What is Witty Watching?

TIFF Survival Guide – The Basics
August 26, 2018

September is almost upon us. It is my favourite month of the year as I eagerly anticipate three events; my birthday, the release of a new iPhone and a trip to Toronto for the Festival of Festivals. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of my most anticipated events and this year proves to be another great one.

Over the last week I have received many messages from people who are going to TIFF this year and I thought ‘Let’s do a blog!’

We will look at ticket selecting and cover other common questions people have in the planning process.  I have had the pleasure and sometimes pain of going through this over many years and this blog is intended to share my knowledge and help people navigate through selecting which films to see.

First things first

  1. I don’t work for TIFF. I am not getting paid by TIFF. I just really REALLY like TIFF. It’s a great year round organization and I enjoy not only the festival in September but their programming and their relevance on Canadian cinema.
  2. These are my opinions and observations and I hope the info I provide will be found useful.

Selecting Movies

Where to Start

Before you get into figuring out which screening of ‘First Man’ you want to attend take a step back. Go through every single movie, yes all of the, familiarize yourself with the synopsis and read up on who is in it, and who is directing it. Then make a list. I am going to be seeing 40 movies so I made a list of 80 films that I was interested in seeing.
If you are seeing 10 movies, make a list of 20. If you are seeing one, then just see that one and stop reading this section! ūüôā

After I have my list of 80 movies this is how I eliminate approximately half of the movies

Eliminate Netflix bound movies. Outlaw King and Hold the Dark look great but they’re both going to Netflix. Not to discount Netflix (because I don’t)¬† but cards on the table, a TIFF Regular films costs about $25. That’s two months of your Netflix subscription.

Eliminate as many movies coming out in September as you can. Predator is at the Festival but comes out September 14. Using the logic from above, why pay TIFF pricing for a movie you can see for half the price.

Try to see something unique. We all know ‘A Star is Born’ will get a major release but there are some great ‘under the radar’ film that are released at TIFF, try to see those!

I also pay attention to who the programmers are. This is a personal preference and there are some programmers where if they recommend it, I want to see it!

After I have my list whittled down to 50 I rank them. Top 10, Top 20, Top 30. (Again this number will differ based on how many films you see)¬† Now go to¬†https://2018.tiffr.com/shows¬†This is a fantastic site that has been around for years. The good people that run this site, up until this year, worked independently and took the entire TIFF schedule and incorporated it into their site. This year they have partnered with TIFF and I couldn’t be happier. This means on the TIFF website of you click on the heart icon, signifyng you are interested in the film, it will link with the TIFFR site and you can get a short list going,

You can also just go to the TIFF site and select all of your remaining movies on this site by ‘hearting’ them. Clicking the heart icon in the description adds it to your shortlist. From their you can use the site to navigate and develop a schedule that suits you.

Selection Window

If you purchased a flex pack for TIFF your selection will be any day now. You have the movies you want to see but guess what? You may not get them. Have a back up ready. This site gives a pretty accurate view of what is offsale.¬†https://tifftalk.blogspot.com/2018/08/tiff-2018-off-sale-screenings.html¬†Keep in mind that if you want to see a movie and it is unavilable don’t panic…yet. Tickets are often released the day of the screening at 7:00am. Be in front of your computer/device and be ready to pounce. Most movies also have multiple screenings. Keep these dates in mind if you need plan B.

If you haven’t purchased a package yet that’s ok too. Tickets go on sale next weekend so check tiff.net for specific times.

Timing and Location

If you are seeing multiple films in a day and those films are at different locations I recommend at least 90 minutes between films. For example, a film may have a start time of 3pm but it won’t start at 3pm. There will be ads recognizing the sponsors and the volunteers, someone from TIFF introducing the film. And once the film ends, if you’re lucky, the director and stars of the film will be on hand for a Q&A period.

Princess of Wales, Roy Thompson Hall, TIFF Lightbox and Scotiabank Theatres are relatively close to each other but Ryerson is a quick drive from those theatres. Also, Winter Garden and Elgin are in the same building and they are across the street from the Eaton Centre.

I also encourage you to check out a Midnight Madness movie. I’m not even recommending one in particular, just go to one at midnight! The atmosphere is amazing. The audience interaction with a film is u unlike anything you are used to. It’s a definite festival must!

Some of the theatres have assigned seating. They are, Princess of Wales, Roy Thompson Hall, Winter Garden, Elgin. The theatres that don’t are Ryerson, Scotiabank, TIFF Lightbox. If you are at a theatre with assigned seating there is no need to get there early. If you are at an unassigned theatre you should be there early to guarantee a good seat.

If your movie is playing at a theatre with unassigned seating I encourage you not to be intimidated¬† by long line ups. The lines can be ridiculously long but guess what? If you have a ticket you are getting a seat! I have seen lines around the block, around another block, up and down the CN Tower, around Rogers Centre…ok….kidding but you get the idea. If you have a ticket, you will get in!

I also encourage you to sit close to the front. In a normal movie I usually sit in the middle but at TIFF if you sit in the front when a Q&A happens it is easier for the TIFF programmer not to mention the director and cast to see you in the front. I have been fortunate to participate in multiple Q&A’s at TIFF and it’s always when I’m sitting near the front.

Regular vs. Premium Screenings

Both screenings show the same movie but the main difference is the ‘talent’ is guaranteed at a premium screening but guess what, they could be at the regular one as well, The premium screening usually involves a red carpet entrance and is twice the cost of the regular ticket. I tend to go to regular screening but if you’re favourite actor, actress, director is supposed to be on hand, it may be worth going to the premium screening.

Rush Lines.

Ok, you don’t have a ticket but you still want to see a certain film. You can rush it.¬† A film usually has two lines, one side is the people with tickets and on the other side is the rush line. If a film hasn’t sold out you can ‘Rush’ the film which means after everyone with a ticket is admitted into the theatre, for a fee, you can purchase a ticket to one of the remaining seats.This can be a tricky proposition. If you get to the movie very early and stand in the rush line there is a very good chance of you being able to get in and see the film. If you are, for instance, 20th in the rush line of a very popular movie, your odds are quite small of getting in. This, of course, varies on the popularity of a film. Some people love rushing movies and are quite good at it.

Star Gazing

Many people go to TIFF hoping to see a celebrity and there is a huge chance of that happening at a premium screening but I also find you may bump into people in the strangest of places. I was in line for popcorn one year and turned around and saw this guy!

And it won’t be uncommon to see large groups of people in front of the theatre. Don’t be shy to check it out as you never know who you might bump into?

Last but not least!!!

I can’t stress enough the importance of Twitter during the festival. If you want to keep up to date with things happening there are a few sites I recommend.

Mine! I will be blogging throughout the entire festival. https://twitter.com/cfl_fan

The official TIFF Twitter page https://twitter.com/TIFF_NET

The TIFF Help page https://twitter.com/tiff_help

TIFFR, the great people behind the schedule progra  I mentioned earlier https://twitter.com/i_love_tiffr


I hope this helps, If you have questions, send them my way. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!



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