Some people are sniffy about the London Film Festival. Sure, a lot of the big titles on the programme have already been screened at posher festivals in Toronto, Cannes and Venice. Compared to these big hitters, we only get 16 world premieres.
But the London Film Festival is our film festival. And the brilliant thing about LFF is it's not just for film industry insiders. Anyone can buy tickets for almost all the festival's screenings.
Cool! How do I get LFF tickets?
Tickets sell fast. Here's our tip: become a BFI member in the next couple of days and you'll get priority on bookings. It costs £45, but if you add up the benefits (priority booking at BFI Southbank all year round and no booking fees), and call yourself a proper film buff, it's probably worth it. Members can book from 10am on 10 September; public booking starts seven days later, at 10am on 17 September.
How much will it cost me?
Anything shown before 5pm costs just £9. Evening screenings cost between £12.75 and £16. But if you want to glam it up with the celebs at the gala screenings, it's a bit pricier: between £20 and £38.
If you're under 25, all non-gala tickets at all venues are £5, on sale 45 minutes before the start time. You need to be at the venue, with valid ID, and it's only one ticket per customer.
Help! I've left it late. Does everything sell out?
Don't panic. There'll be another release of tickets on 1 October. And with more than 200 films on offer over the 12 days, there are plenty that don't sell out.
We spoke to Sam Clements from Picturehouse cinemas, who recommends trying the returns queue if your chosen film is showing as sold out. "I used to work at the Ritzy, and we were often able to help people out on the day. Just get there around 45 minutes beforehand, and you might be lucky."
Try Twitter too
Sam also gave us a Twitter tip: "Follow #LFF, @BFI and your local cinema (if they're taking part) on Twitter. There's nothing I like more than being able to tell people there's one ticket left, in row A, sitting with a load of strangers, and knowing it'll go to a very excited film fan."
Where do the screenings take place?
In keeping with the London Film Festival's democratic traditions, you'll find festival films are shown all over the city. Many take place in swanky West End cinemas (Vue West End and Odeon West End, plus lots at Curzon Soho, Cineworld Haymarket and the new Picturehouse Central). Obviously, the BFI venues get a good look-in. And then there's a host of local cinemas getting in on the act too: the Hackney Picturehouse, the Ritzy in Brixton, Curzon Chelsea, Vue Islington and Rich Mix.
Will I really be able to share my popcorn with Meryl Streep?
Well, if you're looking for an "I'll never wash again!" handshake, Sam recommends getting up close and personal with the barriers in Leicester Square. "At the big premieres, the stars do their bit on the red carpet." But if you're looking for more than a cursory wave from a celeb, it's time to book tickets. "Most Film Festival screenings are introduced by someone, sometimes from the cast or crew. I've known directors attend every screening of their film during the festival. And the Q&As afterwards give you a real chance to interact with the people involved. And sometimes meet them afterwards."
I'm homesick and reading this in my second language — what about world cinema?
You're in luck. One of the best things about the London festival is its international reach, reflecting its brilliantly multicultural home: this year, the programme features films from 57 countries. You can read hot tips for French and Spanish / Latin American cinema fans on the BFI's website now; there's an incredible range on offer over the fortnight.
Can I take my kids to any shows?
Yes, there's a whole children's strand to the festival: Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There, a new Pixar short, the World Premiere of new British title, Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg and more.
What's the Festival's hottest ticket?
Well, if you're not successful in the ballot for the opening and closing galas, the next best thing, according to Sam, is the Surprise Film, this year being screened at the Odeon Leicester Square. "They always manage to keep it a secret, which is impressive, and it's always brilliant. Last year was Birdman, which, as you know, went on to win all those Oscars. I'm looking forward to seeing what they're planning for this year."
The London Film Festival runs 7-18 October. Find out everything you need to know at bfi.org.uk/lff.