Sunday, September 14, 2008

TIFF 2008 post-script: Festival director claims he hasn't heard ANY complaints from the public!

I read this and laughed and laughed.


"Zero feedback from the public"?

I find this very, very, very, very hard to believe. All I heard, over and over again throughout TIFF 2008, were folks griping about tickets and pricing and the lack of availability. I'm sure at least ONE of those disgruntled festgoers, if not dozens, contacted the TIFF offices to voice their opinions.

And as for complaints about rude staff, clearly no one steered him in the direction of my tale of Grabby Glenda.

(I also enjoy his comment that the fest will only rethink things if "the majority" of ticket buyers complain... if there's "a groundswell" of dissatisfaction. I wonder what constitutes a majority? 51%? 70%? 99%?)


Nicole said...

To be fair, I think this article was published the day after the Kirkland article came out, so maybe there wasn't any negative feedback at that time. However, I can't believe that there hasn't been any since then. I also wonder if only donor feedback will matter to them anyway.
The increase in prices to the Elgin was pretty disgusting, especially for second showings, and stories of fairly empty screenings seemed to confirm what we initially thought - that most wouldn't pay to see a second showing of a film that will be released later on. I had wanted to see Blindness and was irritated that there was no showing outside of the Elgin. Maybe next year they can reduce the prices of the daytime showings at the Elgin.

I also had two films where the picture disappeared and the film was stopped while they fixed it. It happened at the AMC and the Varsity so I have to wonder what was going on there too.

I won't say that my experience was as bad as yours because I did get my picks, but I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to have 10 lost vouchers and so I sympathize with your disenchantment of this year's TIFF

Vickie said...

Thanks, Nicole!

I agree that this article is from last weekend, but by then I'd already heard volumes of discontent from people in pre-fest line-ups (ticket pick-up day, exchange day, etc.).

So, I'm willing to cut Piers Handling a little slack -- especially since he was likely swept up in the start of TIFF and all the mayhem -- but I would hope that he's since changed his tune.

sarah said...

I'm a long time festie goer and i can tell you from many many conversations I have had that this festival has departed in a very big way from festivals in the past and was a huge failure on many fronts, from organization, to administration, to the choice of the AMC venue which cheapened the image of the festival, to the donor priority, the Elgin exclusion, oh and do you remember the days when we used to have passes hanging around our necks. Apparently the festival goer does not exist anymore. We are in the way of the industry now and its their festival.

Well have fun with your bankrupt festival of empty seats because that is where its heading if things continue on this path.

Vickies experience is the rule not he exception.

Vickie said...

Wow! Thanks for that Sarah. You echo the sentiments of most of the people I talked to in line and in the theaters.

I think part of the reason it *seems* (to the fest organizers) that most people are content is the fact that so many of the people attending the festival are NEW attendees, having maybe come for the past few years only. By far, the loudest and most vehement complaints I heard came from folks (like me) who have been coming to TIFF for 10 years or more and who remember what it used to be like.

Stacey said...

This was my 9th year, and I am definitely upset about a lot of what I experienced this year. I come up from Pennsylvania for 11 days every year, and it's a highlight of my year, but if things don't improve a lot next year I'm thinking next year may be my last. Or at the very least I may cut back drastically on my time / number of movies.

I was trying to mostly stay off my laptop during the festival except to post about the movies I saw, but have just gotten home and fired off a long email to customer relations. So there's one more for the pile - I sure hope some of the feedback is getting through.

Paul said...

I've only been "festivaling" for 5 years (did 1 or 2 films in two fests before I started doing that), and I was unhappy as well.

I emailed TIFF customer service after that article came out. I suggest you do as well. That way he can't say he hasn't heard any complaints.

I think the AMC was an EXCELLENT venue... once they had come up with a method for preventing budders, which seemed to work quite well. How can one complain about a venue that provides 100% digital film, giving indpendant and small filmmakers a very affordable way to showcase their films! It's VERY expensive to create a print when it may only be screened at this festival, after all. Heck, if you were in the ticket holders line, you even had shelter from the rain (for the most part). It's definitely a step up from the Param... I mean Scotiabank Theatre, and it's located in the now heart of downtown in the Yonge-Dundas Square Area. After having worked in the Atrium on Bay (right next to Yonge Dundas Square) when they created it, and having doubted back then if it would work as they had planned, I think it's really become a great place in the city.

