Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TCMFF Survival Guide Part 3, Preserving Your Sanity

This will be my sixth year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 11 to 14, 2019. In addition, I have been going to Comic-Con International and other fan conventions for decades, so I know what it’s like to spend four or five days in a strange city living out of a hotel room and running around from the time you get up in the morning until the time you collapse in your room late at night. 

This is, I think, the fifth version of this guide I've done. I've tried to refine things over the years. This year, I've decide to split this post up into three parts:
  • Part 1 (posted here) covers the nuts and bolts of how TCMFF works. 
  • Part 2 (posted here) covers making the most of your experience and will also contain links to other similar posts past and present. I will do my best to update with new links as I find them. 
  • Part 3 (this part) covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF, I hope.


This section covers trying to get some sustenance during TCMFF. I know you’re going to be running around trying not to miss anything, but seriously, try to eat something besides movie theater popcorn and Red Vines over the four days.

There are a ton of restaurants in the immediate area, both fast food and regular sit-down restaurants, but bear in mind that the transition times between screenings can be relatively short, so don’t count on being able to get a regular meal. If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you might want to pick up something like a sandwich or a bagel and a piece of fruit with your latte that you can put in your bag and eat on the go later. For things like snacks, there is a CVS Drug Store a block west of the TCL Chinese/Hollywood Roosevelt on the north side of the street, though by Sunday, it usually looks like Cindy Lou Who's house after the Grinch had visited, nothing but hooks and wires.

If you have special dietary needs, there aren’t many good close options for groceries near TCMFF. Your best bets are:

If you need to run to a store, Ralphs on La Brea
takes you past former home of Chaplin Studios

  • Ralphs (7257 Sunset Blvd). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 24 hours. About 8 blocks away, but not in the direction of any of the other TCMFF venues, dammit.
  • Ralphs (1233 N La Brea Ave). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am to 2 am. Again about 8 blocks away, but on the map it looks marginally further than the Ralphs on Sunset. Also, it too is not in the general direction of any of the other TCMFF venues. Possibly, this might be worth the extra walk as it takes you past Jim Henson Co. (historic former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios).
  • Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St). About 12 blocks away and open 8 am to 10 pm.

Other food tips: 
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but if you skip breakfast, you’re already off to a bad start. Me, I’ve never been real big on the granola bars, but if you like them, and they work for you, pick up a box and take with you. Bring a couple extra. You might find yourself in line with someone who’s totally famished. A 75-cent breakfast bar could earn you a friend for life.

If you get to a screening too late and get shut out or have a block where you're not psyched on anything, take advantage of it. Go get a real meal, where it’s hot and they bring it to you on a real plate. It might be the only one you get over the four days. Actually, last year, my daughter and I ended up taking a break most days and getting one good meal at the expense of a screening. It was kinda worth it.

Hungry late? A good bet is In ‘N Out Burger, a Southern California Burger chain. They are located at 7009 Sunset Blvd., corner of Sunset and North Orange Dr., three blocks south of the Hollywood Roosevelt. They have a really simple menu, but have a secret menu that is probably the worst kept secret ever. My favorite is protein style burger, no bun wrapped in big leaves of lettuce so you can eat like a normal burger, great if you’re doing the low-carb thing. They are open until 1 am, Sunday to Thursday and 1:30 am, Friday and Saturday.

Water – You should try to do some of that too.


We all like to think we can hold our liquor like Nick and Nora, but realistically no one can. I know you’re on vacation and want to have a good time, but keep in mind, you’re probably going to want to be up early the next morning for whatever screening. If you do overdo, take some aspirin and force yourself to drink some water before you collapse in bed. It won’t prevent the inevitable hangover, but it might take the edge off a little bit. 

I'm sure if you asked, the good folks at TCM would say don't bring your own alcohol to TCMFF, but they do usually have a flask for sale in the gift shop and on the web site, so I'm going to call that mixed signals and act accordingly. Just don't abuse it.

