Friday, September 05, 2008

TIFF 2008 (Vickie’s Diary): The Great Same-Day Line Fiasco of 2008

Let me preface this entry by saying: I am a crotchety TIFF veteran. I will fully cop to whining and complaining about how things have changed for the worse, and how the tickets are too expensive and hard to get now, and how the general vibe of the entire event has gone from “fun public festival” to “industry-centric circus that frequently shuts out the very people who made it what it is today in the first place.” So, you know, I realize that I rant. But I think today may go down in history as the single most frustrating line experience I have ever had in my 18 years attending the festival.

To backtrack, the new AMC venue at Yonge and Dundas, and the accompanying relocation of the main TIFF box office to Toronto Life Square (henceforth known as TLS) are, as predicted, seriously flawed in terms of their user-friendliness and convenience. Yes, they’re on the subway line (unlike the Scotiabank) and the seats in the new AMC theaters are comfy and in stadium style... but there ends the bliss. I’m not sure if the TIFF organizers ever sat down with the property management folks at TLS to explain exactly what’s entailed in having a box office on site, but it feels like they didn’t and that the folks who own TLS suddenly decided that maybe huge line-ups taking up precious space would be an enormous pain in their collective ass.

Because someone somewhere vetoed the notion of indoor lines, meaning all lines for all TIFF-related activities (screenings, ticket purchases, whatnot) are outside. On Dundas. Wrapping around to Victoria, where hordes and hordes of students (and businesspeople and assorted pedestrians) file past every minute of every hour from about 8am until after dark. Nevermind the traffic and the exhaust fumes and the almost constant smell of stale urine. So pretty.

But having numerous lines outside for an indoor venue of that scope also leads to mass confusion, for festival goers and, apparently, for certain TIFF staffers. The key word in that sentence is “confusion,” and it’s the main reason for what can only be described as my truly ridiculous and sort of infuriating attempt at procuring a same-day ticket for a film at the AMC earlier today.

It was beyond absurd.

I wanted to redeem one of my many vouchers for a same-day ticket for an AMC screening. The end. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Instead, it set in motion a series of events that left me standing in the wrong lines at the wrong times thanks to a supremely self-important (and clearly inept) volunteer upstairs inside the facility. I mention that so you know that I know the staffers working the lines outside actually know what they’re doing and are doing it well. They have a massive job on their hands, trying to maintain order amid the mayhem, and they’re doing a pretty good job under the circumstances. Congrats. But it only takes one clueless person elsewhere to throw a big wrench into the well-oiled machine they've created.

Initially, I began writing out today’s fiasco in great detail, outlining every ridiculous moment, but when I noticed I was on page three and only halfway through the story, I figured brevity would be better... for you and for my sanity. (I did, however, go on camera afterwards to recount everything – EVERYTHING – on film for Eric’s documentary, and when I was finally finished my loooong single take, he turned off the camera and said, “That was... amazing.”)

In a nutshell, the goings-on go like this: after repeated incidents of misdirection and line confusion, the movie I wanted – which still had tickets available when I’d arrived at TLS – had sold out by the time I reached a box office cashier. I was so frustrated and fed-up by the whole process at that point that I might just have cried (out of sheer frustration and defeat, not because I was missing this particular film) had I not headed right over to Eric and Dan for comfort and laughter. I’m fairly certain that my blood pressure shot up a good 50 or 60 points in the hour and 15 minutes of back-and-forth fiasco-ing, and it took me more than an hour to shake the tension afterwards. Even the actual retyping of the tale tonight was getting angrier and angrier (sorry, keyboard!) as I recalled the whole thing. So I scrapped it and rewrote. Believe it or not, this is MUCH shorter.

Because, did I mention?, I was manhandled. Manhandled. By the same (inside TLS) female volunteer on whom I blame everything. As I was standing in the box office line inside the actual TIFF box office, she unexpectedly GRABBED ME BY THE ARM from behind, literally yanking me out of one line and pulling me by my upper arm all the way to some line supervisor as though I was a petulant four-year-old. What. The. F**k?!

Seriously. She grabbed my upper arm, pulled me and firmly hung onto me without ever saying A WORD to me as she physically moved me from point A to point B as though I should know what the hell she was doing or why. (Turned out she was bringing me to the line supervisor to explain the situation in a bid to move me further up what turned out to be another WRONG line. WTF?!) I was so shocked by her HIIIIGHLY inappropriate behavior that I didn’t even know what to say or how to react. Who does that???? When did volunteers get permission to touch, let alone manhandle, festival goers who are just standing in line, waiting? Grabby Glenda instantly earned herself a nickname and a spot on my TIFF shit list alongside Mouthy Martha and Dora the Dope.

