Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nothing left but the wait

Yea, the package arrived this morning at 10:15 a.m. Of course, this was a day late, but what can you do. The selections went right back out at 10:45 a.m. Hopefully, this will get it back to the TIFF in time for the lottery. Their instructions say that you have to send it out by 5 p.m. on Thursday to insure that it gets there. So I should be safe. But customs has me worried after yesterday.

I got the Festival pass which lets you choose 50 films. I chose 45. I only chose 9 am shows on the two Saturdays and Sunday. There may be GREAT films showing in the 9 am hour, but they can just be a beating. It's like college.

In your freshman year, you chose classes that start at 8am. "Why not, I had to go to high school by then. No problem." It takes one semester for you to realize that you NEVER schedule 8am classes unless there is NO other choice. It's just physically impossible for you to have any degree of alertness that early in the morning when your staying out past midnight.

So I know better than to schedule too many 9 a.m.s. Instead noon is a good start to the day.

Once I receive notification of which films I got, I'll post.

Hope everyone else is having a fun time picking their films and good luck on the lottery.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Out of Town Service

Customs, what you gonna do.

I'm not getting my package today containing my festival pass, program guide, schedule and order form. It's stuck in Memphis, TN in customs. Who knows, FedEX certainly doesn't, if I'll get it tomorrow. I have to have my films picked, put it back in the return FedEx package and send it off, no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, to get in the lottery. It's all in doubt. But I'm much calmer now than 3 hours ago.

1) At least it's not just me. Selfish, I know, but it does make me at least feel like God is not punishing me specifically. According to my call to TIFF box office, customs has held back several of the OOTS packages.

2) Thanks to the improved website, I've already got my choices made and printed. Although since I have time, I'll go back and tinker.

3) With the multiple setbacks to loyal TIFF festivalgoers, I'm confident that TIFF will help us out in some way should the package not arrive in time to be sent back out. I feel bad that I can't remember her name (TIFF staffer that answered my panicked call), but she was much more empathetic and calming than the FedEx employee I got when tracking my package. "We can't control what customs does, it's not our fault." Fine I get that, I just want to know if there is a timetable. "We don't control customs." Okay. Thank you, FedEx.

Last year was the first year I was able to get to 40 films during my stay. The previous years would be between 28-35. The key is to get your ass up when the alarm clock goes off, and quit whining about needing 10 more min. of sleep. You can sleep when the festival is over. There is no way I'll ever be able to see all 50 films that my pass would allow. That means you avg. 5 films a day. Body just can't take it. But I will see over 40 again this year. The key is to ALWAYS see at least 4 films a day. I've seen six in a day several times, but normally it will mean the next day I'll see 3 b/c I'm sleeping in till 2 p.m. So I'm going to try and cut down and see 6 maybe once.

The other thing that has improved about the TIFF in the OOTS (out of town service) is thanks to technology. In the past, you would send your choices in, but would have no idea what movies you got, till you arrived in Toronto and picked up your package.

Now, as soon as the draw is done and the selections are entered, you will receive an email saying what films you got. So you know going in, what plan you will have to take. For ex., in 2004, I knew I didn't get tickets to "Crash", so I already had my gameplan of when to get to the theatre, what book to bring, what food to get, etc. No scrambling, no fuss.

Hope everyone else is having better success with their OOTS.

Less panic, still miffed

Talked to the TIFF box office and it seems a lot of the out-of-town packages were held up at customs. I now have a tracking number that let me know that it's IN Memphis, TN. Not quite Dallas, TX where I need it to be. Again, I've basically got my movies picked out, but I have to get the form shipped back by tomorrow afternoon to make if for the lottery. If you don't make the lottery, you're SOL. And now, if there was customs problems getting here, might there be customs problems getting back? Aaarrgghhh.

I remember the good old days when we faxed our sheet in. Of course, even then there was the fear of "What if they didn't get the fax?" What if they lost my second page?" Can they read it? I'm sure it was nightmare for the TIFF staff.

This current way is still the best way to do it. No muss, no fuss. Customs just messed up the fun. I hate having to wait and wonder when it's going to arrive. Just like to have the program book in my hand and read about all the films that I have absolutely NO inclination to see.

The TIFFer who answered my call was very nice and helpful, so points to her. But that's not a surprise b/c the volunteers are typically very friendly.


It is now 3:20 p.m. CST and FedEx has yet to drop anything off. I just need the form to send back in. It's never gotten here this late. Arrrrggghhh.

Sense of nervousness setting in

I always get the "Out of town" package, b/c I'm in Dallas. It's almost like Christmas when the truck pulls up with the new book and schedule and I get to rip it open and start making my picks.

Usually, the package is here before I wake up. It's supposed to be delivered by 10:30 a.m. It has always been early. This year, it's still not here.

I'm trying not to panic. I've already done my research on the website. I have a set plan already in place. But it's not here. It's so cruel. 10:45 and no package.

I check the email confirmation to make sure the address is correct. Yes. Make sure I paid for OOTS. Yes. Make sure the thing says by 10:30 a.m. Yes. Aaaargghhh.

I'm not good at patience, but it's not time to panic yet.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Things to remember when devising your film schedule

On Crunchy Squirrel's blog, there is a three part discussion on how to pick your films for the TIFF. I have a few pointers on other things you should consider.

