Don't Try This at Home – the Story of TIFF 08

Brutal. The only word in the English language that even remotely describes the ticketing process for the Toronto International Film Festival. Much blood, sweat and tears go into snagging tickets to the highly sought after, and sometimes even lowly sought after, films that are invited to TIFF. I wholly recognize that Toronto is the only film festival in the world that allows the public to attend, but for the love of God, there has got to be a better way to make this miserably difficult process easier for everyone! If this doesn’t change soon, the blister popping on my normally perfectly pedicured feet will never end from the 3 hour waits in line. This is the “people’s festival” after all and a large part of its success is because the buyers and distributors want to see how a film plays with an audience of real people. Not plastic Hollywood types. So why is the process so f-ing difficult to get an actual ticket?!

I was determined not to repeat the mistake I made last year when I purchased 10 single movie tickets for $220+ when I could have purchased a ticket package for tens of dollars less. TIFF ticket purchasing is really a needlessly convoluted process so for those of you who have nothing else to do with the next 8 minutes of your life, stay tuned for a layperson’s description of said process.

Unless you’ve signed up to receive TIFF alerts, you likely won’t know what happens when, which I learned last year the hard way. I subsequently – and smartly – signed up for their emails and presto! – received the first of many in mid-May. First, you figure out how many movies you want to see, whether you want to pair up with someone else to share, etc, etc. There are packages available from a 50 movie pack down to single tickets. It’s almost singularly impossible to schedule and physically get to 5 movies per day for 10 days in Toronto. Think about it. Ouch. You’d seriously need one of those blow up rings people with hemorrhoids sit on just to make it through the day. I settled on 15 tickets – a 10 ticket package and 5 single tickets. TIFF changed the process this year and no longer allowed package holders to schedule Gala screenings or Visa Screening Room films. They are their own separate packages and of course, expensive as hell. However, if you are a stargazer/fucker, this is definitely the package for you.

In early August, you are notified of the date when you can queue up at one location in downtown Toronto to pick up your official film schedule and 2 scantron-like forms that you manually complete. Said date this year was Monday, August 26. Said location was Toronto Life Square – TIFF’s new home at Yonge/Dundas Square. Schedules were available only from 10 am to 6pm. Sigh. They really make you work for this. I managed to pick up my forms fairly quickly and went to get dinner to peruse the films. (As an aside, Johnny Rockets just opened up at Toronto Life Square so I decided to have a burger at the schmaltzy 50’s joint. Interestingly, halfway through my meal, a 50’s song came on and the entire staff – including the chefs – did a full on dance to “Stop! In the Name of Love”. Oh, and they made a ketchup happy face on my hamburger. Aww.)
This year, the scan-tron request forms had to be turned in by Friday, August 30. Unluckily for me, I was going on holiday to Quebec City so had to return mine by Wednesday, August 28, giving me just 2 short days to read through 310 film synopses and make a schedule for 30 films (15 first choice, 15 second choice). Trust me, this is no small feat. There is some pre-festival blogging about certain movies but for the most part, my strategy was to get tickets only to movies that I felt wouldn’t be readily available in theatres. After 8 long hours, I was ready to turn my selections in. I trudged *back* up to Toronto Life Square (if I was a gambling woman, I’d say that the TTC gets some kind of cut from the 10,000 Torontonians making 3 trips to TLS for TIFF) I thought it would only take 5 minutes to turn in my form, but alas, the line just to *turn in* the scantron was an hour long. Sigh.

Finally, everything was turned in and I got my “box number”. This is the most important part of the TIFF ticketing process. I am sure that Torontonians everywhere get down on their knees at night praying that they get a good box number. Mine? Lucky #16. Once everyone has turned in their forms, TIFF draws a number at random and that’s the box they begin processing ticket requests first. This year, they drew #9, so i essentially got all of my first choice since I was in box #16. Afterwards, I heard that there were over 150 boxes of envelopes this year, so I definitely lucked out.

On Monday, September 1 (Labour Day), you could begin picking up your tickets, buy single movie tickets and exchange for other films. Needless to say, the lines were again excruciatingly long. I know I’ve made light of the lines, but part of the fun of TIFF is actually standing in line and getting to know the people around you. People talk about what they’re seeing or what they’ve heard is good, and the camaraderie is way cool. But after two hours of standing there, it gets old. The entire process is done manually so when you get up there, you give them your pick up ticket and they go through cardboard boxes by last name to find your envelope.

With tickets finally in hand, I did a little jig and headed home, thrilled and very much looking forward to TIFF08!

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Filed under films, TIFF, toronto international film festival

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