Well the Toronto International Film Festival is currently underway and I have been sitting here trying to figure out exactly what it is I should write about for my first entry into this year’s TIFF blog. So I figured the best approach would be to give our readers an idea of what the festival is like and a brief summary of my experience from last year. After which I will count down the best films of the year so far. It’s essentially my last chance to really plug some of my personal indie favorites before they get drowned out by heavy weights such as Darren Aronofsky and Danny Boyle. Here goes!
Some helpful tips you should know if it is your first time heading to the festival.
One important thing to note is that this film festival is huge. Maybe the biggest in the world. It has become the launching pad for the best of international, Hollywood and Canadian cinema, and is recognized as the most important film festival after Cannes. The festival screens over 300 films, all in just ten days. Compare that to Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival which screens just over one hundred films but in three weeks. So how does TIFF do it? Well basically they spread out the festival screenings amongst dozens of movie theatres across the city.
So planning your festival can get complicated. Aside from having to avoid buying tickets to movies whose screenings may coincide, you also have to take into account the distance between the theatres. You don’t want to purchase a ticket for a 7:00 PM film at one end of the city and later have to rush to a 9:30 PM screening at the other end of the city. You also have to remember that the line ups to get into each screening is insanely long and can stretch around the block. In fact the festival asks that you arrive at least 15 minutes before the movie starts otherwise they will give your seat away to someone standing in the rush line.
If you’re not lucky enough to get either press or industry passes for the festival, tickets are not only super expensive but they sell out pretty fast. My best advice is to purchase one of the TIFF packages which allows you to choose your films two days prior to when individual tickets go on sale. However even with a package you are not guaranteed to get tickets for every film you choose. It is somewhat based on a random selection, sort of like a lottery. However if you are choosing to purchase individual tickets, I would recommend aiming for the second or third screenings since everyone rushes to buy tickets for the first screening of each movie. Another trick is to buy tickets for the weekday shows when everyone else is at work or in school. My good friends took this advice and managed to secure tickets for every film they wanted to see where-as another friend aimed only for weekend screenings and all the movies he chose were sold out.
Now would be a good time to note that their are tickets left for some great films including Monsters and Buried, which comes highly recommended by our London contributors who reviewed it at FrightFest. Yo can also still get tickets for Sion Sono’s Cold Fish, the Cannes’ hit Armadillo and Greg Araki’s Kaboom.
What is the rush line?
Every screening has a rush line. If there is a movie you really want to see but couldn’t get tickets for because it sold out, you can still head to the screening and wait in the rush line. Basically the festival will give away the seats to anyone who arrives late or simply doesn’t show up to those standing in the rush line. Now you may think that the chances are slim because why the hell would someone not show up, but in fact every screening allows a few people from the rush line into the theatre. You have to remember that the festival gives away tickets to companies who sponsor the festival and those companies hand out the tickets to their employees. However that doesn’t necessarily mean that those people will take advantage of the free tickets. The downside is you have to arrive extremely early to try to get in and no matter how long you wait, you are not guaranteed entry. So if you arrive at the rush line and notice thirty people ahead of you, I would recommend you do something else with your time because your most likely not getting in. But if you are one of the first to arrive, your chances are pretty good.
The festival within the festival.
One of the great things about TIFF is that they have screenings for every movie specifically for press and industry people. So unlike most festivals, instead of filling up their seats for public screenings with hundreds of journalists and company representatives, they actually have a mini festival within the fest. These screenings are all held at the Varsity Cinema. So if your not so big on tracking celebrities but would rather meet the likes of famous film critics like Roger Ebert, the Varsity Cinema is where you need to head.
Last year’s TIFF experience may have been a lot of fun but it was far from a smooth ride. My trip started on a sour note when I arrived at the bus station only to realize I had forgotten my ticket. Thankfully with the help of a friend I managed to make it on board exactly one minute before departure. However the trouble wasn’t over. On a stop in Ottawa security decided to pull me aside as frisk me head to toe for drugs. As if I do drugs. I didn’t have this much trouble heading to Amsterdam but yet in Ottawa I was treated like a criminal. Of course that wasn’t the only problem I had traveling. I also had a hell of a time checking in and out of the hotel. In fact I was stuck dragging my luggage across the city of Toronto the entire first day. Believe me when I say it was utterly embarrassing to show up at the press office dragging a suitcase and knapsack in hand. Needless to say it didn’t look quite professional. Finally on my way back home, I was stuck sitting next to some dirty old man who smuggled three bottles of wine onto the bus (all of which he gulped down) and in his drunken state, decided to hit on me.
This year I learned from my mistakes. No more bus rides for this kid. I’m taking the train from now on and accompanying me is my best friend (and often guest host of Sound On Sight) Alma Mendoza to help fend of any predators
Often people ask me if I spotted any celebrities. It’s impossible to not spot at least one famous actor, director or film critic during the festival run. There over 500 guests that come in for the festival so chances are good. I’m not really the type to be star struck but here’s just a few names of people I came across – Harmony Korine, Werner Herzog, Zack Elfron, Michael Snow and Mariah Carey and her ridiculous entourage (a.k.a. bitches) who were staying at the same hotel as me. I also shared a love child with Michael Cera (a beautiful wasp who followed us around the city and ended up on CTV news). It’s a long story so don’t ask.
Forget the celebrities, red carpets, industry parties and paparazzi, the reason I attend the festival is for the movies. Unfortunately last year we chose our films poorly. Aside from maybe seeing The Road months before it’s theatrical release, the only real highlights of the festival were [REC2], the Australian horror film The Loved Ones and Up In The Air. Almost every film we chose at last year’s film festival was somewhat disappointing. Luckily this year’s line up seems more promising. Here’s but just a few films I am guaranteed to see.
1- Let Me In
2- Rabbit Hole
3- Black Swan
4- 127 Hours
9- John Carpenter’s Ward
10- After Shock
It’s a short list but a great way to start. Unfortunately there are two films I won’t be able to see that were on my most anticipated list; Sion Sono’s Cold Fish and the Cannes Film Fest hit Armadillo.
Well I am off to Toronto. Be sure to check out part 2 of my blog which will include my list of the ten best film of the year so far. Sound On Sight Radio will be returning on September 20th with our special on the fest. In the meantime feel free to listen to some of our older shows. Here is the link to our special on the Midnight Madness films from last year’s festival.
We often get feedback with listeners curious of what our radio hosts look like so I decided I will include some photos of the crew in these blog entries. Hopefully I’ll also be able to capture some celebrity photos to include as well.