In all the years of living in Toronto, the first time I attend the acclaimed international film festival hosted by the city is with a media press pass for a UK website! It was strange when signing in to find my name listed with a journalist from the Washington Post which emphasized to me how far Flickering Myth has come since being founded by Gary Collinson back in February of 2009. What I soon came to realize is that there is a pre-festival that takes place a week before the official one begins. Having taken only two weeks off from my part-time retail job at the Hudson’s Bay Company, I had to attend the advance press screenings in-between shifts of selling towels and pillows. While on the way to the Bell Lightbox Centre to review my first movie a series of quirky events started to unfold beginning with me encountering a former co-worker and sweetheart crush I had not seen in over five years.
Once inside I found myself mingling with a group of Toronto film critics along with a few international faces. A local critic whom I meet recently at the Total Recall (2012) press screening gave me an invaluable piece of advice; she told me to make sure I wrote the reviews as soon as I got home otherwise if I fell behind everything would become a massive cinematic blur. Factoring in the travel time, the scheduling of the movies, the length it would take me to write a review, and the need to get a decent amount of sleep I decided to cover two movies a day. However, not one to pass up the opportunity to conduct interviews I made arrangements to attend the Looper press conference which resulted in me waiting beside a former colleague at Sympatico inMovies; the funny thing is that Mark Humphreys and I only knew each other via email so we were actually meeting each other for the first time at the first press conference on the first official day of the festival! During the press conference the moderator pointed for a microphone to be given to me so I could ask a question; however, it was misdirected to the person in front me! Having to react quickly I took advantage of my loud voice and asked the question anyway!
While standing in line for the various films I came in contact with a wide array of people: the owner of Rainbow Cinemas theatre chain, reps from eOne, Czech Republic and Norwegian Broadcasting looking for product, a freelance British travel journalist, university students, movie fans, a mother who helped her son produce a festival short film, and a politician and his wife. As for the politician while we were waiting for the screening for Lines of Wellington the two of us had a discussion about Argo which led to an unsuspected discovery. Also in the audience was a French lady who knows Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife and revealed that they were not happy with their portrayal in the movie. Argo became a topic of conversation again for me via the Internet; a couple of days after I posted the review I received an email from a film extra inquiring if his performance was good as he would not be able to see the political thriller until it was publicly released. I reassured him that he played his part well. Argo would also play a role in me getting an unexpected interview opportunity; when I contacted a PR firm listed as handling the publicity for the picture I learned that they only represented actor Alan Arkin. In the process of discovering this I was inadvertently added to a private roundtable interview session with 10 other journalists (one of whom was from The Guardian) with filmmaker Brian De Palma (Passion) whom I was able to sit beside!
The big adventure occurred when I had to attend a screening of Capital as I was going to interview the director of the film, Costa-Gavras, the next day. The trouble was that the press screening was at 9:45 am and the Toronto subway system does not open until 9 am on a Sunday. Thinking that I had come up with a good solution I transferred from a Mississauga to a Toronto bus that travels the subway line where I met a fellow TIFF journalist. On my advice we got off at a subway stop where I thought we could take the streetcar down to the Scotiabank Theatre. What I did not realize was that the streetcar tracks were being repaired so the transit line was not operating! Initially, we started to walk but realizing the time constraint my friend hailed a cab which we shared with a celebrity groupie who was also heading down to the festival; needless to say upon arriving she quickly ran away while my friend and I split the fare! Subsequently while I was waiting to interview Gavras in a hotel lobby, a young and nervous journalist asked me how the film ended and before I could reply I was summoned into what is best described as a ten minute speed date session. Interestingly, after seeing Capital I was talking to a fellow who had come out of the screening for The Company You Keep directed by Robert Redford; our complaints were the same as we found both movies to be rather ordinary. As the conversation continued I soon discovered I was talking to Carlos Catalán, the cinematographer for Song for Marion; I made sure to get his email address!
A minor adventure happened when I was attending the screening for Emperor; unknown to me the venue had been changed from the biggest theatre at Scotiabank to the smallest one at the Bell Lightbox Centre. After rounding the wrong street corner and being pointed in the right direction, I was able to arrive on time and sit beside one of the producers and the director for the festival film Peddlers. Considering I have developed a good relationship with Australian websites such as the CGSociety and They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? as well as filmmakers, the festival would not have been complete without some coverage from Down Under; this was ably provided by Storm Surfers 3D documentarians Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius whom I met at a nightclub for a one-on-one conversation. Oddly enough even though I had booked time off from work I was not completely removed from my place of employment as The Bay logo was on the festival red carpet situated at the Bell Lightbox Centre and a traditional Hudson’s Bay Company woolen blanket appeared in The Master! Looking back on the 18 films I have watched I would say that my favourite was The Master, biggest disappointment was Jayne Mansfield’s Car, pleasant surprise was The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the most audacious Cloud Atlas. Even though all of the movie reviews have been posted, you can look forward to articles stemming from the Looper press conference which features insights from writer-director Rian Johnson, and cast members Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, as well as interviews with Costa-Gavras, Justin McMillan, Chris Nelius, Brian De Palma, and possibly Carlos Catalán. It has been quite the cinematic ride these past three weeks here in Toronto and I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Till next year!
Photographs of Bell Lightbox Centre courtesy of Sam Santos.
Photograph of Looper Press Conference courtesy of George Pimentel.
To learn more about the Toronto International Film Festival visit the official TIFF website and to read coverage of the 2012 festival click here.
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently lives in Canada.