There are times when I have to admit I am grateful I made the move to the Industry festival about six years ago. I remember wishing I had done it much sooner. The Industry festival is the only way for true film lovers to now attend TIFF without major ticketing headaches and long lines. Don't get me wrong - there are still ticketing headaches and long lines for us too! but it's the "major" that drops out of the sentence. Now that I am linked to the TIFF site I have been checking out my blogging buddies from years gone by (people I've never met and don't know but whose blogs I check every year). Of these, I have to say Tifftalk and Crunchy Squirrel are among my favourites, because you can tell how deeply they love film, love the festival and how seriously they look at the experience as a whole. Tifftalk is great for people who are new to the festival and need to get their bearings. Crunchy has very nice short, pithy film reviews. (Don't you love the word pithy?)
Crunchy has helped me to realise two of the most startling TIFF changes this year for average film fans - the restriction of the Elgin from pass ticketing, and the priority access of donors to ticketing. They are politely upset about it, I would be real mad if I were them and if I relied on the public festival. The Festival is starting to mirror more and more the capitalist societies their films criticize, in which those with the most (but not necessarily the most knowledge and passion for film) squeeze out those with the least.
When I taught film (for 9 years at the International Academy of Design), I was always amazed by how many of my students did not attend the festival out of sheer finances. It is crazy - as this is not only the talent pool of tomorrow but the most passionate audience of today. Something must be done to help facilitate access to the festival for those who are its true backbone and mainstay and for those less advantaged all around.
In the meantime (and I hate to do this to you regular festival folks), here's the inside scoop on how the Industry festival works. If you've already been an Industry attendee once, they send you a link in May (yes, that was May) to renew your pass from last year. You click on the link, which takes you to an already filled out form. You make sure everything's still the same, enter your VISA and presto, you're done. From this, the next step is arriving at the Sutton Place on September 2 or 3 (this year) and picking up your fully prepared package. In the pass I have, this also includes accessing some public screening tickets (2 per day). A special, separate box office for these tickets is on the second floor of the Sutton. We line up in a single file line that, when it's audacious, may get up to a 'horrifying' ten or twelve people, but it is in the nice surroundings of that hotel, often with a Starbucks mini-station nearby. We have our own computer room and access to press information (technically for the press among us but it's open to anyone with an Industry pass).
Of course, there are down sides to the Industry festival, despite these clear perks. Everyone is generally extremely tired (Toronto is the third of three festivals the press attends in a row - and let's face it, as cities go, Toronto is nice but it ain't Venice). The conversations in the line-ups are more apt to be about the failings of a film, instead of the passionate dialogues of endorsement you get outside the public venues. We're in the same 8 cinemas for two weeks and start to get Varsity vertigo, and we miss all the Q and A's with directors and actors. That's why I feel lucky with my setup. I attend primarily Industry screenings, but also get the public buzz. Public audiences are the greatest difference from Industry - they are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Industry audiences are stressed. Still, there's nothing that quite beats that moment in an Industry screening that's going well, when a great line or funny moment has just happened on screen, and instantly 100 penlights click on, notebooks flip open and hands are going. In the end, we're all in it together!