Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TIFF09 Resources

Since I'm a self-proclaimed TIFF junkie, I enjoy reading up on the festival as it rolls to a start. I appreciate the early reviews and insights provided by various publications and bloggers, as we try to collectively make heads or tails of 300+ (relatively unknown) titles. So to make it easier for everyone, I have updated my blog's right-hand column to feature TIFF specific press, blogs and tools. These sites all have sections dedicated to the Toronto International Film Festival. Links will also reflect specific 2009 content. Regardless if you're new to the festival, or are a seasoned veteran, I'm sure you can find something of value here.

If you own a blog, or simply enjoy reading a TIFF related website that's not shown here, please post it in the comments below or find me on Twitter, and I'll be sure to add it to the bunch. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scheduling Pt.3 (Considerations)

Now that you know of at least some of the films you want to see, it's important to take certain things into consideration before diving head first into the rest of your scheduling. Here are some things you'll want to consider when constructing your advance ticketing film schedules:

- Identify directors of films you've enjoyed in the past, or directors you typically follow. This can give you some idea of what to expect from their latest release.

- Consider the length of the films. One film may be as long as two of your alternate choices. Also, make sure the selection doesn't run into other possible First Choice or Second Choice selections later in the day. Both First and Second Choice selections need to work interchangeably based on what tickets are available at the time of the lottery.

- Review the programs, and the films in them, from past years. For example: Did you like the films that were selected for the Visions program over the past two years? What types of films did they turn out to be? This can be a good indicator of the type of film that fits that classification.

- If you're debating taking the first or second screening of a particular film, consider the number of seats in each theater. Try and select the screening with the larger number of seats. You'll have a better chance at getting tickets for the larger screenings. Along the column to the left, I have identified the number of seats in each venue to aid in this selection process.

- Mix it up. In order to get the most of the festival experience, try and select films from a variety of genres, programs, as well as films that can balance the darker films with lighter content. For instance, try and select at least one documentary, one gala, and even a midnight madness selection (everyone will tell you the audiences are part of the "madness").

- When completing your schedules, its important to remember to make time in between films to find time to eat and travel. This may sound obvious, but it's amazingly easy to forget. Screening times frequently run over due to late starts, Q&A's, introductions etc. Consider adding at least a half-hour to the run-time of each film to account for this. Also, if you want decent seats, consider getting to the screening at least a half hour early. There are usually lines around the block just before the start time. And last but not least, remember the locations of each theater. Some are across town and will take 20+ minutes by subway, while others are in the same venue, just a different theater.

As usual, feel free to add your pointers to the list, and don't forget about my sidebars for links, locations and theater seat numbers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poll results

It looks like the festival's attempt to re-brand it's image hasn't gone far enough. The majority of visitors claim the festival still gives too many benefits to donors over those of the general public.


16% Yes, I am pleased with how they responded
66% No, they still give too many privileges to donors and sponsors
16% I have no idea what you're talking about

Scheduling Pt.2 (Prioritizing)

As you begin to narrow down your film selections, you should establish what you hope to get out of the experience.

Step 1: Decide what kind of festival-goer you are:
Many people like to only select the smaller films that don’t have wide releases planned or distribution deals inked. The rationale is that they can eventually see the studio films when they are released officially later in the year. This would mean avoiding many of the Galas or any film from a large studio. If this is what you’re interested in, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is the fall movie preview and outlines the upcoming films by date. Other festival-goers prefer to follow the stars. For this, I would suggest Galas and the Special Presentation programs. But if catching a glimpse of a celebrity is something you take seriously, you don’t necessarily need tickets to do that. Go to the film’s theater an hour to two early and get a great spot in front of the theater. This way you can catch the stars entering the theater at a good distance without having to be restrained by the length and distance of the ticket line. The bigger stars are typically in the larger films, which are the Galas. But, from my experience, you have a better chance staking out a smaller venue to see the smaller films with marquee names. And lastly, if you don't care who's in the movie, when it’s coming out, and simply want to see a good film, then the selection process is wide-open. I personally don’t have the luxury of skipping out on the studio films since I have 2 kids and don’t get out to the theater as often as I would like. So, I simply select a wide mix of films that simply cater to my tastes. For this, there is no real way to immediately narrow down the selection besides following your instincts and the intrigue of the film’s premise.