I continue the silent (very silent) protest I started a couple years ago of NOT applauding during the NBC/Universal tribute to the volunteers. Until I have an actual postive experience with the mostly poorly trained volunteers, I don't think I will applaud. These volunteers get free tickets every 3 hours volunteered (I think, although I could be wrong), which works out to a little under 7 bucks an hour... back when I was around the high school age, that was about how much I made working at a part time job... at a movie theatre... managing crowds, lines, directing people to the right places, heck, doing whatever the volunteers were doing it seems, and I guarantee that I was doing a better job of it. Also, for the high schoolers, volunteering at TIFF helps to complete their minimum volunteer requirements to graduate from high school.

It seems to me that for the most part, volunteers get more out of this than some people think.

That said, I still had a mostly good time at TIFF this year :) With the exception of the one time at the AMC theatres where people were able to sneak in front of me, and the fact that officially, the Elgin is off limits, and that donors get priority, I had a good time :)

Next year though, maybe 5 films on ticket packages, and maybe take me mum to a Gala instead of a regular screening to make it special for her.

Vickie said...

While I know that not all volunteers are created equal, I really cringe when you keep lumping them ALL in together like that, Paul.

There are a ton of great volunteers working TIFF -- many of whom have been volunteering with the fest for years (I know because I see them every year) -- and slamming them all for, perhaps, the ineptitude of a few (who are in the minority) is unfair.

I have friends who volunteer, and I know for a fact that they are smart, courteous, helpful and very well-trained. They know their s**t. So, I take offense when you lay into them as if they're all enormous morons, and I find it a little hard to believe that you have NEVER had a single positive experience with even ONE volunteer over the course of five years.

As Linda said in the comments section many entries ago, a film festival relies on its volunteers in a huge way -- without them, the fest would be looking at a massive staffing deficit, and I guarantee you that keeping things running would be a complete and utter mess.

Matt said...

Volunteers get one voucher for each shift of up to seven hours. A typical shift is 5 or 6 hours. They must be 18 or over, so few if any are high school students.

Nicole said...

Interesting article in today's Toronto Star about the changes in the festival.

There will certainly be no excuse to say that there has not been negative feedback about the changes. I would think the loss of revenue from the empty seats in the Elgin would at least force a change in the premium ticketing policy.

I have friends that volunteer at the festival and they know what they are doing as well, so I do appreciate what most of them do. There will always be a few bad eggs in such a large group but what would help would be consistency in policies, as certain things seem to change every year.

Vickie said...

Thanks for that link, Nicole!

Here's a hyperlink to the story.

It'll be interesting to see if other similar pieces begin emerging in the press post-TIFF.

Matt said...

There have been a couple of hatchet-job articles -- one in Eye Weekly, and one in the New York Observer that refers to the "paranoia surrounding the search for Toronto’s latest serial killer". Huh?

Roger Ebert responds to those with his own view. (A few years back, Ebert criticized TIFF for making it too easy for the public to get into press screenings -- making it harder for critics -- so he's not 100% on the maximum public access bandwagon.)

But I think Martin Knelman's article in the Star is the best of the bunch, because it focuses precisely on what's changed and how it affected long-time festival-goers. Hopefully Piers, Cameron, and co. are reading.

Vickie said...

Thanks for the tips!

Here's a link to the piece in EYE.

Here's one for the New York Observer's story.

And, of course, the the one that got Piers Handling all pissed off in the first place.

Vickie said...

One more article, from the Star's Peter Howell, which is as interesting for his comments as for the comments from readers below the story.

Paul said...

Never one to argue a point for the sake of arguing once I see that I was wrong, I take back the two paragraphs on volunteers.

I apologize for lumping all volunteers into one group, and even more so for putting that here, at your blog, rather than on my own. In my mind I never intend offense, but quite obviously, looking back on what I wrote, I don't see how offense could not be taking.

I unfortunately have not had a good experience with volunteers. I have had good experiences with staff (anyone not wearing a volunteer shirt... from what I know, that includes microphone stand person at each of the venues and almost anyone with a walkie talkie), and I often think people assume everyone at TIFF is a volunteer, and may confuse good experiences with staff as being good experience with volunteers. Most of my experience with volunteers is that they don't appear to know things and then talk as if they do... what they should immediately be doing is finding someone with a walkie talkie. Over a few festivals, experiences like this tend to cloud my judgement.

Whether the festival could be run without volunteers though? I think if you took all the money going into bell lightbox to hire a paid employee for every two volunteers on duty at a time, you could probably get away without any volunteers... but what do I know.

Again, I apologize for those two paragraphs indeed.