How to TIFF

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First off, yes, TIFF can be a verb (as in, “I am TIFFing this week.”). It is of course a noun (“I am attending TIFF.”), and may even be used as an adjective (“Are those TIFF bags under your eyes?”). During this magical week in September, anything goes!

Despite being a lifelong lover of movies, the idea of navigating the ticket process for the festival overwhelmed me. Last year, my wife and I decided to wing it and had a fantastic time buying single tickets as we went; this year we vowed to take a more studied approach.

First we became TIFF members. A basic membership is very affordable, and you receive discounts on movie tickets and concession purchases at the Lightbox the rest of the year, access to the beautiful members’ lounge, AND an early purchase window for festival ticket packages. This was our most desired perk and would have really come in handy…had we not missed the window.

It was back to choosing single tickets on the same day as the rest of Toronto, but this time we were better prepared with the festival bible ($40) thoroughly reviewed and choices carefully pared down.

Preparing TIFF selections

Preparing TIFF selections (c) Allyson Scott

Tickets went on sale at 9 a.m. on August 31, but it took five minutes of frantic screen refreshing to get in the online queue – at which point there were over 800 people ahead of us. It’s important to have a list of first and second choices ready, and also helps to have a partner checking times and theatres so you don’t accidentally double-book yourself!

When our number came up after about an hour of waiting, we had 30 minutes to choose several big-budget Hollywood movies that we thought were bound to be good, and a few indie or foreign films that we would likely never see outside of the festival. It’s true that you pay more to see a movie that will be released in a few weeks or months, but the atmosphere of the festival is electric and fun. We see movies in gorgeous theatres like the Elgin or Princess of Wales, we often get to hear stars and directors speak at the screenings, we meet interesting people in line, we go out to restaurants more during the festival, and make it into a mini-vacation.

TIFF 2014 tickets

TIFF 2014 tickets (c) Allyson Scott

There was just one of our first choices missing, which was the world premiere of “This Is Where I Leave You”. Every day at 7:00 a.m. new tickets become available to some of the movies as people exchange tickets or industry reserved seats are let go. It worked for us last year and it worked for us again this year as we nabbed those last tickets we were waiting for after several days of trying!

TIFF 2014 lucky ticket

TIFF 2014 lucky ticket (c) Allyson Scott

The green “Main” sticker is an upgrade to mezzanine seats offered to the first few dozen people in line, since only balcony seats are available as single ticket purchases. We usually try to line up an hour and a half before the start time, which was enough in this case to get us the upgrade. We were thrilled to have great seats on the lower level…until we realized the entire cast was seated above us in the balcony. 🙁

Cast of "This Is Where I Leave You"

Cast of "This Is Where I Leave You" (c) Allyson Scott

This was the first year that a section of King St was closed and made into a pedestrian promenade, which was fantastic. There were promotional booths with giveaways, live music, and extra patio seating for all the restaurants. It only lasted the first four days, but there is talk of extending it for next year’s festival.

King St during TIFF 2014

King St during TIFF 2014 (c) Allyson Scott

We were thrilled by how many directors and stars chose to attend second screenings, which meant we often had a gala experience without the gala price. They were generous with their time during Q & A sessions, even when some audience members were clearly starstruck (me) and occasionally burst into tears (not me).

The fabulous movies far outnumbered our less-than-fabulous choices again this year, with our favourites being “This Is Where I Leave You”, “While We’re Young”, “The Drop” and “Learning To Drive”. We can hardly wait for next year…and will make sure we don’t miss our package purchase window!

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