RiverRun Film Festival: Insider Tips

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RiverRun Film Festival LogoAs the City of Arts & Innovation, Winston-Salem is the proud home of the RiverRun International Film Festival, an 11-day event that shines as one of the premier film festivals in the Southeast. The 22nd annual RiverRun will take place on March 26-April 5, 2020.

Founded in 1998, the RiverRun Film Festival got its name from the French Broad River near Brevard, North Carolina, where the event was originally held. The festival moved to Winston-Salem in 2003.

The 2019 Festival featured 172 films featuring 47 countries. RiverRun Film Festival screening venues during the 11-day Festival include a/perture cinema, Hanesbrands Theatre, UNCSA theaters, Bailey Park (outdoors) and SECCA. RED Cinemas is also a new location in Greensboro for a few showings.

RiverRun Film Festival Insider Tips

We here at MyWinston-Salem.com are excited to have access to some behind the scenes info on the Festival to share with our readers!

How To Plan For RiverRun

couple perusing RiverRun brochureOnce the film lineup is announced (a month before the start of the festival), peruse the RiverRun website to get familiar with the films and start making your choices. It’s wise to use the printed RiverRun Film Festival Guide or online film list to make your selections (and buy tickets) in advance.

The list of films is a lot to sort through, so consider using the website’s tabs to search by the date you can attend, and/or your favorite genres. RiverRun staff encourages festival goers to be a little adventurous and get outside of their comfort zones: “Be prepared to take risks. Find something in a film’s description that looks interesting to you. See something with subtitles.”

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, buy your tickets early! Many sell out in advance, so be sure to go by the Stevens Center box office on Fourth Street, or over the phone to avoid third party handling fees when buying online. Keep in mind that tickets vary in price from free, to weekday matinees at $6, student tickets at $10 and regular screenings at $12. So plan your budget accordingly for this once-a-year opportunity. You should also enter our giveaway on Facebook to win one of our prize packs, including four free tickets.

Oscar-Qualifying Festival For Documentary Shorts

In 2015, RiverRun was accredited as a qualifying festival for the Oscars® in the category of Animated Shorts in addition to their initial accreditation for their Documentary Shorts category. This acknowledgment by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences puts our festival into a new league of excellence of which we all can be proud.

Opening Weekend

RiverRun Opening Night is the first Thursday night. Each year RiverRun offers two opening night film options to choose from – a narrative film and a documentary.

This year’s opening night narrative feature was Ode To Joy, with Martin Freeman, Morena Baccarin and UNCSA alumni Jake Lacy. This heartfelt comedy is based on a story from “The American Life.”

The documentary feature for opening night was This Changes Everything. This in-depth look into gender disparity in Hollywood feels very relevant for our current climate.

The RiverRun Gala is held the first Friday of the Festival at the Millennium Center from 9 – 1:00 AM. This is one of the Festival parties that is open to the public with filmmakers and film industry guests in attendance and a cash bar. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door, at the Stevens Center box office, and on the website. We are also doing a giveaway for two sets of two tickets on our Facebook page.

Spectacular Lineup

With 172 films to choose from, there is something for everyone!

2019 Special Screenings included a showing of No Country For Old Men featuring the premiere of an original live score by 1970’s Film Stock.

Family Day is another must-do featuring Saturday Morning Cartoons, a free screening of new animated shorts both Saturday mornings of the Festival and there was a free showing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Bailey Park on Saturday, April 14th at 6:30 PM.

The Closing Day film was The Tomorrow Man, recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Blythe Danner and John Lithgow. It is a romantic comedy about an older couple and some surprising twists in small-town America.

Visit RiverRun’s Website to learn more about the great film and event lineup.

Meet the Filmmakers

One of the great aspects of the Festival is the variety of directors, actors and film industry folks who come to Winston-Salem to represent their films, offer Q&A sessions following the screenings of their films, discussion panels (often free) and parties. This year, more than 100 filmmakers and industry guests will be in attendance.

Does “Sold Out” Really Mean “Sold Out”?

Maybe. Even if advance tickets for a film are “sold out,” there’s a good chance you can still get in if you get there 45 minutes early and get your name on the Wait List. Fifteen minutes before show time, any empty seats are counted and sold to those on the Wait List. This also means that if you have bought tickets, be sure to be there and in your seat at least 15 minutes before the start time of your chosen movie or you may be out of luck (or, out of a seat, literally).

Parking for UNCSA Films

When seeing films at UNCSA, park at the Gateway YWCA and use the free RiverRun Film Festival shuttle bus. The shuttle bus runs approximately every 20 minutes so, again, plan ahead to make sure you allow plenty of time to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your film’s start time. Enjoy!!

What is your favorite part of RiverRun?

About The Author:

Born right here in Winston-Salem, NC, at Forsyth Memorial Hospital, Michelle is a native. At age one she moved to Virginia but after spending 30+ years moving around Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, California and even Paris, France, Michelle returned home to Winston-Salem in 2004. A job at Hanes brought her here but the heart of the city has kept her here. Her favorite things about Winston-Salem are its welcoming people who call it home, its art-centric culture, and its perfect location at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains and a short drive to the beaches of the Atlantic. The lack of traffic is a pretty tremendous asset as well, especially since it gives her more free time to enjoy cooking and playing with her dogs, Bella and Lily. Michelle is one of the many residents of this great city who are thrilled to call this "My Winston-Salem"!

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Leave a Reply

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Joan W
My favorite films so far have been “The River and The Wall” – must see, so powerful and makes you realize just how ridiculous and inefficient a solution Trump’s border wall is (and damaging to the environment). We also loved “Maybe A Love Story,” so funny and cute! Thanks for writing this article, I had almost forgotten about the festival this year!
Natalie Norton
Looking forward to River Run this year!
Tara Nelson
So excited for RR. Thanks for the chance to win 2 free tickets!
Whitney Frack
I love RR! Every movie I saw last year was excellent. I would love to win tickets and give them to my mom, 1. because it is her birthday and 2. because she’s never been before.
Kristi Marion (Admin)
So glad you enjoyed RiverRun last year (and saw more than one film)! What did you see? Happy Birthday to your mom Whitney!
Courtney Tucker
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never been to RR. I’ve had plans to go for the past two years and both times they fell through. Maybe I can make it to see one or two films this year.
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hope to see you there Courtney, it will be well worth your time and you’ll have the itch to return every year (this is one of the events we look forward to most!). I would start buying tickets now, with the new Oscar designation for documentary shorts, tickets are selling fast (two of our movies have already sold out)!
Kristi Marion (Admin)
It’s so much fun, Courtney! I enjoy the Q&A with directors especially. They give insights to their film and it makes for a much richer experience and makes you feel connected to their future films! Good luck!
I LOVE the online schedule! It’s laid out in such a beautiful manner that this almost overwhelming event is now easily navigated. Thanks for the schedule and tips!
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Glad you like the schedule Rewka, a big thanks to Kristi for putting this guide together!