Thursday, September 01, 2005

TIFF Entry #1: It May Be Christmas Morning, But Why Do I Feel Like Something Is Amiss?

It has begun.

Tuesday, at about 7:45am, I took my place in line alongside the other hardcore fest goers (yes, folks, Mouthy Martha was there, too, right up front, yapping away!) who were waiting breathlessly for the release of the official program book and festival schedule. We waited patiently, chatting with friends old and new, reminiscing about fests gone by and comparing speculation about what TIFF 2005 might hold in store. As 9am drew near, our hearts started beating faster, the pitch in our voices started to climb, and we all craned our necks to see just when the doors would be opened and our Christmas-morning experience would begin.

I know only hardcore fest goers (Linda, are you with me?) can appreciate the sheer joy and excitement of being handed a big, fat program book full of hundreds of cinematic possibilities. It’s like walking down to your living room on Christmas Day to behold a wealth of brightly wrapped presents under the tree – so much to choose from, OMG where to start?!?!

Well, let’s start with the free schwag! Once again, the fest has revamped its complimentary festival tote bag (given free to all program-book purchasers) and made it much more user friendly. Pockets ROCK. Plus, it’s funkier than it’s ever been. But even better than the nifty bag was what was inside! In addition to a free can of Sobé Energy Drink (caffeine is a fest fan’s best friend) and a $5 Starbucks card, there was a DVD of a new cable series, a bunch of oddly assembled coupons (um, maybe it’s just me but I don’t know what 50 cents off a bag of pasta has to do with TIFF’n)…and something I’m CONVINCED could NOT have been in every one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of totes. For when I opened my bag, I found a $50 (!!!) gift certificate to the Rosewater Supper Club (a swanky Toronto eatery) AND a $25 gift certificate to the Courthouse Grill (another T-Dot restaurant).


I went over those gift certificates with a magnifying glass, certain that there must be some fine print I wasn’t seeing…something that would nullify the whole deal or reveal it to be some kind of cruel promotional scam. But no, They’re real. Holy crap! The festival just gave me $75 worth of FREE FOOD!

Even though we’re always advised to welcome gift horses with open arms, I have to admit I was suspicious. Could the festival really be changing its tune? Could they somehow be REWARDING its audiences this year? It *is* their 30th anniversary, so maybe the execs and all the sponsors are really pulling out all the stops and rolling out the proverbial red carpet for us. Maybe.

My shock and awe continued when I began selecting films and filling out my order forms. What’s THIS now? Some of the movies showing at TIFF have THREE screenings! Three! That means more opportunities to see popular films and (quite possibly) less competition for tickets at each of those screenings.

Good grief, Piers Handling and crew, what has happened to you since September 2004?!?!? It’s like someone somewhere turned on the generosity switch in their brains and we’re being showered with goodness this year. Still, for some reason this gives me an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach…like it’s all too good to be true or some kind of grand set of typos.

Nonetheless, I agonized over my choices for a full day – sitting down on the couch at 9:30am and, save for potty breaks, pretty much staying there until 10 o’clock that night. Trying to slot 35 films into eight days doesn’t sound terribly daunting, but by hour four you’re no longer able to think clearly. Suddenly, you start to wonder if maybe seeing that new Abel Ferrara movie might be a good idea after all (no!), or that perhaps you should skip the Wallace & Gromit movie to see the new Zooey Deschanel drama instead (I’m afraid, yes). You forget which films you wanted to see, or when you wanted to see them, or WHY you wanted to see them. But 12 hours after I’d begun, I folded the order forms closed and put them in my bag for the next day’s delivery to the box office.

Which brings me to my next bout of skepticism.

When I arrived at the box office to submit my orders, it was like I walked into some kind of festival utopia. EVERYONE was super-friendly and super-perky and in a collective AMAZING mood. Big smiles all around and I swear there was even one girl SKIPPING from table to table. I’m not lying – SHE SKIPPED. I half expected to see a rainbow shining above the entrance and free ice cream being handed out by Catherine Keener.

When I handed over my orders, the shockingly helpful volunteer informed me of a new TIFF policy this year.

“Oh no,” I thought. “Here it comes.” I readied myself for a blow to the midsection.

“If you put your email address on the front of your order,” she said. ”We’ll email you as soon as we process your order and tell you which films you got.”


Seems the festival has decided that it’s cruel to make people sweat out the Labor Day long weekend, stressed about how many of their selections they actually scored, so they’re implementing a process whereby they will actually send us an email that says, “Hi Vickie! You successfully landed tickets to the following films…”, thereby giving us advance notice of how well (or how poorly) we did in the ticket lottery, and alerting us to the films we DIDN’T get so that we can come armed with alternate picks when we show up at the crack of dawn on Labor Day morning to collect our tickets.

Good grief on a cracker – WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY USER-UNFRIENDLY FILM FESTIVAL?!?!? Magically, almost eerily, they’re…nice. They’re helpful. They’re actually initiating processes that IMPROVE their flawed system. They’re giving out $75 of free phancy food, fer cryin’out loud! They seem to LOVE the moviegoer this year!

Or do they?

I’m not entirely convinced. For despite their efforts to lull me into a sense of comfort and warmth and security, I’m not comfortable or warm or secure. I want to believe that their motives are true, and that their sudden affection is genuine, and that their email-alert system will not send out reams of false information by accident.

But it all seems just a little too good to be true. Too easy. For now, I’m taking it all with a packet of low-sodium salt substitute, and will believe our unexpected good fortune when I have my tickets in my hand.


Jennifer said...

