Interview with Alamo Drafthouse Owner and FANTASTIC FEST Mastermind Tim League

     September 20, 2011

Interview FANTASTIC FEST Tim League slice

This year’s Fantastic Fest is just hours away from kicking off here in Austin, TX, and anticipation is running high:  some of the year’s highest-profile genre films are screening or debuting at this year’s Fantastic Fest, and film geeks all over the world are preparing their livers for the absolutely brutal beating they’re going to receive from all the booze-guzzling that will take place during those all those screenings.  Just this morning, it was announced that both LOVE and We Need to Talk About Kevin would be joining this year’s lineup, which was already pretty damn impressive:  the world premiere of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede 2, Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad 2, Nacho Vigalondo’s Extraterrestrial, and the heavily buzzed-about You’re Next are all already on the list.  What does the man behind all this craziness have to say for himself?  I sat down with Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League to find out.  Read that interview after the jump, folks.

Fantastic Fest 2011For years, I stood by and watched as all my favorite online writers traveled to Austin, TX to attend the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest, seething with jealousy and impotent rage:  I was stuck in Dallas with a crap job, no money, and no hope of getting into the world’s coolest film festival.  A few years back, a career change and a move to Austin changed all that, and last year’s Fantastic Fest—the first I’d attended—proved to be just as balls-out crazy, awesome, and mindblowing as I’d always been led to believe it’d be.

Now it’s Tuesday, just 48 hours before the 2011 Fantastic Fest gets underway, and I’m seething with a different sort of emotion:  impatience (that could just be my liver trembling in fear, though).  This year’s lineup does not disappoint, with The Human Centipede 2, Elite Squad 2, Extraterrestrial, You’re Next, Take Shelter, The Day, and a very special Mondo screening of An American Werewolf in London all on deck, and just this morning two other buzzed-about genre films—LOVE and We Need to Talk About Kevin—joined an already crowded lineup.  Yes, this year’s Fantastic Fest will be awesome, indeed.

Yesterday, I sat down with Alamo Drafthouse owner, Fantastic Fest creator, and film-geek Willy Wonka Tim League to discuss this year’s lineup, League’s upcoming brawl with Knuckle star James Quinn McDonagh, and what films he think everyone will be talking about when the smoke finally clears from Fantastic Fest 2011.  Before we get to that interview, here are the highlightC:

  • League says that he’s personally watched almost every film screening at this year’s Fantastic Fest…including the notorious Human Centipede 2.
  • League says he agreed to fight Knuckle star James McDonagh—during this year’s installment of the infamous Fantastic Debates—without considering the ramifications.
  • He also says he’s been training for the fight, and names the toughest person he’s ever boxed (hint: he’s one of the worst directors currently living).
  • League also talks about some of the films they really wanted to get this year, but couldn’t.
  • Finally:  What’re the odds you’ll get a Drafthouse in your hometown?  League’s got some answers.

Fantastic Fest 2011Without further ado, here’s that interview…

COLLIDER: How many of the films that get selected for Fantastic Fest do you actually watch before the festival? Do you watch all or just some; how does that work?

TIM LEAGUE: I personally watch all but about 4 or 5. I watch just about everything. There are a few that I just don’t get the opportunity to see but I get told about them by the other Programmers of the festival. Mostly, I watch everything.

C: You must have a team of people that you working with.  Your not shouldering all that responsibility yourself are you?

TL:  No, one of my main guys is Todd Brown from Twitch. He’s the head of the international programming. The very nature of his website ends ferretting out all the discovery stuff from Europe. But we have a team of about 6 folks on the feature side (and) a whole lot of screeners. I used to be able to watch the first round submissions, but after a while it became to be too much so now the [screeners] watch them and they end up passing along the ones that are really good.  I try to watch as many movies as possible within a group setting instead of just in front of my laptop. It’s better to watch something and chat about it with your programming peers afterward.

melancholia-movie-posterC:  What have you not seen yet on the line up that you’re really looking forward to?

TL:  You know, actually, a lot of the bigger stuff. I haven’t seen Melancholia yet, I haven’t seen Take Shelter. That might be it, I think I might have seen everything else. I’m actually looking forward to watching those at the festival. As I plot out my time at the festival, I pick out the things that I haven’t seen and those that I am curious of the audience’s reaction.

C: Have you not seen Centipede yet?

TL: I have, yes (laughs).

C:  Y’know, a lot of Drafthouse events are preceded by an eating contest. Do you have something planned for The Centipede 2 screening?

TL: (Laughs) Oh, I’m sure we’re gonna do something regretful.

C: (Laughs) From what you’ve seen what do you think will be the most suprising/talked-about film screening at this year’s Fantastic Fest?

