The essential MIFF survival guide

How to survive MIFF 2010

The book every festival-goer should have under their arm (yeah, okay, we fudged it)

The doors are about to be flung open again on the Melbourne International Film Festival and as all serious festival-goers know, there is a silent code about what goes and what doesn’t.

Sometimes in life we think we know what we’re doing, and it’s not until somebody says “You can’t wear that to there!” that you realise…perhaps I need a little help?

Well, ACMI is here to help – think a cinephile equivalent of Trinny and Susannah.

Dedicated festival-going should be planned for with the same level of detail as going to the North Pole, building a palace or running a marathon. Careful consideration should be given from the moment you get your guide through to the morning after your last film.

Here I bring you a series of inside tips compiled from some veterans of the festival circuit.



Please turn it off, off!  Nick Richardson

This is your mobile phone. Your phone ringing in the cinema is bad, on vibrate is bad and the light that you think you are concealing under your hand, but which is still reflecting on your face, is bad!

On the subject of your phone. If you are sporting the sort that will allow you to get the MIFF app – do it.

Create a wishlist so you can have it on the road. It also works as a ticket too, storing barcodes for all your sessions. Just make sure if you’re going the distance each day that you recharge.  Tina Sparkle

Said phone will also double for hours of entertainment whilst waiting in queues – again, be careful not to eat your battery up if you’re planning on using it as your ticket.


Do not wear leather jackets that creak. I’ve been there and it made for a tense two hours.  Tim Rowan

I can also tell you that I went to the recent Cremaster Cycle Marathon and my friend was creaking for seven hours straight, while this didn’t bother me, she was forced to sit VERY still.

Tim Rowan also says, “No outfits themed to the movie”. I’m not sure I agree with that one. There is always a time and a place for zombies at any George A Romero feature and everyone loves waiting in line with Darth Vader. Perhaps reconsider if your get-up is going to poke someone in the eye or something similarly litigious.

Hats are a part of Festival attire. They are especially cool if you are a filmmaker or when hanging out with filmmakers – but please take them off in the cinema. Beanies are OK. We live in Melbourne after all.  Tina Sparkle

Rug up in layers. It’s definitely cold in the queue, but is often warm inside the cinema with 200 other nerds mouth-breathing.  Sam Chater

Bring a small fleecy blanket. Amy Purton-Long


Drive in at least one day of the weekend – it will make you feel good knowing you can get home faster after your marathon. Monty

Food & Drink

Apparently, in ACMI’s early days, they would not sell popcorn based on the philosophical argument that the cinema was solely for watching the film. I can sort of understand that, just why is popcorn associated with movie-going?

My greater questions about popcorn are more along the lines of: “Why do grown-ups insist on eating it like the cookie monster?”, and, “Why hasn’t somebody on New Inventors come up with some kind of ‘popcorn-box-to-mouth’ contraption yet?”

Popcorn or not, keeping your strength up throughout the festival is imperative; sometimes you do really have to eat in the cinema, or you will die.

The key here is to think quiet foods. It’s a whole new food category unto itself. Here are some suggestions:

A three week supply of mandarins. They are quiet and smell great – the ultimate cinema super food!  Kristy Matheson

Cook up a big vat of soup so you can eat at least one hearty meal per day (nb. not in the cinema – see Hot Food). Kate Fitzpatrick

Make Nori rolls your friend. Spiro Economopoulos

Take water, fruit and chocolate and chewy. Persuade your housemates to do the cooking during film fest. Monty

Cheese platters are good in theory, not in practice. While cheese itself may fall into the ‘silent food group’, cutting and crackers do not.

