There is an intoxicating mental dissonance that sets in when you hit the movies before 8 a.m. Everything around you, from your bedhead reflection in the mirror and the traffic-free streets to the empty parking lots and the slowly brightening sky, suggests that the day has only just begun. But then there is your destination: the movie theater, a place we typically reserve for the end of the day or, on a rare occasion, a mid-afternoon treat. But that, my friends, is the magic of the Film Festival — it forces you to put movie watching front and center and just plain do things differently for a few days every winter.
I first got turned on to the wonders of early-morning movie-going during a SBIFF nearly 10 years ago. Despite having a press pass that allowed me special access, I had grown frustrated by the crush of crowds. My previous survival maneuver — the late-night screenings — had become panic attack inducing and fights over “saved seats” had started breaking out during screenings that, just a year prior, had been virtual ghost towns. Such is the shadow of emerging popularity. And so, armed with a strong cup of coffee and a strong desire for elbow room, I set my alarm one fateful night in the midst of a drunken bedtime grog that one can only get at an SBIFF after-party and their damned open bars. A few hours later, the sky colored gore by the bright red hues of dawn, I was up and getting ready for the movies. Already, my world had been changed.
What I found on my fateful first visit to the so-called “Breakfast Club” of the Film Festival was everything I had been longing for in my SBIFF experience: shorter lines, happier people, the high-quality cinema, and an introduction to the film by the man himself, Roger Durling. It turns out the Durls has a sweet spot for the breakfast crowd, and since he seems not to sleep during the festival, he often makes a point of attending the morning’s first films and doing the emcee duties himself. And, as any Film Fest veteran will tell you, when the Durls is introducing your film, you know you have chosen wisely. That day proved no exception; the film was excellent, and I was officially hooked. Movies for breakfast became my new Film Fest mantra almost immediately.
Walking out of a powerful film with your entire day still in front of you is a most exceptional feeling, and, well, you can’t watch movies all day if you don’t start in the morning.