Okay, so this isn't remotely related to the improved service and nifty gift bags at this year's festival. I've really just been waiting for you to get this blog started so that I could have a major freak out over the fact that you and my beloved Viggo will be at the same place at the same time!!!

I've been trying to figure out what exactly this means to me - do I want you to ask him for an autograph for me? Do I want you to score the interview I want to do? Do I need you to tell him about the Viggo Vault? What? I think I may just need to freak out for awhile. I am SO impressed that someone I know might meet him, and admittedly a little jealous. I mean jeez, you have the possibility of meeting Liza Minelli too! How much good luck can you stand?! I'll expect a full report.

Vickie said...

I'm not sure how to break this to you...but I'll try to be gentle...

While I *have* requested a ticket to "A History of Violence" starring your beloved, and while he *will* be here to promote said film, we will not be at the same screening.


He gets to go to the Big Fat Fancy Expensive Exclusive Gala Premiere, and I get to go to the plain, ordinary, star-free repeat screening the next afternoon.

Now, there *is* a chance that he might show up at the repeat screening, only because the movie is directed by local hero David Cronenberg. So, Cronenberg will almost certainly show up and he may force...I mean, ASK...his stars to tag along, even if it's only for a little pre-screening face time with the audience.

Coincidentally, the screening I might be attending (ticketing-gods-willing) will be in the exact same theater where I stalked Maggie Cheung for Linda last year.

So maybe that's a good omen.

Jennifer said...

Oh. Well could wind up in line together at Starbucks or something and have an amazing life-altering conversation. I have full faith in your stalking abilities. May the force be with you!

Vickie said...

Very true. I know Viggo was spotted all over town, dining out and such, when he was here shooting a movie (I think it might even have been "A History of Violence") last year. So he's familiar with the area and probably knows where to get the best caramel lattés. And so do I.

I have already planned on telling him "Jennifer in Seattle said to say hi!" if we happen to cross paths in the coming weeks. Your stalking is safe with me!

DanO said...

We get sent an e-mail? Wow. Of course last year (and maybe the year before?) it was possible to check to see which films you got from "check your order".

Vickie said...

Really??? I had no idea we could check our orders (for films) in previous years!

Huh. Who knew?

Just goes to show you that TIFF isn't exactly going out of their way when it comes to alerting its ticket buyers of the features available to them.

But yes, apparently we'll be sent an email. I'll believe it when I see it...and, even then, I'll be skeptical of the information it contains. "Sure you say I got all my picks, but did I *really*???"

DanO said...

The friend who drops my picks off for me (I live in the UK and have come over for the last two years) tells me that we may not have done well in the lottery this year.

There may be some frantic re-scheduling sometime tomorrow...

Vickie said...

Here's a valuable tip that was passed on to me, and I'll now pass it on to you: the Tuesday after Labor Day is the BEST time to re-order/exchange tickets, *not* Labor Day (aka: pick-up day).

Many people line up immediately after getting their orders back on Labor Day, to exchange tickets or seek out replacement tickets for films they didn't get. The lines are huge, the wait is long and the process isn't always fruitful. (Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not.)

This isn't always the best idea. It's been my experience that you have a much better shot at getting tickets to the films you've been told are "rush only" if you go back to the box office on Tuesday morning after the dust has settled, the lines are MUCH shorter and the wait is minimal in comparison to Monday. Even if you ordered tickets for a particular film and didn't get them because the film "sold out," there may be more tickets available by Tuesday morning.

Here's why:

People routinely overbook themselves at TIFF, either by picking more movies than they'll actually see or by selecting multiple timeslots for films they really, really want to see in a bid to cover all their bases. Then, when they get their orders back and realize they have too many tickets or change their minds about what they want to see, they return/exchange what they have. Their returned tickets are then put BACK into the system and are suddenly available for sale.

But The Board of Lies outside the box office is never changed to reflect these newly available tickets. So films crossed out in red and labelled "RUSH ONLY" sometimes actually *do* have tickets still available...just not right away.

In the past two years, I've scored tickets to movies I'd requested and *didn't* get by showing up on Tuesday (or later!) and just re-checking availability. People return tickets all through the fest, so I sometimes check back daily once the festival is underway if there's a must-see title I'm after.

It doesn't always work, but it never hurts to check.

Good luck!

The_Voice said...

Hi, first time reader, many time TIFFer, but out of curiousity, does anyone know which box # was picked this year to start processing?

Vickie said...

Box 36 of 48.

Vickie said...


Hey, Jennifer?

Um, you know that Viggo movie?

I didn't get a ticket.

You know why?


All this time, I thought I had ordered a ticket. And then today, when I received my order confirmation from TIFF, I noticed it wasn't there. So I rechecked my list of what I requested and realized...D'OH! I had requested "Thank You For Smoking" instead. I had been torn between the two movies, and rationalized that "Violence" would be released here theatrically for sure, so I'd just see it later.

Not at the festival.

Not with Viggo.

I'm sorry.

I'm so ashamed.

I have failed you.

Jennifer said...

Darn it!

On the upside, I won't have to sit around green with envy as you watch "Thank you for Smoking" instead of "A History of Violence". Maybe I'll still get to go to a cool Seattle screening of "Violence", and then I can review it for The Vault. All is not lost...Don't think you're off the hook, though - I expect your eyes to be peeled for Viggo sightings about town!

Vickie said...

Tonight I was sitting behind two women who were comparing notes over which actors they were most excited about seeing. If I didn't know you were in Seattle, I'd have sworn you were one of them...because she breathlessly exclaimed, "I wanna see VIGGO!"

(Her friend is looking for Aaron Eckhart, coincidentally enough.)

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