She never explained herself, or apologized, or even offered a quick “hi, sorry, would you mind stepping over here instead?” Nothing. Just a grab and a yank.

And then, after everything... after her pretty much ruining my afternoon... she had the audacity to cheerfully say to me (as I was later stomping out of the box office, ticket-less), “So, did you get your ticket?”

“NO, ACTUALLY, I DID NOT!” I snarled back, opting not to stop and launch into a loud, expletive-laden rant.

“Oh, are you going to try to rush it?” she shouted after me.

Was she kidding me?! STAND IN ANOTHER LINE?!

“NO!” I yelled over my shoulder through a mild rage haze.

Anyway, very long story short: from now on, I know where to stand if I want to buy a same-day AMC ticket. No thanks to Grabby Glenda. And I have calmed down, realized the insignificance of the entire joke of an afternoon and will be moving on now that I’ve told you all about it.

Unfortunately, this whole incident set the appropriate tone for my sole screening of the day – the Polish drama 33 Scenes From Life (4/8) – which turned out to be disappointing. Made up of a series of rather bleak vignettes spanning a year in the life of a photographer (Julia Jentsch), the film purports to be about adulthood and responsibility as a result of love, death and loss. Um. Okay. I guess. Only... I actually had to read the program book when I got home to find out what the hell the movie had been about. Honestly, watching it, I had no idea. And, given the STONE SILENCE with which people filed out of the theater, neither did anyone else.


Celebrity Sightings: None.

Line Buzz: Unsurprisingly, a LOT of festgoers are pissed off about ticketing this year. Lots of frustration over the lottery, the news of the donor process, the practices at the AMC (with the multiple lines), and the inordinate number of seemingly untrained staff (I watched as one cashier at the box office had a customer actually take back her order, walk away and get BACK IN LINE because she was so fed up with the volunteer’s lack of knowledge!). And, from press-screening whispers, a LOT of positive buzz around Anne Hathaway and her film, Rachel Getting Married.

7 comments:

Paul said...

*ahem* This is why I stopped applauding the volunteer clip last year.

My constant rule of the Festival: If they don't have a walkie talkie, you must not ask them questions. They are given very BRIEF jobs with NO training. They must stand somewhere.

If someone, anyone, grabbed me, I would immediately say, "what the h*ll are you doing?" and possibly retaliate with a similarly leveled physical response.

Anyways, sorry to hear things haven't been the best so far. For me, with the exception of a weird Edison & Leo, my films have been enjoyable, lines have been short to empty to lots of fun, and I've encountered no problems with my tickets. I dunno, I think experiences very considerably depending on how things went.

Martin Landau was kick @$$ to see in person.

Vickie said...

That's just it, though -- she HAD a headset! So, you would think she'd have some idea of what's what... or, at the very least, could radio someone else to find out.

Experiences definitely do vary from person to person, no question, though.

Matt said...

Yikes, headset means volunteer captain. Still, they're subject to the same rules as everyone else (not to mention the minor points in the criminal code about assault).

You should make a formal complaint to the festival. If you have a name, I can point you in the right direction. If you don't have a name, I can make some inquiries with a time and a description.

The people behind the desks in the box office are staff, not volunteers, but of course they don't do the job year-round and the one you mention could be new this year.

Vickie said...

Oh, the behind-the-desk folks were fine. In fact, they've been great so far (for me, anyway).

And me getting this handsy person's name is simple, since I believe she's on duty today and, likely, many other days when I'll be at the AMC.

The Mad Hatter said...

Wow Vickie...you're *REALLY* having a rough go of things this year. So sorry to hear it!

If I could offer the smallest piece of advice - avoid the TLC box office like the plague. I have no idea why, but the line up thre always seems massive and unmoving.

For much better results, venture back up to Yorkville and use the Manulife Centre box office...much more orderly, much more organized...and for some reason, much less grumpy fest-ers and volunteers.mzyih

Linda said...

Ugh, Vickie! You've hardly had a relaxing start to the fest thus far! It is a shame that TIFF can't get it together about giving the poor volunteers a single clue. They should know that they would have NO FESTIVAL if it weren't for volunteers (yes, I have to admit I have sympathy, since I've volunteered for fests myself). But Grabby McGrabberson? You should have punched her where it hurts... right in the boobs.

Lou said...

:-(