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 23rd annual RiverRun is set to take place on May 6-16, 2021, both virtually and at several outdoor screening locations across Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

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 2021 Festival features 134 films featuring 24 countries. RiverRun Film Festival screening venues during the 11-day Festival include the following Winston-Salem locations: back lawn at SECCA, Marketplace Drive-in Theater, The Ramkat, The Winston Cup Museum, Bailey Park, Kilpatrick Townsend campus. The parking lot at RED Cinemas in Greensboro will also have 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 (about 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 online film list to make your selections (and buy tickets) in advance.

In 2021, the film lineup will be announced on April 7, 2021 and tickets go on sale to members on April 8 and to the general public on April 12.

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. In recent years, they ranged 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.

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 is Dream Horse, with Toni Collette and Damian Lewis. This inspirational film doubles as a romantic comedy about a Welsh cleaner and barmaid who set out to raise racehorses in a small village. It received high praise during Sundance and we are excited to check it out at the new Marketplace Drive-In Theater on Peter’s Creek Parkway!

TBD on the documentary feature for opening night.

Spectacular Lineup

With 134 films to choose from, there is something for everyone!

Family Day is another must-do featuring Saturday Morning Cartoons, a free screening of new animated shorts both Saturday mornings of the Festival.

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. Normally, you can expect more than 100 filmmakers and industry guests to 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).


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, Lily and Barley. Michelle is one of the many residents of this great city who are thrilled to call this "My Winston-Salem"!

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