TIFF 13: Day five with ‘Sunshine on Leith’, Xbox One, Russell Peters

by W. Andrew Powell
The cast and directors of Under The Harvest Sky

Five days of the festival are down, which only leaves four more days of screenings, and five more full days of the festival red carpets and festivities. At this point though, the busiest days are definitely behind us at TIFF, and every year that’s both a relief and a sad realization.

Monday was a great day though, and it was also my busiest day covering events at TIFF. After taking Sunday off for a break with my family (my biggest regret there was that I missed the CFC BBQ), I somehow only managed to get about three or four hours of sleep, but I tackled Monday with more energy than I thought possible (and that may honestly be thanks to my Awake chocolate bars–more on that another time).

The morning had me working on videos and stories, which I’ll be posting over the next few days, and then I headed out for my interview with Burt’s Buzz director Jody Shapiro, who chatted with me about how he met Burt’s Bees creator Burt Shavitz through Isabella Rossellini. He also revealed to me that the film had just been picked up by FilmBuff for distribution in theatres and for video on demand.

The film is wonderful, and Burt comes across as this amazing, original personality. Given his story, it’s just hard to believe that most people don’t even know who he is, or that someone else didn’t make this film years ago.

From there, I hiked over to the screening for Beneath the Harvest Sky, a remarkably fresh drama about high school friends plotting their escape from a small American town that is plagued by pills, dead ends and dreary jobs. The film feels unique because the relationships seem very realistic–like these are all just high school friends we’re peering in on through the lens of a documentary.

Rushing over from the theatre, I then had the chance to interview stars Emory Cohen, Callan McAuliffe, Sarah Sutherland and the co-writers and co-directors, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly–all at once. Normally, I might have two or three people interviewing together, and more than that can be a challenge, but the cast and their directors know each other well, and that played out well on camera. The cast is young and fresh, and they were excited for the Discovery Awards that they were headed to right afterwards. The group also talked about the fact that they honed and developed the script as they went along, which could also explain how they captured such realistic performances.

From there, I ran over to the Xbox One preview event where I got to play Forza Motorsport 5. The game looks incredible, even if I’m the worst racer ever, and it feels more realistic than was even possible before. The shadows and lighting alone, inside and outside of the car, make for a very authentic experience that makes the difficult courses feel more precarious as you speed along. I also got a tour of a preview copy of Windows 8.1 for Surface, which offers some interesting improvements that finally make the home screen of icons feel much more organic and interactive than Android or Apple. The icons on the screen are still squares and rectangles, but they are a vast improvement over the usual icons on other devices.

Leaving technology behind, I headed to the August: Osage County red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall–an event I was both looking forward to and dreading.

The catch with big red carpets–this one was set to bring us Julia Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, and Juliette Lewis–is that they are obviously popular with more media outlets, which means that it is hard to get many stars on the carpet. On top of that, television outlets are the major players on red carpets, so the rest of us tend to get left at the end of the red carpet line, where stars are usually rushed to make it into the film.

That means that busy red carpets are the hardest to get any meaningful interviews on, and this was no exception. My only interview on this particular carpet ended up being with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter Tracy Letts, which is hard to complain about at the same time, but I had hoped to grab an actor or two.

From the red carpet, I walked over to TIFF Bell Lightbox where Netflix was hosting a special preview of Russell Peters’ comedy special, Notorious, which will debut on the service next month, on October 14. Since I haven’t seen a lot of Peters’ standup in a few years, he did surprise me–the special is really, really funny. He was also on hand for the screening with his daughter, and after the event he sat down with George Stroumboulopoulos for an interview that was punctuated by some of the worst audio problems I’ve ever seen or heard. Still, it was a great event, and I ended up chatting with Marissa Roberto from Electric Playground, who I’ve seen around a lot of gaming events, but we’ve just never spoken before.

That was my day, aside from running home to then edit and post as many videos as I could from the interviews and events. You can watch all of my TIFF videos on my TIFF YouTube playlist, and I’ll be blogging a couple more times before the end of the festival, but things certainly slow down from here.

Russell Peters

Russell Peters

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