Favorite moments and memories at the Toronto International Film Festival
The Toronto International Film Festival roars into action tomorrow, September 5, with some of the best films that the world has to offer going up on screens across the city. As the industry descends on Toronto for the 10-day discussion and celebration of the cinematic, journalists and publicists alike are preparing for the mayhem that is one of the world’s biggest festivals.
There is so much going on at TIFF, in fact, that it’s hard to pin down. TIFF is a public festival that welcomes big and small films alike; and it’s also one gigantic party. The festival brings together some of the greats of the silver screen with some of the freshest talents, both in front of and behind the camera, and it’s also the culmination of a lot of work by thousands of people–from the festival programmers, volunteers and venue staff, to the press and industry who are trying to make sense of this massive event.
No matter how you approach it though, the festival means a lot of things to different people, and between the adulation, adoration, revelry and revelations, TIFF has become something that nebulous in some ways, except to say that it can be very personal in very different ways.
Reaching out to some of the journalists and publicists who will be hard at work during the festival this year, I asked a few people to share their favorite memories of the Toronto International Film Festival, to give a little sense of what the event means to each of them. Read their comments below and then share some of your below and on Twitter with the hashtag #TIFFMemories.
Richard Crouse, Film critic – CTV’s Canada AM / Metro
“There have been many memorable moments over the years I have covered TIFF. Falling asleep while sitting next to a very famous director during a screening of his film rates way up there. (I’m not saying who it was, but I was tired after seeing four other films that day and he was fine with it.) I think the most indelible memory I have from the TIFF premiers I’ve attended has to do with someone who is not a household name, but made a huge impression on me.”
“His name is Paul Rusesabagina and he was the real life inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda. I was tired and grumpy after a long festival stint of watching movies and doing interviews and a bit jaded by the whole affair but his uplifting attitude, particularly in light of everything he had been through in his life, wiped away all the world-weariness I was feeling. Chatting with him and watching him interact with others made me glad to be part of TIFF that year.”
Peter Howell, Movie Critic – Toronto Star
“I have many memories of TIFF, but one in particular sticks in my mind. It was late on the night of Sept. 10, 2001. I was at the party at the ROM for Alliance Films, which used to always host the best parties at TIFF. That was back when the talent still mingled with the regular folk and press. So I found myself dancing in a conga line (Lord knows why) around midnight with David Lynch and the two stars of his then-new film, Mulholland Drive: Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. It was a great evening, but if you check that date, it was just a few hours before the world changed, and so did TIFF. Ever since 9/11, security has been paramount and talent is usually confined to red carpets, hotel suites and ‘celebrity petting zoos,’ the latter typically a separate private room at parties that you often can’t even see into.”
Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, President of Publicity and Promotions – rock-it promotions
“One of my many (many) favorite memories of TIFF over the years is having had the opportunity to work with Sir Anthony Hopkins on a film called World’s Fastest Indian.”
“I was a bit nervous working with an icon like him and wasn’t sure how to address him, (Sir? Mr. Hopkins? Sir Mr. Hopkins?), so when I picked him up (from a private jet at Pearson – after 15 years, that is still very cool in itself), I said ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you. Pardon me, but how do you prefer to be addressed?’ He replied warmly, ‘Call me Tony, dear.’”
“I worked with him for about three days and he was nothing but a pleasure. We often had fans yelling after us with bottles of Chianti in their hands. He said with a smile, ‘Happens everywhere I go.’ I loved how humble he was and how incredibly lovely he was with all the press. Stood up to greet every female journalist that came into the room and held the door for me wherever we went. The true definition of a gentleman in every way.”"
Christopher Heard, Film Critic / Author – The GATE
“Ever since I was a kid I admired the screenwriting of Robert Towne — Chinatown and The Last Detail still blow me away. He was someone I always wished I could interview and converse with and when his movie Without Limits debuted at TIFF I got the chance to do just that. He was not very talkative and a bit on the neurotic side, but a number of times during our conversation my inner voice repeated, “this is Robert Towne!” and that made it all cool.”
Barb Matheson, Director, Publicity – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada
“My favourite TIFF experiences happened while I was with Odeon Films as we had so many films in the Festival each year. Working with a lesser-known James McAvoy in 2006 for a little film called Starter For Ten was pretty great. It was the first TIFF film I ever worked on. As a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix, working with him in 2007 for Reservation Road was also a highlight, as was attending a dinner with Christopher Plummer one year. And any time I can work with Simon Pegg, which I did for the second time with Run Fatboy Run, it’s always a good experience.”
Anne Brodie, Movie Reviewer – Studio 12 News / Monsters and Critics
“So many memories over so many years. Back in the day the annual Norman Jewison barbeque was set up so that you sat with the filmmakers and actors and roamed around at will, it wasn’t quite so packed. I was sitting picnic style with a famous actor whose dog killed a squirrel. He hid it in a napkin and threw it in the bushes. My favourite memories are always around young talents who emerge at TIFF, grow and make something of their gifts. Some become famous and influential and true artists and some hit the tabloids fast and hard. That’s still my favourite part, although I am tasked with covering established stars, which ain’t so bad either!”
Brian Mullen, Communications Specialist – Canadian Film Centre
“My best TIFF memory was when I Attended the Gala screening of Precious. It was my first time doing the festival and I did not really know what to expect out of the entire experience, let alone the Gala itself. Needless to say, the energy in Roy Thompson Hall was electric. No one can rally up a crowd like Oprah can, and the feeling ran high until after the end credits rolled. I had never experienced that level of excitement with 2000+ fellow moviegoers, and I’m not sure I ever will.”
Ian Evans, Writer/Photographer – DigitalHit.com
“At the start of the Festival one year, I saw the first screening of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, the fictionalized account of his days as an underage music journalist. The next day at the press conference, Philip Seymour Hoffman was talking about The Who. As Hoffman spoke, Crowe and I nodded knowingly at each other and smiled, two guys taken back to their teen years for just a second, both feeling the same thing listening to that great British band.”
W. Andrew Powell, Editor-In-Chief – The GATE
“My first year at the festival was a delirious blur, and I still feel a huge debt to the TIFF publicist who gave me a shot covering the festival–but it was my second year, in 2002, that I got what I still consider one of my favorite interviews to date.”
“I had been scouring the list of films for possible interviews when I somehow got in touch with the publicist for Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep, starring Bruce Campbell. I had been a huge fan of Bruce for a long time, so when I discovered that I was going to have 20 minutes to interview him, I was floored. In retrospect, I know some of my questions were terrible, and Bruce happily reprimanded me for any slip ups, but he was also gracious, and the interview turned more into a conversation than an interview.”
“I could list a dozen other great moments at TIFF over the years–even the time that Sir Ian McKellen brushed me off on a red carpet–but that interview with Bruce tops the rest because it was so personal. Sometimes those personal moments are in front of a screen, and other times it’s even simpler, but TIFF is filled with moments like those, no matter who you are or what you’re doing at the festival.”
Photo Credit: Sam Santos/WireImage for TIFF