Once again, life has that peculiar sensation of being at once too fast and too slow.
On Wednesday, after one of the most mind-numbingly frustrating flights, I finally arrived in Toronto for my first TIFF experience (the first of many, I hope). My very first time in Canada, and I would be spending a week doing what I love working among the most creative minds in the industry.
And if the first two days are any indication, this experience will be one for the books.
Thursday was the first official day of the festival. My hotel is only about a ten minute walk from all the main streets and theaters in the Entertainment District so around mid-morning I walked over to meet with my supervisors to get an idea of what I would be doing. I’m working with Touchwood PR, a Toronto/LA-based agency with a number of films in the festival. Specifically, I’m helping out the LA team with their five main films, though I’ll probably be jumping in wherever needed.
After a quick run-down of the work I’d be doing, we headed over to the office where I spent the rest of the afternoon helping out with some blog posts and familiarizing myself with their social media accounts, which I would be running throughout the week.
Then my luck started. My supervisors had snagged four tickets to the opening night premiere — two for the 6:30 screening and two for the 8:00 premiere. The movie? The Magnificent Seven. And since they had dinner plans, they gave me the two tickets for the 8pm world premiere. And as a casual afterthought, they also gave me two tickets to the Opening Night Cocktail Party at the Ritz (oh and offhandedly mentioned they were worth $1500 nbd).
Immediately I called my roommate Jacqui to see if she was free to go — it didn’t take much convincing.
By that time it was almost 5 and the cocktail party was from 5-7 so I raced back to the hotel where Jacqui was frantically trying to pick an outfit. We blasted Hamilton and got ready in record time (thank you dry shampoo) and made our way over to the Ritz, just a short walk around the corner.
The party was on the second floor ballroom and it was unreal — sponsored by Coach, with each corner featuring a buffet from different cuisines, and an open bar right in the middle.
Like. What. Even. Jacqui and I were determined to somehow get to an after party that night but had no idea where to start. Everyone looked so important! So we got some wine and made our way over to the Asian cuisine buffet. And then our luck hit again. While waiting in line, we struck up a conversation with a lovely woman who, oh yeah, just happens to be the wife of one of the founders of TIFF.
No. Big. Deal.
We spent the evening being shepherded around and getting introduced to all her friends, which was both amusing and nerve-wracking depending on who we were talking to. Finally it was time for us to head to the movie, so we exchanged emails and decided to meet up next week for drinks. We have our in!
But because this is the Coach sponsored cocktail party of the opening night premiere of TIFF, we weren’t leaving empty handed. We were given goody bags consisting of the Coach fall catalogue and a Coach tag with a note for a complimentary monogramming — because obviously. And as we walked out of the ballroom, we were handed bags of popcorn to take with us as we walked to the theater.
This was all a lot to take in so we had to take a minute to sit down and eat our popcorn and figure out exactly who did we think we were. After getting our bearings, we walked just down the street to Roy Thomson Hall where the premiere was taking place. It was a gorgeous theater but they did not allow outside food or drinks so did we stand outside and chug our popcorn before heading in yes we did and we don’t regret a thing thank you.
Once inside, we got ourselves some more wine and popcorn and made our way to our seats. We were all the way up in the balcony but right in the center with a perfect view of the screen. The screening was, per usual TIFF standards, running late so we chatted with the two gentlemen sitting in our row. By the time the movie started, we were best pals. And good thing too — as it turns out, they also were very important TIFF people, and we were lowkey angling for an invite to the opening night after party to which they had tickets.
After an introduction from the president of the festival and a short speech from director Antoine Fuqua introducing the cast (hello Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington!!), the movie finally began. I really enjoyed it, though I do have two main criticisms.
The film overall could have used with better editing. Certain parts just lagged unnecessarily, and it would have been better served by a tighter script or less trigger-happy cutting. During the most climatic scenes, it would cut much too quickly from character to character, instead of letting the camera linger and build tension and suspense. My second criticism is the overall feel was just too glossy — it just didn’t have that gritty, dirty veneer that marks the Western genre. While the cinematography was stunning, with landscape shots that were utterly breathtaking, the main scenes had that studio-produced quality that made it difficult to believe in the realness of it all.
Bottom line: an action-packed and incredibly fun Western film, and a decent update to the Magnificent Seven‘s cinematic history, albeit one that just missed the mark in its presentation of the genre.
When the movie ended, we followed the gentlemen sitting next to us out to the lobby where our luck struck once more. As we were exiting, they declared they were too tired and too old for these after parties, that it was way past their bedtime, that the Uber was called, and that we should take the tickets off their hands.
And so without further ado, off we were to the TIFF Opening Night After Party.
And they weren’t just any tickets — they were VIP tickets, meaning we had access to the sixth floor rooftop at the TIFF Lightbox where we promptly headed straight to the open bar for a round of champagne to toast our luck.
The movie had ended late and the party was only until 1am, so we spent the rest of the night mingling and sipping champagne and talking to no shortage of interesting people, including two gentlemen from the Italian Trade Commission and a way-too-turnt publicist and her somewhat strange friends.
Finally, the crowd started thinning and the bar started closing down so we finished our drinks and headed back to the hotel where we collapsed exhausted and went to bed around 3am.
Not bad for day one.
Friday was much more lowkey — my job won’t start getting intense until these next few days when we have all the parties and premieres for our movies. So I went into the office around mid-morning and helped out with press breaks and other prep for the coming week.
After work, Sarah, one of the girls I’m working with, and I went out for dinner. She’s originally from Toronto and took me around to explore the areas outside of the little hub of streets where the festival was taking place.
It was awesome, and it was the first time I really got a real feel for the city. Toronto has such an incredible vibe that just exudes culture and individuality, and the whole center of the city feels like it’s spilling over with creativity.
We made our way west through the Entertainment District to Kensington Street where we ate at a little taco place near the famous Kensington Street Car. After a quick stop inside Blue Banana Market for some souvenirs, I found my way back to the festival craziness and to the hotel.
No sooner had I put my stuff down than Jacqui texted me about getting in line for rush tickets for a screening. We were going to try to get into Colossal but the theater was too far away so we settled on Trespass Against Us, the one with Michael Fassbender. The screening was at 10pm, so I went over to the Princess of Wales theater around 8:30pm to meet her in line. It took forever but we finally made it in and got great seats in the back center.
To be honest, I was a little too tired for this movie. Per usual, it started a bit delayed and it was too slow for my exhausted state of mind. The Irish accents also didn’t make it easier to follow. However once it hit the midway point and I understood what it was about, I got a little more into it. And hey, it’s always worth seeing Michael Fassbender(‘s butt) so no complaints here.
There was a Q&A after the movie but I was falling asleep so knowing I had a couple of very intense days ahead, I made my way back to the hotel and knocked out early.
Today is day three, and shit’s about to get nonstop. We have the UniFrance Party tonight plus two premieres and even more tomorrow and Monday.
And I desperately have to figure out what to do with my hair. So until next time!