Got a question that isn't answered here? Ask me using the Feedback Page, and I'll get you an answer; maybe I'll add it here!
What's this all about?
Festival Fanatic seeks to improve the film festival experience for serious film fans.
Film festival attendees usually have just a few screening opportunities to see each film, so the Scheduling Assistant can help you see more of the films you really want to see.
As time goes on, I'll add features for coordinating your schedule with your friends', and for discussing the films you've seen with others. I'd also like to work more closely with festival organizers to promote community among attendees.
How do I use this thing?
First, sign up, so I'll know who you are when you come back to the site.
Then, pick a festival, either with the big green button on the home page, or from the Festivals page. This will take you to "Your Film Priorities" for that festival.
(This next part is easier if you've got the paper schedule for the festival; alternatively, you can open the festival's own website in another browser window.) For each of the films in the festival, decide how interested you are in seeing that film: you've got five choices, from "I don't want to see this" to "I *really* want to see this". Enter each choice on that Film Priorities page.
When you're done prioritizing the films, click the "Scheduling Assistant" tab. Here's where you guide the assistant: you can specify times when you can't attend the festival, or distant theaters you find inconvenient. Then, click "Schedule Films" - your priorities will be used to select screenings of as many of the films you prioritized as possible.
After your schedule's been generated (it takes a moment), you'll see "Your Festival Schedule": your schedule for each day, with the selected screenings color-coded.
You can see more information about a film by clicking it; you'll see more details about that film and its other screenings, and you can make manual changes your scheduling: if you're scheduled to see the screening you've clicked on, there'll be an "Unschedule" button that'll unschedule it for you. If it's a screening you're not scheduled to attend, you can click a "Schedule" button to schedule it; if you were already scheduled to see that film at some other time, the other screening will be deselected for you (because why see it twice?), as will any screenings at the same time as the one you clicked on (because you can't be in two places at once).
As the festival proceeds, as you hear good or bad things from your friends, you can revise your priorities, then ask the Scheduling Assistant to rebuild the rest of your schedule; it'll leave alone everything you've already seen.
You can also use the Priorities page to enter ratings for the films you've seen; and there's a page you can share with friends that shows them which movies you've liked the most.
How does the automatic scheduling really work?
In computer science, there's this thing called the "traveling salesman problem": given a salesman who wants to visit a bunch of cities, how can you determine an optimal route? It turns out that this problem is really hard, and the problem of finding an optimal schedule for seeing preferred movies at a film festival is just as hard.
So, this site takes the easy way out, and doesn't try to solve the problem perfectly; it just tries to do a pretty good job: the site makes a list of the films you've ranked, but haven't picked screenings for; it sorts this list by a combination of your ranking and the number of remaining screenings (the fewer remaining, the higher in the list the film goes), then tries to assign screenings in that order, without ever letting two assigned screenings overlap — it even takes travel and parking time into account.
There are probably better strategies, but this one seems to work pretty well.
How are travel and parking time taken into account?
To help ensure that you can make it to your next screening, a few rules are used:
- For screenings in the same location, you've got at least 10 minutes between them, because of the Portland International Film Festival's "10 minute rule."
- If walking is quicker than driving and parking (like most of Portland's downtown theaters), we use Google's estimate of walking time (plus a 10% bonus) plus 10 minutes. If that works out to be less than 15 minutes, we round up to 15 minutes.
- Otherwise, you get Google's estimate of driving time (plus a 25% bonus), plus the parking allowance, plus 10 minutes.
Google's estimates are as of a Wednesday at 6pm, so some rush-hour traffic is factored in. However, this isn't an exact science, so it's a good idea to look over your schedule in advance to make sure it gave you enough time. If you see a particularly tight connection, please let me know.
Do you share my information?
First, I'm not going to share your email address with anyone, or send you excessive email; I'll only use it to contact you about the site, and I'll try to notify you if the festival announces a screening change that affects your schedule. If you think I'm sending you too much mail, please do tell me!
As far as screening choices and ratings: I've always intended to share anonymized summaries of priorities and ratings with film festival organizers, other filmgoers & filmmakers, and here on the site; I've yet to do this, but I might in the future.
Eventually, I want to add ways for you to contribute comments, links, and background information (what I call "buzz") to films. These details will be public and visible to other users, and attributed to you, but you'll definitely have to choose to participate in advance. (I've been planning this for a while and haven't gotten around to building it, so it's not likely to happen in the next six months.)
Can I add my own favorite festival?
Not by yourself, just yet. In the meantime, drop me a line on the Feedback Page if you attend a festival that you'd like to be able to schedule here.
What other features are you working on?
I'm most excited about the "buzz" features I mentioned above, but the list also includes (in no particular order) better printed formatting, and better features for smartphone users. Again, if you can think of something to add, I'd love to hear about it.
There's a log of recent changes to the site on this Changes page, if you're curious what I've been working on lately.
Where'd you get the nifty icons?
Many of of the icons I use (like , though not the little flags) come from web developer Mark James, who asks only that I link to his site to use them - done, and thanks, Mark!
Who created this, and why?
I'm Bryan Stearns, a web software developer based in Portland, Oregon.
I created Festival Fanatic to get more out of the festivals that I attend, and to help my friends as well. (It's been very successful by this measure — I've met a lot of great people as a result of this site!)