Gaga for galas: The SIFF experience

By Katy Nally

SIFF tickets

I’m a sucker for tickets. In our age of consumerism, I prefer tickets to things. Tickets are temporary, but the events they grant access to leave lasting impressions that only take up memory space. Few know this better than the film industry, with the bulk of its sales tied to tickets. For them, the question is always: how do we get more butts in the seats? One answer, throw a party and make your guests feel special. Done right, that party can foster new customers.

Seattle is fortunate to have SIFF, a nationally- and internationally-renowned film organization that celebrates films and shares compelling stories with the community. SIFF hosts the largest film festival in the US—the Seattle International Film Festival, which ended with a bang on June 11 at MOHAI.

I live near SIFF Uptown and—with minimal planning—occasionally drop by to check out new movies that often make me feel cultured and connected. I’m not exactly a regular. But when an enticing SIFF email invited me to the opening night party of this year’s film festival—accented by words like gala and red carpet—I clicked on the registration link. I checked with my cinephile friend and she assured me the movie premiere followed by the “adult prom” was well worth it.


She was spot on. SIFF masterfully orchestrated an opening night party that made me feel like a celebrity. An actual red carpet led to the entrance of McCaw Hall where I joined other Seattlites who were fancified for an evening of posh society. Not only did the movie The Big Sick make me appreciate the once-dreaded “rom-com” genre, but the gala that followed was a stellar example of wining and dining to make an impression. And SIFF thoughtfully put its local partners front and center. Favorite restaurants gave out freshly made snacks, there were Dilettante Chocolates in glass bowls on the bar tables, and food trucks anchored the outdoor scene.

While an event like this takes tons of coordination and thought, the return can prove worth it. Making customers feel good can keep them coming back for more. It certainly worked on me. Later that week my friend and I attended a showing in the film festival, which I otherwise wouldn’t have suggested.

In the field of selling products, it pays to remember the value of experiences.