This year’s experience at the Toronto International Film Festival in all its glory.
One year of anticipation.
Three months of scouting films.
One and a half months of solid planning.
Multiple Soho reservations.
One VIP Pass.
Two spa appointments.
Two live performances.
Google docs, Excel spreadsheets and a master itinerary marking days, times, must-sees, alternate options, movies, suspected celebrity sightings, locations, and change-of-clothing reminders.
The open mindset that, quite literally, anything can happen.
Every year I look forward to the Toronto Film Festival the way I used to anticipate Halloween as a child. It sounds silly, but we all have our vices, right? Don’t judge.
Looking forward to Halloween every year, I would plan out my costume a month in advance, and I’d pop out of bed the morning of October 31st giddy and on the verge of an excitement-induced asthma attack. This year, while I didn’t need to break out an inhaler too many times, I also didn’t disappoint my inner-spaz. I experienced TIFF in two different ways: a celebrity and party filled weekend with one of my best friends in the world, and a popcorn and movie marathon with my hubby. These varying options (there are sub categories within these options as well) prove that TIFF has something for everyone; you really can’t go wrong.
I’ll spare you the details of the TIFF’ers (April and I) 5am arrivals home each night, our mental sleeping patterns, our 9 AM wake up calls, our extreme day-to-night outfit planning as we left the house each morning… because really, those experiences won’t help you decide if and what you want to do at TIFF next year. But what I will say is that April and I, if anything, were prepared.
Here are the highlights:
1: Meeting Kristen Wiig
Standing in a prime spot and making friends with the security guard at the Royal Alexander Theatre ended up paying off. Kristen only had time to go down the line of expectant fans once before being ushered by publicists for photos and interviews. April and I were so upset; we thought we had missed our opportunity to meet the amazing Kristen Wiig and grab a photo.
And as Will Ferrell (who spent practically no time with fans) and the rest of the cast from her première headed into the theatre, Kristen tottered in her four inch Louboutin heels over the street car tracks and back over to her adoring fans, taking as many pictures with people as her publicist would allow. It was our second chance, and I’ll happy to report, it was successful. Kristen was endearing, genuine and sweet; meeting her was a great way to kick off TIFF!
TIFF Tip: Don’t hold expectations of meeting people, or getting photos with people. Be courteous to others waiting. Good things could happen, but no matter what, the experience is fun!
2: Live Performances
Rdio was the music sponsor of TIFF this year and they had a pop up bar right on Queen with VIP access, an open bar, and yummy apps. Oh, and of course a surprise, private Ellie Goulding concert. April, Ian and I weren’t sure what was going to happen, but when we were standing one foot away from Ellie as she played a five-song acoustic set, I think it’s safe to say we were in shock. Beautiful and talented, that random, private concert is something I will never forget. (Check a sneak peek out here.)
Later that night a bunch of us (April, Jane, Kimbo, Gav, Zain, Ash and others) attended The Rdio presented Ellie Goulding and HAIM concert at Massey Hall. What an amazing venue! Both bands knocked it out of the park and everyone seemed to enjoy the show. We, along with a bunch of friends, headed back to the Rdio House for some good tunes and delicious bevies.
*Side note: the bassist (aka ‘Bass Face’) from HAIM and I had a conversation about our cup sizes at Soho later that night. Random and fabulous. *
TIFF Tip: Let the wind blow you where it may (cheesy, I know); you may have a schedule, but you don’t need to stick with it!
Soho House Toronto was our home away from home during TIFF weekend. We enjoyed iced coffees, brunch, down time, and relaxing in the daytime. At night, well, that is an entirely different story.
From eating dinner three feet from Jennifer Garner, to meeting Nick Kroll, to spotting Jason Reitman, Ben Stiller, and Cara Delevingne (who told my bestie Gavin that he was beautiful!) over late night mac ‘n’ cheese, our senses were on overload.
TIFF Tip: Plan to have downtime and make reservations far in advance.
4: Getting Jake’d
Jake’d, Verb. To have a missed opportunity with Jake Gyllenhaal, caused by him. i.e. “We got Jake’d last night when he decided to visit his fans on the left side of the fence, instead of the right.”
Along with two friends, Faith and Stacey (our ‘Tiffmates’), we experienced getting Jake’d by the one and only Jake Gyllenhaal last year outside the Shangri -La. We essentially had asked him for a photo at 2am which he politely declined due to being ‘tipsey’ (completely understandable, however we were still disappointed!). He then, very sweetly might I add, called out “Next time ladies!”
And now, as of this year, it’s officially a tradition to get ‘Jake’d‘ . (Should I add that to Urban Dictionary?)
How did it happen again this year, you ask? On the first Friday night of TIFF, April and I stood in the pouring rain as the sky opened up before us. We were instantly soaked and watched in awe as Jake made his way over the barriers and across the street (without an umbrella!) to meet some of his fans before his première. All of that is super amazing, however, we still got Jake’d as we had to watch that opportunity pass us by from the opposite side of the street, as we clutched our purses and wet shirts, hoping for another opportunity in the future.There’s always 2015.
