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Meet a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD: Mike Saulters

Mike Saulters - Fantastic Die Hard!
by Jason Whyte

We’re coming up to the end of Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, but we are far from done talking to our Fantastic Fest die hards. Meet Mike Saulters, an Austin local who is deeply rooted in the Austin film community.

“I’ve been in Austin 20 years and work in IT. I grew up in northeast Texas and came here to attend UT.”

What makes you a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD?

I have been a Fantastic Fest die-hard since day one. I logged in to buy a badge the minute they went on sale in 2005, and I have been a strong supporter of the fest from the beginning. At that time Austin, except for SXSW, didn’t receive the kind of attention it is afforded now. We didn’t have any regular events for geeks, like big sci-fi or comic conventions much less a genre film festival. The first couple of years, Fantastic Fest didn’t receive much press attention, and I watched everything I could fit into my schedule and wrote up everything I saw, including shorts, and sent it to Harry Knowles, who included it in the coverage from AICN.

How do you explain Fantastic Fest to someone who is not familiar with the film festival? What would you do or say to get them to attend the following fest?

Fantastic Fest is a week-long party where anything can, and does, happen. It is a very relaxed, friendly environment where everyone is there for the same reason, namely that we love watching genre movies. There are big premieres and secret screenings, but the fest also offers a chance to see magnificent films that sometimes for various reasons are not picked up for distribution. A week at Fantastic Fest will provide not just one but many memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Every attendee experiences Fantastic Fest differently, so I'm curious as to what a day is like for you at the festival.

I try to see a film in every slot, but there are must-see events as well, including Scott Weinberg’s invention, the Fantastic Feud, the Fantastic Debates, and the closing night party. My day includes 3-5 movies, with hours spent in between talking to friends and occasionally filmmakers. At least several nights during the fest friends will hang out after a midnight screening until as late as 5am talking about everything we’ve seen. Then, I drive home, write up my day and sleep as much as I can before starting again the following day.

Overall, what are you looking forward to the most at Fantastic Fest, 2011 edition?

I have made many friends from other cities and outside the US who I only get to see during the fest. This year, Nacho Vigalondo is bringing his latest feature, Extraterrestrial, and I’m excited for that. I hear the closing night party will also be incredible. But the best parts of Fantastic Fest are the ones you didn’t see coming. There’s a surprise around every corner.

Would you say that you have a particular genre or filmmaker that you follow at the festival every year?

I am partial to the sci-fi and animated selections. I had not been exposed to much horror prior to the first Fantastic Fest. The fest has been a great source of education and exposure to horror films.

What is your favorite food/drink combo at the festival's key venue, the Alamo Drafthouse? Better yet, do you have any favorite area places to get food and/or drink inbetween films?

My go-to items are the Steak Sandwich, Chicken Strip Basket, and Raging Bull pizza. Outside the Drafthouse, there are three great places right in the parking lot including a Mexican restaurant, Thundercloud Sandwiches, and The Highball. The menu selection at The Highball is fabulous.

What has been your favorite non-film related event of past editions of the fest?

One karaoke party from year three sticks out in my mind that peaked with a pile of filmmakers, critics, and regulars getting shirtless and jumping on top of each other to “It’s Raining Men”

Looking to the future, Is there anything you wish the festival would try out for the 2012 edition?

Some of us have thrown around the idea of a friendly roast. This year promises to bring back some of the original from the first few years as the traffic and shuffle of screenings downtown at the Paramount has been nixed.

What has been your favorite moment or experience at any previous FF that you have attended?

There are so many! But I know many friends will agree with me the closing night party of 2007 was at Donn’s Depot after Paul Thomas Anderson showed us There Will Be Blood. After the party, some of us were hanging around chatting with Anderson, and he finally said good night and walked off into the night like some ghostly cowboy.

What is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at any Fantastic Fest?

My personal favorite movie of all: The Fountain. There are others that could be judged better films, but that one touched me the most, at a spiritual level.

If you aren’t already, be sure to follow Mike’s most excellent Twitter feed on Fantastic Fest HERE!

For more information on Fantastic Fest including programming, ticketing information and updates, point your browser to

Be sure to follow my updates on Fantastic Fest via my Twitter page which can be found HERE.

Jason Whyte –

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originally posted: 09/28/11 23:42:10
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