Looking back on some of my favourite TIFF photo moments: 2005 to 2009

by W. Andrew Powell
The GATE - TIFF 2005 to 2010

TIFF 2021 starts tomorrow, and after twenty years covering Canada’s best festival, and one of the most interesting public festivals in the world, I thought I’d take a look back at some of my best photos.

I’ve taken thousands of photos, at dozens and dozens of events, and to help celebrate The GATE’s 20th anniversary this year, I wanted to see if I could bring some new life to some of my earlier work. It also seemed like a good time to reflect on two decades of TIFF.

The Toronto International Film Festival has changed dramatically since I started. When I was at the festival in September 2001, TIFF was mostly at the Sutton Place Hotel, the original Four Seasons Hotel, and the Park Hyatt Hotel.

At that point, TIFF Bell Lightbox was hardly even a dream, as far as I know, and most of the festival happened north of Bloor Street.

For my first year, I mainly reviewed films, including Mulholland Drive. Starting in 2002 though, I went to a lot of press conferences and red carpets to get photos of all the talent in town. Since those first few years were captured on film, I’ve had a hard time finding the negatives, unfortunately. The press conference for Max still looks pretty good, but the photos are just really small now.

So I decided to start with TIFF 2005, when I started shooting digital. I’ve gone back and edited some of my favourite photos, and you can follow the whole thread on Twitter, too. I’ll be sharing more photos from TIFF 2010 to 2019 later this week, but for now, here’s a huge post looking back on my favourite photos from TIFF.

Brad Pitt at TIFF 2006

TIFF 2005 was a bit bigger than the TIFFs that came before. Press conferences were jam-packed in small rooms, and while the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall was on the east side of the building, it was filled with some of the biggest press outlets in North America.

There were more parties, bigger events, and the list of stars coming to town was huge.

Major films and some of the films I covered at TIFF 2005 included Brokeback Mountain, C.R.A.Z.Y., Walk The Line, A History of Violence, Edison, Elizabethtown, Corpse Bride, Thumbsucker, and The Conspirator. For Thumbsucker, in particular, I even had the chance to sit down with stars Keanu Reeves and Tilda Swinton.

TIFF 2005 Gallery

For TIFF 2006, I feel like I had a method for getting good shots, and I still think some of these shots are the best work I’ve done, especially considering the equipment I was shooting with.

To this day it also still feels like the best years of TIFF since it was still so accessible for media to get interviews, photos, and screen films.

From the Dixie Chicks movie, Shut Up And Sing, to A Good Year with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, All The King’s Men with Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, and Mark Ruffalo, there were a ton of star-studded films that were major releases. One of the hottest tickets though was Babel, starring Brad Pitt. It was one of the loudest red carpets I’ve ever been on, with a huge crush of fans, and wall-to-wall press.

TIFF 2006 Gallery

When TIFF 2007 rolled around, the festival had changed.

Red carpets at Roy Thomson Hall had moved to David Pecaut Square, adjacent to Metro Hall, giving press a lot of room to get photos as stars arrived, and for a much bigger interview space.

The festival was also packed with big films starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and countless others. No Country for Old Men, Control, Lust, Caution, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Across the Universe, not to mention the very unique Lars and the Real Girl.

There were still lots of Canadian films, and that included Young People F**king, and Fugitive Pieces.

TIFF 2007 Gallery

My favourite memory at TIFF 2008 was meeting Sam Neill for the film Skin, and it felt like an honour when he wouldn’t let the publicists take me away once my time was up. I think we ended up talking for another 10 minutes, and it was very welcome after dashing around the festival for hours.

That year I also sat down with Kevin Smith and Elizabeth Banks for Zack And Miri Make A Porno, and I loved Kari Skogland’s 50 Dead Men Walking with Jim Sturgess, Rose McGowan, and Ben Kingsley.

Paul Gross’ Passchendaele opened the festival, The Secret Life of Bees brought together Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Jennifer Hudson. Slumdog Millionaire won the People’s Choice Award.

TIFF 2008 Gallery

And lastly, at least for now, TIFF 2009 felt like the end of an era for TIFF north of Bloor Street.

Before the festival started, press had a tour of TIFF Bell Lightbox, which would end up opening in September 2010. It was still early and basically just the bare bones of the building, but the theatres, public spaces, and film library looked amazing and it felt like a real moment for film in the city.

The festival opened with Creation starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, and I also caught up with Sam Neill again, this time for Daybreakers.

One of my favourite films that year was the Midnight Madness opener, Jennifer’s Body. The red carpet was madness, and a wild night, with huge crowds trying to catch a peek of Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, and Adam Brody.

The biggest film of the festival was Precious, and it was a huge red carpet. Oprah Winfrey was there with Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, and Sherri Shepherd.

TIFF 2009 Gallery

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