TL: There are two from Central/South America that I think will do well.  I liked this one movie from Columbia called The Squad, it’s a first-time director. That’s premiering at the festival and he’s flying in from Columbia. It’s about this guys who are on a mission to a base that they think has been overtaken by the enemy, but when they arrive everybody is just…dead. There is a woman in the movie that is  found in shackles that may or may not be a supernatural presence that is causing all the mayhem. It’s really tense and a really good horror/thriller. Then there is an Argentinian film called Penumbra. It’s made by this guy who is on his sixth film and he keeps getting better and better.

C: Not to get too personal but are you feeling depressed lately? Any self-cutting?

TL:  Er, uh, no…

C:  Well, you’ve decided you want to fight James Mcdonagh, and that doesn’t sound like the kinda thing a rational, happy man would want to do.

TL: (Laughs) I still have my record collection…Honestly, I agreed to this idea rather quickly without totally understanding the ramifications.

C: I don’t think he’s gonna pull any punches on you…fantastic-fest-logo

TL: I don’t think he is either. Although I’ve had other fights in the past, none have been like this. I’m curious to see what real facial or gut pain feels like. I’m thinking I’ll go down fast. [laughs] I’ve taken boxing lessons with him; I’m gonna do what I can.

C: Out of the people you’ve boxed in the Fantastic Debates in the past, which would you say was the toughest?

TL: Uwe Boll was definitely the best boxer. I’m glad he likes me because I watched him box several journalists online who were giving him a hard time. He did not hold back on those guys. I think one ended up in the hospital. With me, he told me, “I’m not gonna cold-cock you, I want you to come in and attack.” But there was one time during the fight where I didn’t even see it coming and he hit me really hard and really fast. I literally saw stars. He was smiling after that showing me that that’s how the whole fight could’ve gone but because I was nice to him he took it easy on me.

C: That’s not the same event they made a documentary on is it?

TL: Which one?

C: I think it was called Raging Boll?

TL: Yeah.  Not a great movie, but he’s a very interesting subject nonetheless.

C: Besides taking boxing lessons have you changed your diet leading up to the fight or do you just wing it?

TL:  Well, I exercise everyday and eat healthy during the time leading up to the festival.

C: And then you can wage a long war against your liver during the entirety of Fantastic Fest and undo all the good that you’ve done.

TL:  (Laughs)

fantastic-fest-2011-posterC:  Hey, have you heard back from that rogue texter that you built that PSA around a while back?

TL: The only thing we heard was that she went on KVET, which is a country music radio station, that week. She went on one morning and she was till real feisty but wanted to remain anonymous.  And that’s probably a good thing because it’s all gone away at this point. Besides that, we never heard back from her directly, just on that radio station.

C: Cool.  This may not be related to Fantastic Fest, but what is the best movie you’ve seen in the last month?

TL: Oh, the last month….

C:  You can take it to six weeks if you have to.  Don’t feel boxed in.

TL: Drive. I saw it a little earlier than a month ago since it just came out this weekend. I think it’s just my kinda thing. It’s got just enough action, great performances, and a really cool style.

C: Are there ever any films that you want to get for Fantastic Fest but are unable to for any reason? If so, was there anything that slipped through your fingertips that you wish you could’ve gotten a hold of.

TL: Yeah, this year the one that we didn’t get just because the studio issues time-wise was Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy. We love the director it did well at other national festivals. We’re fans we just wanted to support it. I haven’t seen it but I have this feeling that I’m going to love it. So, that was the big miss that we just couldn’t make happen. The other one that we were disappointed about not getting (although we’re gonna make a last ditch effort to try and get) was the film that recently won the TIFF competition called The Raid. We had it booked actually but then it got sold and the distributor decided to put a new soundtrack on it before they re-release it. So it was booked but unfortunatley those are the two that slippe through our clutches.

alamo-drafthouse-tim-leagueC: Well, you still came out on top.  You’ve got some great stuff slated for this year’s festival.

TL: Thanks. You know, there is always going to be films that for whatever reason we can’t get our paws on, but that’s the game.

C: I got the email this morning that you guys are opening another Drafthouse in Colorado. Congratulations on that.

TL: Thank you.

C: There are a lot of people out there that hope the Drafthouse will open up a new location in their city. How does it feel like to be the film geek Willy Wonka, and are you  eventually hoping to have locations in every state?

TL: I don’t know about opening one in every state. Opening one is a real hassle because we want to make sure that everything we put out there is solid and that we get the right people involved to handle the right programming in each market. We want to grow, but we are doing it slowly to make sure we’re doing it right. I think things become a little bit more interesting for us if we get a larger national network. I like the idea of having theaters out there that can support movies that we love. So that’s our plan, but one in every state…that’s not happening in 2012.

C:  One thing at a time. Well that’s all I got. Thank you very much for your time, and I’ll see you at Fantastic Fest. I can’t wait.

TL: Cool, thanks.

Stay tuned for more of’s awesome Fantastic Fest coverage—from myself and fellow Collider writer Bill Graham—over the course of the next week, folks.  We’re going to have a small army of reviews, interviews, videos, and more for you to chew over (y’know, all of you suckers that aren’t lucky enough to make it this year).  Stay tuned!

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