It's that time of year again—the 15th annual Vail Film Festival is back (Thursday, April 5th through Sunday, April 8th), and this year's event shines the spotlight on female filmmakers, with four days of panel discussions, workshops, and (of course) plenty of screenings to showcase their work. The best way to catch all the action is to spring for a pass (festival passes start at $50 per person, with higher-priced options available for anyone hoping to get early seating and VIP access to any of the events), and pack your weekend with as many films and Q&A sessions as possible—but, where to begin? We broke down our top five must-do's to help first-time festival-goers (and perennial attendees) navigate the sea of screenings, parties, and panels for the long weekend to come.
Opening Night Film + Afterparty
There's always a buzz around any big Hollywood premier, and the same goes for the Vail Film Festival's debut screening. Director Jennifer Morrison's film "Sun Dogs" (starring the 2018 winner of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney) kicks things off at the Hotel Talisa-adjacent Blue Starlite Cinema before attendees migrate over to Vail Village's La Tour for the afterparty (Thursday April 5, film screening at 7:30 p.m., afterparty from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.).
Panel Discussion: Getting From Script to Screen
This year's Q & A session features insights into the world of film (and the road to get there) with director Kerry David, writer and director Stacy Cochran (of Vail Film Fest narrative feature "Write When You Get Work," which screens at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 7), writer and director Molly McGlynn (her film "Mary Goes Round" stars Aya Cash and has its Vail debut Friday, April 6 at 8:30 p.m.) and the festival's Deputy Film Commissioner Mariel Rodriguez (Saturday, April 7, 11:30 a.m.).
Shoot from The Heart Workshop with Diane Bell
Award-winning screenwriter and director Diane Bell (of "Obselidia" and "Bleeding Heart" fame, among others) heads a (free!) two-hour workshop on filmmaking, with anyone interested in film, writing, or storytelling in general encouraged to attend (Saturday, April 7, 1 to 3 p.m.).
"Bill Coors: The Will to Live" Screening
Director Kerry David—a featured panelist at this year's "Getting from Script to Screen" discussion—brings to life the story of Bill Coors (of Coors Brewery), who used his own family's struggles with mental health issues to bring attention (and help) to today's generation of young people suffering from mental illness (Sunday, April 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m.).
Closing Night Film + Afterparty
While the festival technically runs through Sunday, Saturday's Closing Night Party at Golden Peak's Larkspur restaurant gives festival-goers one more chance to mix and mingle with film stars, directors, and writers before the last day of screenings. Writer and director Hannah Fidell gets the party going beforehand with the Colorado premier of her roadtrip comedy "The Long Dumb Road," which had its world premier at the Sundance Film Festival this past January (film at 8:15 p.m., afterparty at 10 p.m.).