Thursday, September 5, 2013

TIFF 2013: The process

I'm doing TIFF 2013 in a big way, and I decided it would be interesting to document my experience.

Last year I finally dived into TIFF for the first time. I had been wanting to "do" the festival for years, but never found (i.e. made) the time. My son had just moved out to start university, and I was feeling sad about the empty nest, so this was a good way to distract me. I bought a package of 10 tickets and ended up seeing 9 films (one of the films I picked wound up clashing with a family dinner, so I sold it to an old high school friend). It was exhausting but I loved it, and decided to go bigger this year.

The process is somewhat complex. I started off by buying a package of 20 tickets in early July. That was just confirming how many films I wanted to see, before the programme was available. On August 20th the programme came out, and I started doing my homework. First I read through the movie summaries in the 264-page programme book, folding over the page corner for each film that sounded worth seeing. That took a few hours, and when I was done I had about 60 films identified. Now I had to sort those films in the order I wanted to see them. Of course that called for an Excel spreadsheet! I filled in the title of each film, along with its screening times (filtering out those that conflicted with a few events already in my calendar). I reread the description of those films, watched trailers where I could find them online, and read reviews where web sites and local papers offered their recommendations. My friend Nina was interested in coming to a few films with me, so I shared my list with her and she told me her preferences, and I adjusted some rankings to merge her picks into my list. In the end I had a mostly-sorted list of 62 films!

Why so much preparation? On August 30th at 9am it was my turn to select my films via the TIFF web site, and once I made my first pick I had just 1 hour to complete my selections. For each film I had to check availability, check for conflicts on my schedule (including films I had already chosen), pick a screening time, add it to my cart, and then add it to my Google calendar to block out the time. I included the running time of the film and which theatre it was showing at, so that if two films were showing in rapid succession, I could decide if there was enough time to get from one theatre to the next.

In the end it took me 45 minutes to make my picks: 17 films, 3 with Nina, to use up my 20 tickets. The availability was much better than last year, when my 10 selections took me down to #17 on my list. This year my first 11 picks were all available (including Nina's top 3), and I wound up with 17 of my top 21 choices. Only 2 films were sold out when I tried to get a ticket for them; two others were available but conflicted with earlier choices. I'll be seeing 17 films in 11 days, but the schedule really isn't insane. There are a few days with 3 films, but enough time to get around and get fed in between. I'm very excited.

I have written a short review of each film I saw over the week and a half of the festival. Here's the final list, sorted in order of how much I enjoyed each film:
  1. Labor Day (Wow)
  2. How I Live Now (Wonderful)
  3. Tim's Vermeer (Fabulous)
  4. Prisoners (Really Excellent)
  5. The Right Kind of Wrong (Really Good)
  6. Sunshine On Leith (Very Good) 
  7. Words and Pictures (Very Good) 
  8. Half of a Yellow Sun (Quite Good)
  9. The Railway Man (Quite Good) 
  10. The Double (Very Weird, but Compelling)
  11. Giraffida (Pretty Good)
  12. Beyond The Edge (Pretty Good)
  13. The Dinner (Pretty Good)
  14. Break Loose (Not Bad)
  15. Parkland (Fair)
  16. Omar (Fair)
  17. Under The Skin (Weird)

1 comment:

  1. Awesome stuff John! I love TIFF but I've never done more than four films in a festival. I look forward to your reviews!