Being a member of the media at any major festival is very much like being a ticket holding member of the public: exhilarating and exhausting. I think it’s fair to say that we all love seeing incredible films, connecting with the fantastic people who made them, meeting likeminded film fans and seeing the occasional celebrity. So what sets the media TIFF experience apart? TFS reached out to four colleagues to give you a well rounded look at that press does at TIFF.
Kurt Halfyard, Row Three
The last few years I’ve been staying in a small Hostel across the road from the Scotia Bank Theatre which allows for 10 steps door to door for those 8:30am screenings P&I screenings. About 100 steps from Lightbox. These short distances are necessary when you are doing video review segments at 3am after the Midnight Madness screening – seeing the horror and martial arts films with midnight crowd, not during the day, is an absolute must.
From there, three to four films during the day, possibly do an interview, which for me requires a few hours preparation, usually several back and forth texts or phone calls to the films publicist, and squeezing in tall cups of black coffee between films. But getting to interview personal heroes, from Guy Maddin to Joe Dante, make the made dash and lack of nourishment worth it. For those 10 days, I pretty much survive on cinema alone. And there has never been a year (in about 15 of them and counting) where it wasn’t worth it.
Jason Gorber, filmfest.ca
It seems completely offensive to complain that doing TIFF with a P/I (press/industry) pass is hard work. I mean, it’s not like one’s hauling rocks or anything like that. Yet over the last decade and a half I’ve had the privilege of covering the festival, there’s not a year that has gone by that I haven’t almost collapsed with exhaustion, either mental or physical, sometime about halfway through.
Any festival is a marathon, of course, and in some ways the pace is even faster when you’re press. The other side of the curtain usually allows films to be screened far closer together, dashing from room to room often with minutes to spare. This allows for days of seven, sometimes eight screenings in the past when you count the (public, of course!) screening of the Midnight Madness flick.
I have a couple rules that I’ve learned over the years to make things work a bit better: First, I try to never do three subtitled films in a row, or four in one day. I find that you end up using a different part of your brain “reading ” a film, and when you’re in the fourth film, just as you remember an earlier chapter of a book being contiguous with the current chapter, so to does your brain take elements from the first film and glom it on to whatever you’re currently watching.
It’s jarring when it occurs, and exhausting to keep it all straight.
Secondly, since P/I screenings are so heavily weighted to the beginning days of the festival (the first 4 days especially), I find working backwards in the programme guide the best way of making it work out. This way, you can put off seeing whatever Canadian or Indie film that’s going to have its second screening on day 8, leaving time for you to make your difficult choices earlier in the week.
Every year I have some ridiculous choice, between two films that are both equally desired that screen at identical times. I chose BLACK SWAN over KING’S SPEECH, and didn’t regret it, but it was certainly at least cause for pause between those two works. This year I had the privilege to attend a number of pre-screenings, so this will help make things run even more smoothly.
Finally, while the vast majority of films are perfectly fine to watch with a restless press and industry crowd, Midnight Madness films are deadly in this environment. Heck, for any film where the audience is half the enjoyment of the piece, or that the participants from the film are well worth spending time with, then do what you can and get into a public screening of those events. Some of my finest TIFF memories are a mix of discovery on the P/I side (from RUSHMORE, to accidental introduction to Kim-Ki Duk, to attending press conference with the Coens), and some remarkable public screenings (The Funk Brothers at the Elgin, Neil Young at Pricess of Wales, to about a billion moments at MM screenings).
Remember that while this is work, it’s also supposed to be enjoyable, at least for freelancers like me that tend to emphasise the first syllable of that description.
Bon projection, all, the 2012 fest should yet again be nothing short of eleven solid days of memories that shall last a lifetime.
Since it is really my first year, diving head first into the TIFF experience there are a couple of misconceptions about the TIFF or festival experience that probably need to be cleared up. For the general public, it’s 11 days but for the press it is about a solid month of preparation in advance. Screenings, e-mails, scheduling potential interviews, more screenings, more e-mails and not to mention time to write about it all for about 14 hours a day, every day of the week. For 11 months out of the year, this is undoubtedly one of the more entertaining and rewarding jobs around, considering how many interesting people you meet and friends you make, especially on the festival trail, however this time of year is a bit of a grind. You’ve got to remember that the normal week-to-week business of new home video and theatrical releases is going on at exactly the same time as all of the festival preparations and neither can really be ignored. When ultimately considering the personal and professional relationships I’ve made in the time that I have been doing this job, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because the experience of a film festival is just a hell of a lot of fun and something that I’d recommend to any film fan looking to experience a wide variety of films with like minded individuals, but for those aspiring to cover a film festival one day, be sure you know the amount of work that you are getting yourself in for as it has been one of the most difficult yet equally rewarding experiences of my life.
Andrew Parker, Dork Shelf
A typical TIFF day for me starts even before the festival begins. Usually about three weeks before it begins there’s a regiment of getting up at 7 in the morning to answer a flood of emails from people on the west coast or publicists that just never sleep and it goes pretty much non-stop until 1 in the morning. Then once the festival hits, the schedule is even longer. Before the festival, I average watching 3 movies during the daytime hours (all while the emails come in and require answering at the rate of 6 or 7 every 30 minutes or so) and then my nights are spent writing about what I just saw and then answering, you guessed it, more emails. Then once the festival hits, the days are often spent running from place to place and during interviews with visiting actors and filmmakers, then 2 or 3 movies, then writing. Those days run from about 6 in the morning to sometimes 2 in the morning. Also, even more emails. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and friends that only come to town usually once a year, but do I have any favourite memories? Not really. They’re all usually pretty great and the festival is always a predominantly positive experience, but it really blurs together after a while. Never let anyone tell you that watching and reviewing movies all day is the easiest job there is. Actually, it pretty much is, but definitely not during those 10 days in September.
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