Do a bit of research on the films, directors, writers and actors in those films. When making up your schedule (and you'll need to get the guide or go to the web site) try to have some things that you are sure about balanced off with surprises.

A Bag

When you assemble the stuff you need for the festival, you need a place to keep it, so a good bag is important. The bag will be with you and will hold all of your stuff. Some clothes and food and the paper version of the guide as well as pens, notebooks, and maybe even your own printed schedule for the festival. If you're from out of town it may also be good to have a list of places to get stuff (food, drink, and other supplies) in your bag too. If you have a smart phone you can bring an extra battery or charger along and maybe even a laptop (for quick blog posts or updates at coffee shops). My bag of choice is a Manhattan Portage Manhattan bag that is simple and big enough to hold a bunch of stuff like a water bottle, energy bars, a light jacket, notebooks, pens, a USB battery charger, cables and an iPad. If I'm riding my bike I may use my Knog briefcase-style bag that hooks on to the back of my bike.

A Notebook

While you can take notes on a smart phone, you don't want to be the person who has a phone on during a film. Don't be that person. So then you'll need to have some way of taking notes and a notebook is ideal for that. It's hard to see, but I'll scribble down quotes sometimes during a film. It's not the easiest thing to read, but it's good for reminding me when the film is done. As the lights come up at the end and people start going out you usually have a bit of time to write some stuff down. Sometimes I've bought a small, softcover Moleskine Cahier notebook to write in. Most of the time I use a standard Moleskine Pocket Notebook that will fit in my pocket and write down the names of the film after the number of the film. I start at 1 and then go up from there. I keep track of the feature films and the short films. This is where the guide comes in handy as you can get the title right and also add some notes about the actors or director by finding the names in the guide if you forget about them.

Social Media / Web Sites

Twitter is great for staying in touch with people, finding out about films, and sharing what you've seen or asking advice on what to see. But some of us feel a need to keep track of more things and there are other tools to use for that. My favourite private tool for keeping track of all of the films that I watch is Nathan Yau's powerful tool that combines Twitter with the collection of personal data. It's called Your Flowing Data and I use it to keep track of all of the films I watch. You add YFD to your Twitter contacts and then send direct messages with the data that you want to track. While I track films as well as lots of other data, for films it's simple with the "watched" part being revelant and then I add hash tags to keep track of where I've seen the film (#theatre, #netflix, #dvd, or #aff2012 for the 2012 Atlantic Film Festival). As I write this I can tell you that in 2012 so far I've watched 194 films, which means that at some point during the festival this year there is a good chance that I will break the 200 film mark. If you want to share more of what you're watching a new site that I quite like is the New Zealand-based film community called Letterboxd. It lets you share a profile, what you've watched, as well as being able to review, rate and create lists of films. So I'll probably create a list of films I've seen at the 2012 Atlantic Film Festival to be able to share that with other people. You can also do some similar things with IMDb, but I really like the look and community that grown up around Letterboxd. You can also use Festival Genius online and on your smart phone to check the schedule, create your own schedule and rate films. On the site you can also see what is popular and rate the films that you've watched. Sometimes this is a good way to get an idea of things that you want to see and keep track of things as well.

Food

Think about what you are going to eat and when. Get some protein and energy bars to bring with you in case the food plans fall through. Pack a lunch and some snacks. Popcorn is great, but after 2 or 3 days you will probably have sore lips, so spread out the treats over the length of the festival. It can also get expensive to buy snacks and meals every day, so packing at least one meal for each day will make a big difference.

Drink

Bring a water bottle and keep it filled. While there may not be a lot of water fountains around, it's good to stay hydrated. Juice is good too and occaisional soft drinks from the theatre can be nice, but the cost can add up quickly. In a pinch there is the combo that was introduced for the film festival a few years ago with a bottle of water along with popcorn.

Clothes

Wear comfortable clothes. If you're taking advantage of the festival with a pass you'll be spending a lot of time in the dark, so the look doesn't really matter. With parties or galas you will want to dress up a bit, so finding the right balance is a personal challenge that you'll need to face. For guys the classic combo is a blazer and t-shirt with jeans, but the imporant things to watch are up on the screen, so opt for comfort over style if you're not sure. Keep in mind that while it may be warm outside that it will probably be cooler in the theatre, so finding the right balance will make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

Exercise

Sitting in a theatre for hours at a time is a lot of fun on one level, but on another level it can make you stiff and sore. Moving around and stretching between films is imporant. Being deep within Park Lane means that you won't see much sunshine or breathe fresh air, so take advantage of breaks to get outside and walk around. Even just walking around the block outside can clear your mind and give you a bit of energy for the other upcoming films.

Talk With People

Being socially awkward makes it difficult to meet and talk to people, but the great thing about a film festival and the people in the theatres is that we're all there for the same reason – we love films – so you have a head-start on conversation as it's different from the standard multiplex crowd. Share your thoughts and talk with people. The theatres are filled with filmmakers and actors, producers, and directors so let them know if you liked their work. Thank programmers for their choices and chat with staff and volunteers and let them know that you appreciate the work they do to share films with us. We get to enjoy their hard work and see the films they've picked and brought to us.

Enjoy the festival and have fun!