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Meet a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD: Jay Hawkinson

Jay Hawkinson - A Fantastic Die Hard!
by Jason Whyte

Another day, another Fantastic Fest Die Hard. This time around, talks to Chicago native Jay Hawkinson on his Fantastic experiences.

“I've been living in the Chicago area for the last 12 years doing search engine marketing for a few different digital agencies but now I'm a partner at my current gig overseeing mobile development and emerging technologies. Besides film my interests range from backcountry backpacking to vintage toy collecting and discovering excellent craft beers to drink.”

What makes you travel from your home town to attend Fantastic Fest in Austin every year?

Originally it was the concentration of great films at one festival that made me want to attend but now it's just as much about the friends I've met in Austin. I now have more people I consider friends that live in Austin than I do in Chicago. I've been back to Austin twice since the last Fantastic Fest, if that gives you any idea.

What makes you a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD?

I discovered Fantastic Fest in 2007 and became obsessed in 2008. I wasn't attending then but following from afar. It wasn't until I joined Twitter in 2009 and reading the tweets that I knew I would attend. It didn't take much encouragement but finally in 2010 I was at my first Fantastic Fest. Even though I was complete novice the festival was everything I wanted and more. After that experience I cannot imagine not going.

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?

If you have a passion for film and, in particular, genre, foreign or fringe film, Fantastic Fest is the best festival you can attend in the U.S. Other festivals can provide these but not the kind of concentration and quality you'll find at Fantastic Fest. My suggestion is to just commit to going and plan for it; talk to others that attend and get advice. It's not as daunting or difficult as it may seem. And the festival can be done in part and still provide an enjoyable, unforgettable experience.

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

My first experience I was dead set on hitting as many films as possible. But I think it's possible to see plenty of films and still socialize and attend other related events such as the Fantastic Debates or the Fantastic Feud. But my primary goal will always be to see those films which I likely won't see anywhere else or probably not for a long time.

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

There are a few films on my radar such as Adam Wingard's You're Next and Yoshihiro Nakamura's A Boy and His Samurai but it's really not until the festival begins when the buzz hits and certain movies or events pop. In general I'm mostly looking forward to seeing my friends in an awesome festival atmosphere.

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

Well if I said that gravitate towards mostly foreign that's really a given considering so much of the programming is foreign film. I try to get a taste of everything so nothing too specific however I do like the energy that Noboru Iguchi brings to the festival even if his films aren’t the greatest. I still have fun with them.

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 in-between films?

I usually try to mix it up and avoid having too many of the same things on the menu but I did have their breakfast burrito with iced coffee several times. Besides the excellent food, I really enjoy their craft beer selection. They're always bringing in new beers. Not much time between films but I do love the taco trucks and Gourdough's. Also the Highball is a regular hangout with solid eats and drinks.

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

Easily, the Fantastic Feud is my favorite non-film event. So much fun and chaos! It's almost like, "if it happens at the feud, it stays at the feud." Also really enjoy the 100 Best Kills event. The closing night party is also a blast.

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

Maybe more parties but I'm playing it by ear. We'll see once it begins. The buzz travels fast.

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

Meeting Roger Corman (at the 2010 edition of Fantastic Fest). That's something I never imagined ever happening. A true legend. Beyond that the Stuart Gordon directed, live theater presentation of Nevermore featuring Jeffrey Combs was the best experience of the entire festival.

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

Bedevilled. I attribute that to being at the first screening as a complete unknown quantity and yet completely blowing the audience away. The electricity in the air was palpable. Amazing feeling and an amazing film. My long post-screening conversation with Harry Knowles is just as memorable.

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie and why?

It’s a tough question because I consider maybe my top 25 films as my favorite film at any given time. And I love them almost equally. Maybe I'll just go with the original Star Wars because that was a film I saw in the theater more than any other (that stands today). My first viewing was with my grandma and we were late so we stuck around to watch it again.

Be sure to follow Jay Hawkinson’s Twitter account for up to the moment comments on Fantastic Fest, and as well his blog at

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 – Follow me on Twitter HERE.

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 09/26/11 23:51:22
last updated: 09/26/11 23:52:27
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