A TIFF 2015 Sampler: One Movie Fanatic’s Experience at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival

In recent years, the Toronto International Film Festival has become widely-known as a great indicator of what the upcoming year's awards circuit is going to look like. This year, Toronto's fortieth instance of the event, was no different. I can say with all certainty that many of the films that had their North American or Worldwide debuts at this festival will certainly be on the Oscar ballots early next year!

In the spirit of planning ahead, here's a quick rundown of what to expect from this particular film festival, as a non-industry attendee, if you plan on attending next year. Bear in mind that your mileage may vary!

TIFF 2015 Logo

1. Book your tickets asap, and if possible, snag a ticket package.

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This one is pretty self-explanatory, I think. Tickets went on sale promptly at 9am Eastern on September 6th. I logged in promptly at 9am Eastern on September 6th, and was number 513 in the queue. Essentially every movie that had been remotely buzzed about was sold out ("off-sale," as the TIFF folks term it). Since I don't think it was physically possible for me to have accessed the queue earlier, next year's plan will be to cough up enough for a ticket package. This is particularly important if you're not local to Toronto (as I was not) and want to get the most out of your TIFF experience. I've been told that in years passed the online ticket-buying experience was not as traumatic, that there'd been more availability, and that the likely reason for the whiplash-fast selling out was due to this year's event being the festival's 40th anniversary. One fellow TIFF attendee told me that she'd been able to get tickets to eleven major releases the previous year, just by queuing up online.

2. If you can't, or choose not to, get a package, don't sweat it. You can still go online at 7am each morning of the festival and get newly released tickets.

File this one under "supposedly." This method did not work for us either. Again, your mileage may have varied, or the 40th anniversary may have just been much more crowded than in prior years. Our best option was rushing.

3. If all else fails, rush the films that are must-sees for you.

Bring comfortable footwear! You'll be standing for a while. And bring an umbrella – Toronto can be quite rainy, as many a destroyed shoe can attest. We managed to rush The Danish Girl, and got to see the post-film Q&A – totally worth it. We were waiting for about two hours, and when we got there, there was already a crowd of about 75 people ahead of us (some who had brought their own folding chairs and hot soup – clearly these people were TIFF professionals). Just note that the rush tickets are cash only, and that rushing premium showings comes at a higher ticket price (double the standard pricing – 40 Canadian Dollars for premium this year versus 20 Canadian Dollars for regular screenings). Have plenty of cash on you!

4. Look closely at your map of the venues. Learn the map. Internalize the map.

Most importantly, don't rely on the TIFF-provided map of the theaters. There are many, many theaters screening TIFF films, and they are spread out across Toronto. The map is most definitely not to scale. This led to an apparent 20 minute walk quickly being revealed as a 45 minute walk more than once, and cost us the opportunity to successfully rush a few different films. We missed out on The Lobster, which had a much larger rush line than we would have anticipated – and they wound up only letting in about 10 people from the 150+ rush line!

5. It is surprisingly easy to get up close and personal with your favorite celebs.

The red carpets for various films were astonishingly not packed, which I wouldn't have expected given how difficult purchasing tickets was this year. There was ample opportunity to see Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston walking in for the I Saw The Light premiere, in particular. At the back exits of certain venues, it's also likely you'll see a star or two exiting after their movie finishes airing. We saw Elle Fanning leaving Princess of Wales theater immediately before a showing of The Danish Girl.

6. Stay for the Q&A's!

Particularly if you have a question – you actually have a good chance of being able to ask your question. More often than not, at least one person will ask a noteworthy/interesting question and you'll be glad you stayed to hear the response.

All in all, I highly recommend attending TIFF at least once in your movie-loving lifetime. You will certainly get into at least a handful of films, and even if you are relegated to what you consider "back-up" movies, the quality of the films at this festival is high enough that you won't be disappointed by most films that you see. The vibe is also fantastic: you are surrounded by a large group of fans who love movies as much as you do! Don't miss it!

September 22, 2015