1) Theatre Size

This is probably the biggest determining factor to whether or not you will get your first choice when it comes to the lottery. Here are the seat counts that I remember from last year's screening guide.

Jackman Hall - 198
Cumberland Theatres - 1 - 213, 2 - 288, 3 - 319, 4 - 164.
Isabel Bader - 452
Royal Ontario Museum - 312
Ryerson Theatre - 1209
Varsity Theatres - 1 - 202, 2 - 226, 3 - 235, 4 - 161, 5 - 126, 6 - 125, 7 - 138, 8 - 580
Elgin Theatre - 1500
Roy Thomson Hall - 2600 (this is for normal performances, quite a few seats are not available for screenings b/c of the sight lines)
Paramount Theatres - I do not know the seat counts, but they are at least 300.

If there is a movie that you are dying to see, for ex. "Sideways", and you are trying to decide which of the two showing you try and pick. Show 1 - Cumberland 3. Show 2 - Ryerson. You have a better chance of getting your selection with a bigger house.

Remember that The Elgin Theatre & RTH have a certain percentage already taken due to the gala passes that are sold.

2) Time & Distance

Rarely are you going to be so fortunate that all your films for the day are at one location. As a result, you have to properly plan your time from one theatre to the next. All the theatres, save the Paramount / Ryerson, are within a block or two of a subway stop. The Paramount is the farthest walk (it normally takes me 10-15 min. from Osgoode). You should give yourself at LEAST 30 min. to get from the Paramount to any other location. The quickest trip for me is from the Ryerson to the Elgin.

3) Star gazer or Film lover

Why are you at the TIFF? Is it a) to see stars or b) is it all about the movies?
a) The stars are not going to arrive at the theatre more than 30 min. before showtimes. Most times it seems it's 5-10 before. Don't kill yourself trying to get to a spot hours in advance.
b) The main Galas are split into 6 p.m. shows and 9 p.m. The 6 p.m. will show the next morning at 9 a.m., the 9 p.m. will show at noon. (approx.) Instead of paying the high cost for the galas, you can save $ and see it the next day. These shows are rarely sold out b/c they are so early in the day. Do not expect to see anyone of note at the 9 a.m. shows. By the noon screenings, you may get to hear from the director.

4) How's your stomach?

Ask yourself how long you can go without food. The Cumberland, Varsity and Paramount are normal movie theatres with the typical concession stands. The Elgin and RTH have a few items (candies, water) for sale. The Ryerson and the Isabel Bader theatre have no concessions.

5) Try Midnight madness

The midnight madness crowds are a blast. They can make mediocre films into cult classics. But pick and choose your films. There is a huge drawback to going to all the films. First, they start to run together. Second, the more midnights you go to, the harder it will be to get up the next day for an early screening.

Have fun. The schedule will be out Tuesday.

Movies that I'm looking forward to - 2006

I've already got tickets to one film - the Gala for "Never Say Goodbye". This was the only Gala I bought for and it was strategic. Sorry, I can't help it. I'm from Dallas, so I'm a Dallas Cowboy fan. The NFL season opens during the first Sunday of the festival and I have to stop down to watch the game. The game against Jacksonville is at 4 p.m. The Gala is at 1:30 p.m. I love Bollywood movies, plus since it's at the Roy Thomson Hall, when it's over, I will be within walking distance of the sports bars with time to get a table for the game.

Otherwise, I'm open for anything. I've noticed that I typically like most of the films that play at The Ryerson, so I'll be looking at films that play there that I've not heard of, and will give those more weight when choosing.

The following are some that I'm looking forward to: (in no particular order)
Election 1 & 2
For Your Consideration
Kabul Express
Pan's Labyrinth
The Bothersome Man
The Host
Fay Grim
The Banquet

Can't wait. Less than two weeks away.

Growing/Learning as a Festival veteran

I stumbled onto the Toronto International Film Festival as a default in 1999. I went to South by Southwest in 1998 and thought...eehh. So I was looking for a festival to get me out of the state. I chose Telluride. Unfortunately, in my procrastination, it was sold out and booked up. Toronto was the next festival happening so I left.

1999 was a mixed bag. While the thrill of being out of the States (although now Toronto feels like an extension of home) was there, my movie selection left a lot to be desired. I got the 30 film pass and basically chose films that had American actors that I knew.

2000 was all about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." I HAD to see that film, knew it would be playing at the Festival. So I bought both 6 & 9 Gala passes and a 10 coupon book. At least here, most of my movies were already chosen for me. But foreign films still meant subtitles, and unless there were martial arts, count me out. I also thought I had friends going with me, but they canceled at the last minute. Downer, came back early.

2001 - skipped. Events turned out to be much bigger than the festival that year.

2002 - 2005. I know and love foreign films. I actually know foreign directors/actors to look for. Thus my selections have steadily improved each year to where now, there is usually only one/two films that I hate myself for seeing. I've gotten Festival Passes (50) the last four years. Last year was the first year I was able to get to 40 films. You have to be disciplined to do so. When the alarm clock rings, get up. I did go to all of the midnight madness shows and was left wanting on half of them. This year I plan to scout the midnights the same as I do the other films. If you avoid a midnight, then a 9 a.m. the next day is doable. See a midnight and you're probably looking at Noon for a first show.