Monday, September 01, 2008

TIFF 2008 (Vickie’s Diary): Excuse Me, Miss... Is Your Record Broken?

Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t continue to beat the dead horse that is the annual TIFF ticket lottery, but I only managed to snag 18 of the 29 films I selected this year, so I’m feeling a renewed sense of indignation over the whole thing. Last year, by some fluke, I got everything I requested, but this year the planets have un-aligned themselves accordingly and as expected.

But I think this will be my final rant on the subject, because how much more can be said? Not much. Except: the lottery blows.

Before anyone chimes in with “but this way is FAIR!”, let me just say: it is not fair. Not at all. Yes, it removes the first-come-first-served element so that all orders – regardless of drop-off time – are considered equal in the eyes of the TIFF gods, but how is it “fair” that you pay for tickets you don’t get?

Yes, I understand that those of us who don’t get what we’ve asked for can then re-ask for those same movies, or other movies, in the soul-crushing, serpentine queue known as the “exchange line,” but at what point does the entire process just become so ridiculous and time-consuming and labor-intensive that it’s just not worth the trouble?

Let’s say you’re me, and you’re missing 11 films – not surprisingly, almost all of those absentee screenings are on that first Fri-Sat-Sun weekend when, it seems, EVERYTHING is sold out. So, you try to find replacement films on the days where your schedule is suddenly severely lacking. But the Board of Lies says, “Sorry, sucker. Every film on those days is sold out.”

Then what?

Then you try for same-day tickets during the fest, which entails getting to a venue’s box office at 8am (or earlier)? Even though there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

Or you try for rush tickets, which involves getting to a venue some three hours (or more) before the start time of a film? Even though there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

And what if you were just coming into town FOR that first weekend and wound up with, say, 4 of your 10 picks? What if you couldn’t find replacement films? Or you didn’t have time to stand in line for hours on end because, you know, it eats up all your movie-going time and there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

Well, then you probably try to sell off your vouchers in some line somewhere, or you just eat the cost of the tickets you didn’t use. GREAT news for the fest (cha-CHING!); too bad for you.

Basically, the entire TIFF ticket lottery can be boiled down to: there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available. But the fest will nonetheless happily take your money off your hands, whether or not you manage to get what’d you like. Oh, and this just in: if you’re a festival “donor” and you drop at least $250 in their coffers, your order(s) will be processed BEFORE the ticket lottery. So, I suppose, if you’re willing to part with another couple hundred bucks, you can avoid the lottery headache altogether! Thing is, as I discussed with my linemates this morning, if I want to help fund the arts in Toronto (which someone theorized was a good reason for donating), I’m going to give $250 to an independent theatre group or a youth orchestra or some other in-dire-need-of-cash organization, not the Toronto International Film Festival, which is making money hand over fist AND already over-charging me for tickets as it is.

The “catch” to the donors-first policy? The more you donate, the sooner your order is processed. It all feels very much not in the spirit of “the world’s largest public festival,” I think.

And this really is the last time I'm going to stand on the exact same soapbox to gripe about the exact same issue. I promise.


maria said...

I hear you on all fronts! I was able to be a donor this year with the help of three of my friends who I go to the galas with and when they decided to nix the gala packages, sheer panic started for my friends because the galas are the only movies they can attend, so there was great fear that they wouldn't get any tickets.

Against our judgement and pocket books, we bit the bullet and donated - it CLEARLY is an advantage..more than it should be. The whole thing is a load of crap.

My non-donor friend was standing in line for almost three hours today just to exchange tickets and he was texting me throughout, telling me that they were asking people in line if they were donors. If they were...front of the line!

The Mad Hatter said...

Come on isn't THAT bad. The way you're complaining about it, I almost took you for a local (We L-O-O-O-VE to complain!).

Do you really want to go back to the non-lottery method? The method that involved line-ups starting at 4 a.m.??

Yes - part of it is a complete crapshoot. You might well shell out a few hundred bucks and have a crummy experience, but you run the same risk shelling out top dollar for courtside Lakers tickets only to witness the home team losing by forty points.

This will be my eighth festival, and quite honestly, most of the movies I've wanted to see - I've been able to see. Believe it or not, those same-day tickets are a goldmine.

Vickie said...

Ah yes, but the flaw in your Lakers analogy, Mad Hatter, is that you buy the tickets and you still get to see the game... even if the game sucks.

It's not about having a crummy experience, it's about shelling out money and not getting a product in return. If I buy 10 movie tickets, I expect to see 10 movies... not seven.

This will be my 18th TIFF, and I do remember those 4am line-ups (earliest I ever got there was 4:30am!). I'm not saying that method was perfect, either, but I never did worse than missing out on maybe two or three requested films.

I think the ideal solution would be some process whereby you could get a refund if you were to buy a pass or coupon book and not use up all the tickets. THAT would be a fair way of handling things. Logistically challenging, sure, but fair.

And I do agree that same-day tickets are often surprisingly abundant. It's just the hassle of yet another line-up that's annoying.

I also realize that I'm whining about the privilege of seeing movies.

Vickie said...

Orrrrrrr, alternatively, run the system/lottery the same way BUT... eliminate the passes and packages altogether, only sell single tickets and have festgoers pay AFTER their orders are processed (i.e., pay upon pick-up of tickets), so that you only pay for the number of films you get. Now THAT'S fair! ;-)

Paul said...

The pay for films you get will likely not work. What's stopping someone from requesting 40 films, getting all 40, then not bothering to pay for the 40? Then those tickets became available, but not before someone else had to line up in the exchange line.

I've always hated exchange day when I don't get my picks. But usually, if I put in all 10 first and second choices, I end up not having to enter the exchange line. This year I was lucky. The pick up line took me 50 minutes, and I was out of there!

vickie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vickie said...

Good point about the fly in my ticketing ointment. Drat!

I have just returned from yet another 2+ hours in line, in a bid to exchange some of my 17 (!) vouchers for tickets.

Even with second, third and even fourth choices for some timeslots, I only managed to fill seven re-requests (all were third choices, one fourth). Of seventeen.

Even morning screenings on weekdays were sold out.

And, honestly, I just don't feel like standing in any more ticket-exchange lines at this point.

Jennifer said...

No wonder you were so tired! I'm exhausted just reading about the process. It doesn't seem like SIFF is half that complicated, and everything seems to work fine. My feeling is that any time you're in line longer than your actually at an event, you're getting screwed.

Q said...

I think it would be nice if they had set aside say 25-50 tix for each film for:

1) exchanges
2) public consumption

I think it would be a bit selfish to say that advance ticket purchasers should get to monopolize a movie and have it sold out before regular joes gets a hand at it. Let's be honest, the whole advance ticket process is a real PITA and most people do not have the time or fortitude to go through with it.

Otherwise, I very much prefer this lottery system. As you yourself mentioned, you got lucky last year and got everything you requested. You win some, you lose some y'know?

Vickie said...

I would be willing to bet that they actually *do* do that, q. I have no proof and I could be completely wrong, but something tells me some tickets are always kept aside at all times, for a number of purposes.

Thing is, even though I did get all my picks last year, it didn't endear the lottery to me at all. It was a fluke, and at the prices TIFF wants for their passes and packages, it's a very pricey risk.

And I know from speaking to other folks in line over the past week, I am by no means alone in my feelings about the system.