FYI, drinks in the Hollywood Roosevelt are crazy expensive. There are several bars in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It seemed to me the drinks were better in the Library Bar and the Spare Room on the mezzanine, than in the lobby and pool bars. If you going to pay a fortune for a drink, you might as well get one made with fresh ingredients by a mixologists who know what they're doing. That said, I'm not sure the Library Bar is still open. The website doesn't seem to list it, though there is a new bar, Teddy's, which I assume is taking its place. Looking at the menu, Teddy's might be your best bet getting a good drink, and they do bottle service, so if you're in the mood to pay $400 for a bottle of Maker's Mark, they'd be happy to oblige you. 

In the past, they have had complementary beer and wine in Club TCM in the evenings. Not sure about this year. If it happens, score. Of course, the problem for me is that Club TCM closes at midnight, and most of the time I don't make it back from the last screening before it closes. 

 TCM with a Twist did a great post on Hollywood bars, must reading if you imbibe.


I can guarantee you that it will not snow. Beyond that, all bets are off. Personally, I like to check the 10-day forecast about a week out. That should give you a ballpark idea of what to plan for. Then check the forecast again, a couple of days before you leave and make any necessary adjustments. I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, and we have weather pretty comparable to L.A./Hollywood. Generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty mild in the Spring. It might get a little chilly in the evenings, but most of the time a light jacket or sweater is good enough. Having said all of that, what you mostly need to worry about is two rather obnoxious extremes:

  • Extreme heat – While not common in April, temperatures in the 90s do happen in the Spring, and bear in mind that you might be standing in line in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I honestly don’t remember standing in the sun last year, but I know that at the Egyptian, they run the lines in the courtyard in front of the theater, so if you’re there in the middle of the day, you’re going to be in the sun. Even if we get mild weather, sunscreen is highly recommended and maybe even a hat. If you don’t have room to pack a hat, consider buying a cheap one when you get here and just toss it at the end of the trip.
  • Rain – The song says, it never rains in Southern California, but people always forget that the end of the verse is, it pours, man it pours. Very very true, both literally and figuratively. Hollywood doesn’t get a lot of rain, but there are times, when it comes down in buckets. This year in San Diego, we've had more rain than we've had in years. I'm hoping we're done for the year, but don't bet on it. Because we don’t get a lot of rain out here, we tend to hopelessly ill-prepared for it. Streets flood. Hotel lobbies flood. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it could. That’s where your forecast will help. If you’re coming from a different part of the country, you’re probably already way better prepared than we are here. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain, if you have an umbrella that packs easy, bring it. You're not going to be able find one easy walking distance from the Festival, especially if it's raining. One of my TCMFF cronies, Deborah Leigh, an L.A. local recommends an umbrella, rain or shine, to keep the sun off. Good call.


This section covers what to wear. By and large, Southern California is pretty casual. You often see people in nice restaurants looking like they just stepped off the beach. If you’re attending the opening night Red Carpet screening of When Harry Met Sally, a suit for men and cocktail dress for women is recommended, although a tux or formal gown wouldn’t be out of place either. 

For the rest of the Festival, some people dress up and some people dress down. 

Me, I do a little of both, shorts and a t-shirt during the day and something dressy at night. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket a couple of years ago. God, I hope it still fits. I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet. If you want to dress like a cowboy for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, go for it. People would dig it.

All things considered, most everything is pretty centrally located, but you will do a fair amount of walking and standing. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you're going to feel like you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball. If you have new shoes that kind of hurt your feet and you think it will get better, it won’t. If you're dead set on wearing them, at least consider changing into them late in the day. Remember what happened to Moira Shearer when she put on The Red Shoes. I'm not saying the wrong shoes are going to make you jump off a balcony in front of a train, but they might make you feel like you want to. 

If you have one pair of shoes that are really really comfortable, bring ‘em, even if the make you look like you like your Great Aunt Matilda. My friend Kellee Pratt mentioned that the AC in the theaters can be pretty aggressive, especially at the Egyptian. If you get cold easily, she recommends one of those roll-up fleece blankets that can be purchased at the airport and fit into your bag.

