Thriving Through TIFF 2018 (Otherwise Known As The Timothee Is Fantastic Festival)

Last year, I went to the Toronto International Film Festival (a.k.a TIFF) for the first time and, in retrospect, I made all the wrong moves. I only saw one movie, chosen purely based on star power instead of critical reception (can you really blame me for thinking something starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone was bound for awards season?). I also spent an entire day in the Fan Zone hoping to get a golden celebrity selfie, only for Drake to show up late and then to be skipped over by Benedict Cumberbatch. I did get  a picture with one with this guy who supposedly won a sport at the Olympics?

At the time, all of this was very exciting since I had just moved to Toronto from Montreal. It was exhilarating just to be on the grounds of a festival I had only read about in Entertainment Weekly. However, after I got Cumber-passed over at my first Festival, I made a promise to myself to do twice as much TIFF the following year. There were 3 main ways I was going to achieve this goal: 

  1. Work the festival as a volunteer: A paid position would have worked out too, but this is not how it turned out this year. 
  2. See at least 2 movies: The movies had to have some industry buzz behind it i.e. it had to be a title I recognized from my daily perusal of Entertainment Weekly
  3. Save the Celeb-Sighting for a Premiere: Then I’ll get the satisfaction of not only seeing a star in the flesh but also maybe hearing their post-movie Q&A.

It’s been nearly two weeks later and I can proudly say I achieved these goals ten-fold! I ended up seeing SIX films, half of which were Premieres. I volunteered five times in five days. I saw celebrities casually minding their own business on Festival Street. However, this success definitely came with its share of challenges. 

The first, and most epic challenge, were the lines. I got into four out of the six movies I saw after waiting hours at a time in a rush line. For those of you who don’t know what rush lines are, (or are already scared of how long you might need to wait in one) it is where you go when you can’t buy tickets for the movie you want to see in any other way. Higher profile movies like A Star is Born are often “off-sale” when you try to buy tickets for their Premiere screenings (or any screening at all) because they’re so in demand. So, if you’re passionate about seeing a certain film or supporting a certain actor (**talking about you, Little Monsters**), and you were not one of the TIFF members or patrons who managed to buy a ticket online, you wait between two and four hours outdoors in a rush line in the hopes someone cancels their night plans or gets stuck in traffic ten minutes before the screening is supposed to start. 

For some of screenings later in the Festival, where the stars were no longer there, I’d get into the screening after about an hour or two of waiting in the rush line. However, on the second day of the Festival, I went beyond normal lengths of rush line waiting to see Beautiful Boy, an Oscar Bait drama with two actors I credit for getting me through my Master’s Degree: Steve Carell (a.k.a. Michael Gary Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin) and Timothee Chalamet (a.k.a. an angel living on earth). 

I knew this screening instantly sold out online. I knew going in the rush line was very risky. I knew this was going to be rough. So, I planned in advance by writing a whole entire game plan because I was that adamant about going. I had to prepare for any and all possible situations, including not getting in (even though at that point, I strongly believed I was going to make it- I had seen a Timothee Chalamet doppleganger a week before and I felt that must be a sign- right?)

I recruited my friend Robin to rush with me. It’s very difficult to get somebody to wait with you outdoors for hours to maybe get a ticket to a movie that’s coming out in wider release a month later. I’m grateful Robin was so willing to go through the nearly six hour rush experience with me so I can have a shot of seeing just how tall Timothee is in person. Spoiler alert: He’s very tall. This is something I know now from getting into the screening in the nick of time.

Robin and I agreed to separate if someone gave up a single ticket. That is exactly what happened: I ended up in the centre in the last row of the orchestra section, which provided a bird’s eye view of the screen, Timothee Chalamet’s black and white Haider Ackerman suit, and Steve Carell’s post Office silver fox glow-up. I nearly cried at the sight of the cast. I definitely cried during the movie, a harrowing rollercoaster through a young man’s drug addiction and his family’ attempts to help him. I plan on writing to the Academy if they do not at least nominate Steve and Timmy. 

The best moment happened as I was leaving the theatre. Minor spoiler- but necessary to mention- during the credits of Beautiful Boy, there is a monologue spoken by Timothee’s character that comes after the first song played. I noticed everyone on the way out of the theatre had stopped in their tracks and were looking up to the centre balcony, where Timothee Chalamet had paused, alongside the cast, to take in the powerful monologue. Moments like these, I realized, are why it’s worthwhile to wait up to six hours in a rush line for a Premiere. To see an actor take in their performance in this kind of way added a unique dimension to my already emotional movie watching experience.

This moment was very hard to top, but the movies that followed the Beautiful Boy bonanza were still stellar. The Hate U Give similarly rattled me, especially since it also reflects such a prevalent issue that is going on today. Boy Erased and Mid90s showed just how talented Lucas Hedges is, playing two opposite roles. Mid90s also marked the third time I saw Jonah Hill during the Festival, after casually spotting him having a day while out with my friend in a hotel lobby (please feel proud of yourself if you got that subtle Maniac reference, by the way). As a volunteer, I also got to see the People’s Choice winner, Green Book, which was the lightest film I had seen over ten days of the Festival. Yes, a movie about an African-American musician touring the deep South in 1962 was the least intense movie I saw in ten days. 

Volunteering was a whole different experience. Two days after I was the patron in line with all the questions, I became the volunteer helping other patrons in the line and answering their questions. It ended up being a very smart move to go through the Beautiful Boy rush line extravaganza, and another Premiere screening at a different venue before shifting into volunteer mode because I got to see where volunteers would be placed and what kinds of questions they’d be asked by customers and passers-by.

If you’re reading this, and you’re planning to become involved in TIFF in that capacity at some point in your future, I highly recommend booking your first shift after you’ve at least gone to one screening, Premiere or not. You can learn a lot being in a line for hours or just casually trying to find the closest Starbucks.

I suppose the average human would shudder at the idea of waiting in a line for up to six hours or paying far more than $20 to see a movie that is being widely released just a few weeks later, these are the hurdles passionate TIFF-ers like me are more than willing to go through. For someone like me, who is determined to make a mark as a storyteller in the media industry, there is something so special about watching a great story being told with the people who put it together. When you have an idea of how much goes into even making a short film, you become proud of the cast and crew who did all they could and more to tell an important story through a full length feature. A few months later, you may become even more proud if that story gets recognized by the Academy on the biggest stage in the world. Contrary to popular belief, this is why seeing Timmy Chalamet take in his performance was so powerful for me: sure, he’s beautiful, but I could tell he worked hard and he was proud of the performance he gave. This is how we should feel after being vulnerable through our creative work.  

Going to see six movies at TIFF means way more to me than just having the satisfaction of telling my friends and family I saw that movie before it became a big deal. However, even with this year’s success, I still plan on upping my TIFF game next year. The main goal is to upgrade my volunteer badge to a press and industry badge. Let’s see how that goes. 

 

All photos are the author’s own