In recent years, I’ve taken to carrying a miniature bottle of Jamesons or my trusty hip flask in my goodie bag of supplies. I remember coming out of a Monday night screening of The Three Rooms of Melancholia some years ago – one of the most devastating, humbling, there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I films I’ve ever experienced – and if not for those few nips of Jamesons and the succour of friends who saw the film with me, I may just have had to sit on the curb outside The Forum and cried my little heart out.  Roberta Ciabarra

Have a stock of Butter Menthols on hand at all times (paper packaging only). Tim Rowan

Combine Melbourne winter with the combined body heat of a full cinema and what do you get? Nap time. Keep some sugary snacks and plenty of water on hand. Alternatively, try not to snore. Martyn Pedler

Make sure you have food in your bag – salad rolls are good (without tomato because the rolls go soggy) as they can stay in the bag for hours and not go off. Make sure you wrap them in glad wrap, as that can catch the crumbs and you can unwrap without being noisy and bothering the people around you with rustling. Apples are noisy – mandarins are not. Annie Dolan

And the big ‘Thou Shalt Not’…


You may get hurt. Not because you’ve accidentally spilled your piping hot Butter Chicken into your lap, but because to your fellow patrons three rows back the smell has transmogrified into something that no longer resembles food, the odious new properties of which incites a level of emotional excitement which should not be mistaken for food envy.

Don’t do it, it’s gross.

Home Furnishings

Always choose a seat on the aisle. Richard Sowada

We can’t all do this, but if you know that you are seeing multiple films and you need to run out at the end, or if you suffer any sort of anxiety about being closed in, need multiple toilet breaks, or are saving a seat for a friend – yes, choose an aisle seat. Otherwise, I advise you to cram in to leave the aisle seats for latecomers – odds are that you will be one of them at least once by festival end.

Health & Beauty

Shower daily, maybe more. Pack deodorant if you know you get stinky. Lay off all of the bulbous things that give you bad breath. Bring chewing gum or mints (no rattly tins).

Don’t be afraid to spray perfume liberally on yourself when you are trying to deal with a real stinker beside you. Monty

I can’t believe I am saying this but, please do not ‘break wind’ in the cinema. Just don’t. Really. Don’t.

Know where the toilets are along any route you may choose in and between venues. James Nolen

Organise for a massage when it’s all over. Monty

And so, in just over three weeks time, when the cinema doors have closed and the wind is whipping the last dog-eared festival guide end-over-end down a desolate Flinders Street, there is one last thing to do: ring your family and tell them you missed them.

What are your tips fellow festival bravehearts?

Anna Svedberg, Screen Events Coordinator, ACMI Public Programs
Compiled with the assistance of seasoned festival patrons who have learnt the hard way, with thanks.

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7 Responses to “The essential MIFF survival guide”

  1. S 19. Jul, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    just wondering where can i get this book?

  2. P 19. Jul, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Be nice to Volunteers!
    Keep bags/accoutrement to a minimum.
    Find a place along the cinema route where you can grab a good coffee quickly.

  3. ACMI 21. Jul, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    S. > ‘MIFF 2010: How to Survive’ is rather difficult to get your hands on! But keep an eye out over the next couple of days for another excerpt…

    P.> “Be nice to Volunteers” We couldn’t agree more, especially as a lot of ACMI staff earnt their early stripes volunteering for MIFF, nor could we do what we do without our great volunteers. Plentiful coffee is a must, and everyone should be aware of ACMI’s policy on bags! (p.s. ’tis a little unconventional and on the back of your tickets). Cheers

  4. C 30. Jul, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Can I disagreed with one of the points? Please don’t spray perfume liberally in the cinema, even if the person next to you is stinky. Some people (like my husband) get asthma from too much perfume in the air. You don’t want to ruin someone else’s film by causing them to have an asthma attack.

  5. ACMI 30. Jul, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    Thank you for raising that important point C. The health and comfort of your fellow film companions should be uppermost in mind. And if yours is compromised by a hygienically-challenged neighbour, try switching seats, or dab a little Chanel on a hankie and manage it that way.

  6. Tim Chuma 02. Aug, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Dear ACMI, please consider getting beanbags or reclining seats if you are going to screen something as long as “The Movie Orgy” like Greater Union did on the weekend. People ended up on the floor. I think we broke pretty much every rule of etiquette during the movie but even Joe Dante said it was OK just to walk out and come back in. The person next to me fell asleep and woke up to see a cat playing the piano with a tiny mouse drumming.

  7. ACMI 04. Aug, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Tim. That is alarming. We will make sure to include stern warnings in next year’s guide about falling asleep during films featuring anthropomorphised animals. Excellent suggestions re: seating. Additionally, any pointers to reputable poolside furniture suppliers gratefully received. And even if Joe says it’s okay to break the rules…well…I guess…it is Joe.

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