Though this has nothing to do with clothes, Barry Wright on the Going to the Tcm Classic Film Fistival! group suggested bringing a cushion as the seats in the multiplex are not the greatest.


Think about the electronics you’re bringing. Are you going to be posting on Facebook to make the friends back home jealous? If so, how well does your battery do? If it barely makes it through the day, sitting in your pocket you might want to consider getting one of those portable batteries to recharge during the day. It might not be a bad idea anyway. Sometimes when you’re in a strange city, your phone will die just by virtue of having poor coverage and constantly trying to find a signal.

In years past, there were charging stations in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6 and in Club TCM. Presumably there will be something similar this year. 

Think about what devices you need. Did you promise your boss that you’d check e-mail? Are you planning to blog during the festival. Can you get by doing that on your phone or do you need a tablet or laptop? You're not going to have as much time as you think you will.

If you’re counting on the hotel having Wi-Fi, it might be worth finding out whether that’s in your room (and what they charge) or only in the lobby. Look at your broadband usage and if you think it might be an issue, possibly see if you can get more from your provider for just the trip. We tend to burn through all of our data at TCMFF. That in itself was not a huge deal, but I find the constant barrage of text messages from Verizon telling me about it annoying.

You’ll definitely want to have a camera. Think hard about how good the camera on your phone is. Cameras on smartphones keep getting better and better, but many still do not do real well at a distance or in low light. Obviously, you’re not going to be taking pictures in a darkened theater, but you might want to get a shot of whoever is introducing the film and movie theater house lights tend to be less than optimum for photography. You might be better off with a point and shoot or digital SLR camera. Then again, if all you're planning to do is post some pics on Facebook, your phone camera might be good enough.

Make sure you take the time to free up space on your device's storage or look into cloud storage if you haven't already. The last thing you want is to find yourself standing next to Ben Mankiewicz and realize you have to figure out which pictures from your cousin’s wedding you can live without. The mistake I made a couple of years ago was to wait until late the night before we left to empty out my camera and phone. I start moving the files and saw, About 45 minutes remaining.... Aw, man, I need to go to bed.

Obviously, all these gadgets will need to be charged, so don’t forget to pack the appropriate chargers. You might be able to find a charger for your iPhone or Android but probably not for your camera.

Avoid Changing Routine

This is something I didn't really think about until a couple years ago. If you are a big breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day person, don't skip breakfast every day at TCMFF. I normally drink coffee during the day until about 5 or 6 pm.Then at TCMFF, I would have a cup in the morning and not have time for any the rest of the day and wonder why I was falling asleep on the late screenings. Now I make sure to stay properly caffeinated. The key here is staying properly caffeinated. Going back to your hotel, wired on a double latte, and staring at the ceiling until four in the morning is not a lot better than falling asleep at 5 or 6:00 because you didn't have enough.

Julia Castien, the president of the newly formed San Diego Backlot chapter came up with a great tip. She normally drinks tea for caffeine, but didn't want to have to use the restroom all the time. Turns out they make Caffeinated Jelly Beans. Brilliant. I'm sure you can order them on Amazon, might be hit or miss at brick and mortar stores.
That's right, Caffeinated Jelly Beans

There may be certain things that you can't avoid. Say you normally go to bed at 9:00, and you know you're going to be staying up later. Try to compensate by forcing yourself to stay awake later in the week or so before the Festival. If you do need to make changes, try to not go overboard. It's really easy to swing too far the other direction.

Con Crud

People who go to a lot of conventions can attest that they can be a great place to get sick. You travel across the country, don't get much sleep, don't eat right, and spend lots of time in close quarters with hundreds if not thousands of strangers. It's like living in a Petri dish for several days. It's one thing if you get sick after you get home, but getting sick in the middle of TCMFF would suck, and not in a good way. I like to take Airborne, Emergen C, or something similar the morning I leave and each day while I’m there. Does it guarantee that you won’t get sick? No, but it doesn’t hurt.   


Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful.