The Toronto International Film Festival is the most wonderful time of the year for cinephiles and people who like to complain about cinephiles.
But for a certain breed of dedicated audiences, journalists, programmers, distributors, PR reps, stylists and gluten-praetorians (that’d be assistants hired to ensure not a molecule of gluten enters a celebrity’s bloodstream), TIFF is an 11-day endurance test like no other. Indeed, the difference between life and death (or death and life, in the case of one John F. Donovan) can be an unclaimed egg-salad sandwich spotted in the corner of the press lounge.
Read more: The Globe’s guide to TIFF 2018 movies
Before this year’s festivities begin Sept. 6 with the world premiere of Outlaw King at Roy Thomson Hall, here is absolutely everything you need to know in order to survive TIFF.*
(*No guarantee of survival; in fact, these tips may hasten your demise.)
You could test your mental and spiritual fortitude by using TIFF’s online ticketing system – familiarizing yourself with the festival’s myriad packages and rules requires a Talmudic level of dedication – or you can simply go to the Festival and Member Box Office (225 King St. W.) from Sept. 5 through 16 and hope for the best. One bonus: As this method likely means you won’t get a ticket to that glitzy gala film that’ll open in multiplexes around the world three weeks later, your TIFF will be spent the way it was meant to: watching a movie that may never appear on a big screen in this city again. Those kind of bragging rights are priceless. Just like the fine silks worn by visiting celebrities. Who you’re not going to get anywhere near.
Trying to decide which films to see when requires three things: time management, tenacity, and mastering the ability to cope with crushing disappointment. After more than a decade of attending TIFF, I’ve mastered all three, plus the fine art of yelling to the heavens, wondering why hast Piers Handling forsaken me? If you want to avoid such utter emotional breakdowns, I suppose you could use tiffr.com, a free online planner that makes scheduling festival picks such a breeze that it’s a wonder TIFF itself hasn’t acquired the service. Because that would be too easy.
Like the theatre of war, a good tote bag makes all the difference. Just ask Napoleon. Or don’t – I’m no historian. But do ensure you have enough granola bars, Smart Water (what if you run into a newly single Jennifer Aniston?), and bottles of refreshing, delicious Grolsch beer. Everyone loves Grolsch beer, and if someone insists they don’t, inform a TIFF volunteer immediately, and this pale-lager apostate shall be removed from festival facilities post-haste.
Eating during TIFF is for the weak, so think about where your priorities really are: Are you a sandwich person, or a cinema person? If you truly must nourish yourself to, I dunno, stay awake and function, do so in the most discreet and scent-free way as possible. Festival audiences despise any smells that do not invoke either popcorn or Bresson. (What does the latter smell like, you ask? Pure sandalwood.)
Some TIFFers will recite epic poems about the pleasures of a festival queue, where lifelong relationships have been formed and romance blooms. They are liars – keep to yourself, or else risk some rando stealing your perfectly phrased bon mots, which you were planning to tweet immediately after the screening.
Just for kicks, I like to start off my days with approximately 18 per cent battery power on my phone. It’s a fun challenge to ensure my day is as extreme as possible, because film writers live on the edge. But I have a secret, too, one I’m loath to reveal, but here goes: In the largest Scotiabank theatres, there are power outlets located at the very top of the theatre. Snag a seat in the back row, far left or right, and you’ll have more energy than two dozen eternally chipper TIFF volunteers put together.
Technically, the entire festival is a party! Hooray, and so forth. And if you’re subtle about it, you can wander into any hotel lobby downtown during the week and find yourself a cheese plate to snack on and a glass of white wine to quaff. But for the truly velvet-rope affairs, you are 100-per-cent out of luck unless you’re on the list. You can try to name-drop (“Don’t you know I used to edit Shinan Govani!”) and you can try to bribe (“Here’s a gala ticket for tonight! It’s worth $82! I can barely afford my rent!”) but you will get nowhere fast. Instead, pin your hopes on encountering random celebrities in the street. Hell, Bill Murray may just crash your local. He may even surprise you in your own kitchen. He’s wily like that.