Step 2: With such a large and wonderful selection of films, you will have to start prioritizing somewhere. As I stated in my previous posting, start by highlighting and identifying the films you absolutely CANNOT miss. This will make things surprisingly more concrete because, as luck will always have it, there will be 3 films you think you HAVE TO SEE that are playing simultaneously. So, by identifying which of those Must See films are most important, you have already made some decisions about your priorities. Consider making the films that are playing simultaneously and subsequently not chosen, your Second Choice selections.

Step 3: Determine your First and Second Choices. If you’re doing the advance draw, take the First and Second Choice labels seriously and be sure to always have a Second Choice identified. This determination will shape your entire schedule. If you want to see both the First and Second Choice films, look to find when their repeat screening takes place and try to select that one as your First Choice on another day. But sooner or later, you have to accept that a Must See film may become a Second Choice film by scheduling default. Also, make sure your Second Choice works with your next/upcoming First and Second choices later in the day. So in actuality, you’re creating two schedules and they both have to work interchangeably.

You have identified your must list, now its time to fill in the gaps. This will be the majority of your film selections. The next TIFF Tips will explore all the things to consider when narrowing down your final film list.

Questions about the post or having trouble navigating the festival? Post your questions in the Comments section and I will do my best to respond promptly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Scheduling Pt.1 (The Technique)

Since the TIFF09 schedule will be released tomorrow, I thought some of my previous posts would prove useful for anyone looking for thoughts on film selection, so I've updated the posts with some new information and republished them below. Enjoy:

What I consider to be Christmas in August is the day the Festival Guidebook and Schedule arrive at my doorstep. This year that day is tomorrow, August 25th. So before the three day hysteria of studying 335 films, 3AM scheduling debates, and strategic time management exercises, I thought it might be helpful to share my TIFF scheduling technique, and hopefully you, the casual reader will benefit from it and feel inclined to share your system.

This year, one of the more significant changes to the ticketing procedure is the additional time allocated to those that purchased the Out-of-Town Ticket Selection Service. In past years, the general public received their schedules and program books on one day, and anyone with the Out Of Town service received it a day later. We also lost an additional day in order to get the schedules back to Fed Ex in time for them to meet their deadline for the lottery. But this year, we receive the program books and schedules on the same day (if Fed Ex comes through - fingers crossed) and have been allocated an additional day for the scheduling. Schedules are not due back to Fed Ex until Friday at 5:00.

The TIFF website traditionally offers a helpful resource to organizing and saving your films with a system called My Film List. You can currently find buttons on the official site that read “Add It”. This will add the film to a master list of films that you have personally selected. You can log in to retrieve this list and even update it to reflect your actual final selections. Its handy and quite easy to use, being that the interactivity resides alongside the film descriptions. I use it to get a head start on my planning the day the schedules go live, simply to create a general list of the films I’m interested in. But I leave the tool to do only that. It’s useful, but not yet perfect.

You can also try TIFFR, an independent system that also aids in organizing your TIFF schedule. Also worth mentioning are TOFilmFest and TIFF Reviews. Both have a wealth of information about each of the titles that include the synopsis, links, and reviews, so don't forget about them when doing your research. I use those sites as well as a handful of others to help determine my interest level in each selection.

Next, I will print out the schedules from the website by day, for each day I will attend. Sometimes the day’s schedule doesn’t fit onto one page, and since the festival doesn't supply printer-friendly versions of the schedules, I’ll tape them together vertically. This allows me an easy way to get the entire day’s schedule at a glance. You can also photocopy the pages in the official festival schedule book. It’s important to note that it’s good to print the pages in black and white as opposed to color. It will make your notes and markings easier to read.

At this point, the selection process begins. I use a pencil to immediately circle anything I know I want to see, and cross off anything I know I don’t want to see. Then, with a range of different colored highlighters, I will highlight the films that I'm interested in ranging from very interested, to hardly interested. I will most likely have more than one copy of each day on hand in order to transfer my findings/notes from the “draft” onto a new “working” version. That just makes it easier for me to read after all the highlighting and pencil markings.

What comes next is determined by the types of films you want to see while there, and what type of festival-goer you consider yourself to be. The next TIIF Tips I post will explore those questions.

Again, feel free to use the Comments section to share your neurotic, systematic, or just plain logical scheduling solutions, to what I consider the now four day scramble of TIFF scheduling madness.