In just 34 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, the Toronto International Film Festival will open with Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition. From September 10th to September 20th hundreds of films from around the world will be showcased with lavish red carpet premieres and over 300 recognizable stars walking the city streets in promotion.
We have travelled to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for almost 20 years now and this year might be our most anticipated yet. Only about a fifth of the films to be showcased at this year’s event have been announced. Among them are Johnny Depp in Black Mass, Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, Baltasar Kormakur’s Everest and Steven Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic.
We have procured passes for 20 of the showcased films. In two week’s time, the Festival will release the Programme Guide where the thousands of attendees will scour the daily pages to pick which films we want to screen.
The choosing process is not easy. The films screen at multiple theatres across the city so picking a film at noon at one location means you might have to forgo another film of choice that starts three hours later. The week is full of long lines, waits and people dashing down Yonge Street from one theatre to another to get to the next screening. It is not uncommon for people (such as ourselves) to see five films in the same day. Last year I met people who actually fit in seven! Believe me when I say that by day 5 most of us are absolutely exhausted and the smell of popcorn becomes downright vomitus.
Most of the line-ups are outside in the elements so any rainfall makes for a grizzly time. To ensure an unobstructed seat you traditionally have to be in line 1 ½ to 2 hours before showtime. More if a huge star is attached. Three years ago we waited three hours to get into the Princess of Wales theatre to screen Cloud Atlas. The attendance at the screening of Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Tim Wilkinson and Halle Berry ensured that seats would be at a premium.
What I like most about the festival are the people and stars you meet at the screening. Everyone is a movie buff and half of them know what they are talking about so the line-up chatter is never dull. Stars are easily accessible too. I met Willem Dafoe at a Starbucks when he was here to promote Antichrist and had a wonderful conversation with Anthony Hopkins who was outside catching some air on Toronto’s busiest street at 6AM one morning.
Stars stick around to attend movies as regular audience members too. I sat behind Joseph Gordon Levitt during Cloud Atlas and beside the new SpiderMan Tom Holland and his dad who came to the premiere screening of Ben Affleck’s Argo in 2012.
The festival has allowed me to make friends with some of the filmmakers as well. Eli Roth and I have had many conversations and have sent emails back and forth over the years. And there is a special place in my heart for Mike Flanagan who directed last year’s Oculus who is just as down to earth and pleasant as you would hope any director to be.
We know not the titles of the 20 films we will screen in the 10 days of the Festival but the city is already abuzz and the show is about to begin.