Sep. 9, 2008

Advice to the Film Lover

So I've been working at the Toronto International Film Festival's Festival Box Office beside Dundas Square for ten days now, starting generally at 6:00 AM. I did the same thing last year. Things are starting to settle down at last, and today was quite easy. Here is some insider's knowledge for ticket buyers...

Advance Ticket Packages: Great idea; saves money and gives you (almost) first shot at available tickets through the lottery process. Every year though there are long lineups of frustrated people. They line up to get their selection form, they line up a few days later to drop off their completed selection form and a third time to pick up their allocated tickets. It's a great chance for me to get to know everyone, chit-chat, etc. Here is the way to do it without sacrificing six to ten hours of your life. Sadly we'll only have a short chance to get to know each other this way:

  • Don't wait for your selection form to decide on your choices. Use the TIFF web site to make your choices before you even come down to the Box Office the first time. Fill out the form on the spot and give it back to us.
  • When you fill out the contact information do it very carefully. If we can't correctly read your e-mail address you won't get a helpful e-mail later telling you which of your selected films you were able to get tickets for. You'll be in the dark until you pick up your physical tickets.
  • Remember that you don't have to select all your films up front. You'll get vouchers for any remaining choices that are easy to use during the Festival. Leave a few vouchers for hot tip films.
  • Don't come down the first day with all the OCD types to spend a half day trudging toward the front of the line. Wait a day or two for the crowds to subside. It's a lottery. Your selection form goes into one of a number of cartons. This year there were 68 cartons and the randomly selected starting carton was the ninth one. This means that this year the first people to drop off their selections were actually among the last to have their choices processed.
  • Mid-morning and mid-afternoon are generally quieter times of day at the Box Office.
Donor Ticket Packages: Same as above, but your selections get processed before the above 68 cartons. The donation threshold for access to this early access dropped this year to $250. If you really, really, really want to get your exact film selections this is an option worth considering.

Pre-Festival Single Ticket Sales: A few days before the Festival begins individual tickets go on sale. Once more it will be all about crazy long lines and frustrated people. Trust the Festival's programmers. The "big" films will be in "big" theatres. You don't need to be first in line to get tickets to a particular screening, wait a day or so!

In-Festival Single Ticket Sales: The Box Office will open at 7:00 AM, but the line ups to buy tickets or convert vouchers will start several hours before.
  • After the first few days the Box Office will often be pretty quiet and the 7:00 AM die hards will likely be processed in the first ten minutes. Sleep accordingly.
  • Try buying your tickets online or by phone and picking them up at the theatre on the day of your first screening.
  • Screenings can swing from "on sale" to "off sale" and back again as allocations change. Don't give up and check as early as possible on the day of screening, when ticket allocations are most likely to be released.
  • Rushing a screening is often a successful way to see a film, even if it's sold out. Knowing how soon to join the rush line is a black art, but two hours is probably a sensible outer limit.
Hope this helps someone next year!

Yesterday I was able to get some Festival tickets for Sheryl, Tamara and myself for the new period piece The Duchess, a film about Princess Diana's equally scandalous 18th century ancestor the Duchess of Devonshire, starring Keira Knightley. Well produced, but I found Keira's performance a bit forced and the plot, "woman trapped in a loveless marriage", lacking in nuance. Great sets and locations though!

Today I rushed More Than a Game, the documentary about the grade school basketball team that included Lebron James. Loved it, recommend it. The director made interesting "dimensional" use of photographs to flesh out the footage he got from the early days. A great tale of talented boys learning to be men, nearly undermined by LeBron's seduction by celebrity.

Listening to: I'm In Love With The System by Forgotten Rebels from In Love With The System.

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