Let’s say that you haven’t been able to break out of your daily routine and make it to the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival this week. That sucks, but you’re in luck, because the fest’s marquee 24-hour marathon—featuring a range of strange, from Andromeda Strain to Innerspace—doesn’t start until Sunday (Feb. 17) at noon. We asked founder and festival director Garen Daly about the making of a proper film binge.
What’s the first critical step in planning a marathon?
One of the first steps is to see if there is something that is having an anniversary coming up. This year we have the 90th on Frau im Mond, Fritz Land’s classic that gave us the countdown (10-9-8-7….). The we start looking at the current zeitgeist looking for films that plug into that. Interestingly enough that zeitgeist changes. About 10 years ago it was all about zombies. Zombies suggest the breakdown in community and familial bonds. Even your mother could become a zombie and want to eat your brains. These days the zeitgeist is centering around truth, false memories, and a Philip K. Dick sensibility.
What’s your best advice on pacing?
We don’t call it pacing. We call it flow. And the flow is shaped by the 24 hours and who attends. Over the years more families are attending, so the first few hours and the last few hours are kid friendly. Also heavy gore and sex is set for the late evening/early morning hours. Slower, more intense films go near the beginning, and then something rousing and action-filled around 6am to wake everybody up. The last film needs to end on an up note. That way folks will walk out into the sun, bleary-eyed but feeling good.
What makes for a good flagship to plan the rest of the program around? How did that work this year?
This year the flagship was Escape From New York. It was a film from the ’80s. We noticed that there was/is a nostalgic echo about ’80s films. Escape hadn’t played before, so it was already on our list. Toss in Snake Plissken as a badass who distrusts the government, and we felt his time was now. So that’s where we started. Toss in Frau im Mood, and we had the beginnings of the Marathon.
How much arguing is there between organizers in the planning of something like this?
There is no arguing. I am a benevolent despot. Actually this is one of the few years when I did not program the Marathon. Ian Judge, along with some sage advice from our community, shaped the marathon. But as a benevolent despot, I did sign off on everything. They did a good job. Ian is an amazing curator.
What percentage of people stay for the whole thing? What’s the average number of movies a human can watch in a row at something like this?
It is remarkably high. Probably around 60 percent. Although I think 85 percent say they do. It is a badge of honor. Still, lots of folks come stay as long as they can, run home or to their hotel, grab a couple of hours, and return.
What is hard to explain to people is how much of a community this is. There are literally friendships that span 40 years. The energy is awesome and that energy drives all of us who work on it to make it as good as possible. We don’t want to disappoint our friends.
Why noon to noon rather than midnight to midnight?
This has to do on the tradition of being on President’s Day weekend. Ending at noon means most folks can wander home, sleep for 10-12 hours, and go back to work on Tuesday.
Any tips for those trying to brave the whole thing?
Bring a pair of good clean comfy socks. Seriously it will make a difference. Bring a toothbrush. Drink plenty of water. Stay away from junk food. And by all means, bring you sense of humor. A good ray gun that flashes and makes noise is also recommended.