TIFF Tip: Be hardcore.
5: Meeting Anna Kendrick
Anna is my favourite. I love everything about her: she’s cheeky, she’s funny, she pokes fun at herself, she is uber-talented, and she seems genuine.
Let this be said: those are high expectations without ever having met someone.
And let this also be said: she exceeded my expectations in every way. April and I arrived to Anna’s première of The Last 5 Years almost three hours early and were shocked to only find a handful of people preparing to camp out with us. We made a new friend (shout out to Sarah!) and waited in the most ideal position.
When Anna arrived, we squealed. She looked beautiful! But unfortunately, there was a super aggressive guy behind us that cost us a photo, and we watched (on the verge of tears– okay, well maybe that is a bit over dramatic) as Anna went through the line and took pictures and signed autographs for everyone but us. We had to do something.
“Girls, this is it- let’s move! It’s now or never!” I looked at April and Sarah, and we bolted past all of the fans to a secret opening we found out about the day before.
Thank goodness we did. Even though Anna’s team was trying to usher her inside, she wouldn’t allow herself to be rushed. She took a photo with each person that waited- it was amazing to see. She is so humble, so beautiful, and it was awesome to watch her take time for her fans. She was even cracking jokes. The results are below 🙂
TIFF Tip: Make split-second decisions, even if you fear they won’t work out.
6: Other Sightings, like Reese Witherspoon
Seeing Reese up close was a bit shocking. With honey blond hair perfectly coiffed and a striking purple dress, she looked like a little doll. She didn’t pose for photos with anyone, but she did sign a few autographs. It was amazing just to see her in person and realize how stunning she is in real life.
See below for a few shots of Reese and some others you may recognize.
TIFF Tip: Make friends with nice, tall people who can get close to the fence and will let you stand in front of them. It’s especially good if the guys you find want autographs and you want photos; it makes for a real compromise! There is no point in being rude to people and pushing others; that won’t get you anywhere except on the naughty list!
7: 10 Pass Flex Pack
Ian and I bought a ten pack flex pass this year, meaning we went to see five TIFF movies together. This is the first time we have ever done a package; we even took a day off work and saw three movies in one day! It was a great way to truly experience TIFF. We saw the following films and I have graded each one, along with a few comments below.
TIFF Tip: When compiling your list of ‘must-sees’, make sure you select a handful of second choices in case you don’t get a good time slot for your movie selection. Also, plan time in between film viewings so you can stay put after each one to hear the director and actors Q&A sessions.
This movie follows a woman with chronic pain who loses a friend to suicide. Written by Patrick Tobin, directed by Daniel Barnz and starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick and Sam Worthington in the leading roles.
This was definitely Jennifer Aniston’s best role; she was incredible. What is the saying? “Get ugly to get an Oscar”? Not that she could ever be ugly, but this was Aniston’s most dramatic character yet. Sam Worthington was delightful, and Anna Kendrick was great as always, although I could have used more of her! Read more about it here.
Based on a true story, this movie is a psychosomatic thriller which tells the of Olympic gold medal-winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and their extremely peculiar relationship with a multi-millionaire benefactor, John du Pont. It was directed by Bennett Miller, and starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. The screenplay was written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.
The acting was incredible and the storyline was entertaining and quite strange. I did find the story a little long and dry at parts; I felt a few things could have been explained better or cut out altogether. That being said, the acting deserves an A+. (Mark Ruffalo even ‘favourited’ my tweet about it!) Watch the trailer here.
The Gate: A
This movie is based on the true story of a French researcher who was captured by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1971. The film was directed by Régis Wargnier, based on the memoir of the same title by François Bizot.
Maybe it is Ian and my love for Cambodian culture or maybe is is our knowledge of the Pol Pot regime, but we were both extremely interested in this film. The acting was phenomenal (starring Raphaël Personnaz as François Bizot) and most of the other actors were just normal Cambodian people. Click here to read more about this noteworthy film.
Hungry Hearts: D
Hungry Hearts is Rosemary’s Baby meets Drinking Buddies meets the potential future ‘natural obsessed’ parents breeding in society. It was directed by Saverio Costanzo and at the Venice Film Festival, Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.
I did not like this movie. It was made up of too many genres, and I found the cinematography changed abruptly half-way through the film. The acting was good, but it didn’t make up for the lacking content and direction. Read more about it here.
Pawn Sacrifice: B+
I didn’t know much about the Bobby Fischer story, and boy did I like it! It was dark, it was brooding, and it was all about Bobby! I never thought I would be so interested in chess, let’s just say that. Read a review here.
All in all, TIFF is an event I look forward to ever year. I never know what to expect, and while I do make itineraries and try to be in the know, I’ve also learned that it’s also important to go with the flow and see what happens! With my hubby as my movie-analysing partner, and April as my star-gazing TIFF buddy (always important to have one other person to ‘stalk’ with! Any more than two, and stuff gets hard to coordinate!), this year outdid itself.
I strongly recommend everyone experiences TIFF in their own way. You never know, it could become an annual event for you too!