A Tale of TIFF – The Toronto International Film Festival Enigma

Street Sign for Bloor Street West, near St Geo...

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Once again I have been fortunate enough to have been “given” tickets to a TIFF premiere, “Janie Jones” starring Abigail Breslin and Elizabeth Shui. With priority tickets in hand we avoided all the queues and waltzed straight into The Roy Thomson Hall with time for an vastly inflated chardonnay and a spot of “high heel” coveting – this is always a “dressy event” The Roy Thomson Hall doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, After all the pre movie screened hype, the Director and actors were hauled onto the stage to bow and wave inanely at the audience like prized dogs. The Director gave a short and well rehearsed spiel citing his own experience with meeting his daughter for the first time late in her life, as the inspiration behind the film, and with the “stars” seated in the next “floating” block of seats to ours, the film began.
Having had the privilege 2 years running of attending a TIFF premiere, and with various friends and colleagues claiming sightings of various celebrities on Bloor Street West and at various galas, I started to do some research on the whole TIFF enigma.
Gotta love Toronto  – not (yet) an architecturally glamorous city like Chicago or new York, it has still managed to become home to the leading film festival in the world  – TIFF – hosting over 320 films from 60 countries in 10 fabulous theatres.
This year TIFF headquarters moved into the stunning new Bell Light box on King and John – which by the way is shortly the next stop for a huge Tim Burton exhibition from the MOMA in New York. It will also house archive films, and has 5 state of the art theatres http://tiff.net/tiffbelllightbox
We had a host of celebs in town including Woody Allen; James Brolin; Diane Lane; Ryan Reynolds; Marianne Cotillard; Carey Mulligan; Emily Mortimer; Eva Mendes; Kevin Spacey; Natalie Portman; Hilary Swank; Rachel McAdams; Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Clint Eastwood; Matt Damon, Zach Galifianakis, Colin Firth and Bruce Springsteen.
Some of the movies “Tiffed” this year included:
Easy A
Blue Valentine – Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams
Never Let Me Go –Kiera Knightly/Carey Mulligan
127 Hours – James Franco
Black Swan – Natalie Portman
The King’s Speech – Colin Firth
Valentine –  Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates and Jessica Biel
Barney’s Version – Paul Giamatti
Made in Dagenham – Sally Hawkins
I have to confess to being completely “at sea” when it comes to the booking protocols that surround the festival. So I “interviewed” a colleague at work who takes a week off work every year and sees around 30 films or so.
Firstly you should be doing your homework on the films to be featured at TIFF, long before the event, so that when the schedule is published on-line only a few days before the start of the festival, you have all your ducks in a line as regards films you wish to see. http://tiff.net/thefestival/about
You need to study the colour-coded e-schedule and consider the following:
  • Where the film is showing
  • Film date and duration
  • And whether you have enough time to travel from one film to another.
Some people use an excel spreadsheet, others do it manually, i.e. writing each film on a separate post-it note and then placing them in date/time clusters first.
If you want to live and breathe Tiff for the entire week, then your best bet is to buy a TIFF package.
The process works like this:
In early July you can buy the package either in person or online/by telephone.
If you buy in person, vouchers will be given to you on the spot.
If you purchase on line/telephone before the deadline date in August, vouchers will be mailed to you.
If you purchase online/telephone after the deadline date, you can pick up your vouchers from either the Festival box office before a given date or after that date from another location
CONFUSED yet – it gets better!
Towards the end of August (another deadline) you can pick up the Advance Order Book at the Festival Box Office.
On this same date you can also either purchase a Programme Book or access this online – in order to establish which films are showing at the Festival.
You make your first and second choice of films in the Advance Order Book
You drop off the completed Advance Order Book (at the Festival Box Office by 1pm on another given date (usually at the end of August).
This is placed in an envelope which in turn is placed in a numbered box.
A random number is drawn and the processing of the packages begins numerically from that box number (so say number 9 is “randomly” drawn; the box office staff start to process all the envelopes in that box first so those with advance order books  in box 9 are likely to get their choice of films.)
You will be emailed a list of your confirmed films usually within a couple of days
You pick up your tickets at the Festival Box office from the beginning of September (again a deadline date will be specified on the website)
If you want to exchange selections, you can do it on that day and up until 7pm before the screening of the film for which you are exchanging.
Just for fun, let’s look at this year’s key dates:
  • July 5: Packages go on sale (Visa cardholders only) 
  • July 12: Packages go on sale (cash & debit cards) 
  • August 2 TIFF Box Office closed
  • August 18: Film list available online
  • August 24: Film schedule available online 
  • August 24: Program Book available for pick up 
  • August 24: Advance Order book available 
  • August 30: before 1pm Drop off advance Order Book (film selection) 
  • August 30: at 1pm Draw day 
  • Ticket Pick Up begins: September 2
  • Ticket Exchange begins: September 2
Still want to be a die-hard “Tiffie”?
There is a less laborious option, and that is to let the TIFF staff choose the films for you. This is called the TIFF Choice package. To give you an idea of how much shorter the process, this year’s key dates were:
  • Packages go on sale (Visa cardholders only) July 5
  • Packages go on sale (cash or debit) July 12 : (purchase in person, by phone or online)
  • Ticket pick up begins September 2 (at Festival Box Office or Venue Box Office the day of the first screening)
Of course you can always buy tickets for individual movies in person, by phone or online from the beginning of September as advertised.
Yep I love movies, but restless leg syndrome would set in after only 2 movies a day, let alone 6 or 7.
So I’ll take just one exceptional gala or premiere performance over a week of yomping around Toronto seeing doing double digit viewings any-day.
Gotta Love Toronto though!!
Over and Out

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