7 Things I Learned Covering My First Film Festival

By  · Published on September 21st, 2012

by Andrew Robinson

Editor’s Note: A few months ago, we chose to send a Jamaican blogger to Canada to cover the Toronto International Film Festival for us. It was his first film festival and his first time writing for us, but our biggest concern was that any temperature under 72 degrees would freeze him instantly. Fortunately, he survived, and he’s here to share what he learned.

Hopefully, you’ve all enjoyed my coverage of TIFF these past two weeks. You might be tired of hearing about it, but spare me one more moment to talk a little about what I’ve learned on my trip to that spot of land a bit north of the USA.

This was my first time going to TIFF, going to Canada, covering and even attending a film festival. It’s a lot of firsts for me to handle – I hope I did okay.

I watched a grand total of 35 films (all listed here). I posted reviews for 22 films and did 1 interview. I took in 4 movies and 3 cups of coffee a day. I walked out of 2 films, fell asleep in 3 and couldn’t complete 2 due to projection issues. I saw my first film ever projected in 70mm (The Master, of course) and overall had a blast. I’m still trying to figure out how to go back to “normal” everyday life after that, but so it goes.

So here are some things I learned from my very first film festival:

1. Wear Proper Shoes

I’m pretty sure for people who frequent real cities, this is already understood, but for a person who stupidly woke up an hour late for his airport taxi and forgot to pack his jogging shoes, I found out the hard way how important they are at a festival. After day one, my feet were blistered and calves burning. By day six I found it hard to run (which was necessary to catch a few screenings). I pushed through and after two days of post-fest rest, I’m totally fine but damn me for thinking I could do that level of walking as easily as flipping a switch.

2. Find a Local and Be Friends

Part of the reason I had previously been so enamored with TIFF as opposed to Sundance, Cannes and Venice (while all amazing-seeming festivals) was that I’d met many Torontonians online through blogging, podcasting and general internet movie geekery. So between films and generally having fun in a new space, I knew that I would be able to turn to a lot of these people to meet up and build on that community. I even got some podcasting done, guesting on The Substream, The MatineeCast and Mamo, three very beloved shows.

Festival fuel.

3. Embrace your Twitter Handle

I love twitter. I consider it to be the ultimate evolution of the internet chat room from the 90s. However, unlike a lot of my younger twitter compatriots I don’t engage it at all when I’m outside in the real world. My phone is in my pocket, I’m not instagramming photos (as you could see, there was none done during the fest) or giving out some weird name-dropping tweets.

Everywhere I went, I introduced myself as Andrew. It was only after much hemming and hawing that I would eventually say “covering for FSR and I’m gmanReviews on Twitter” which felt weird. However, at the end of the day it made the festival that much more enjoyable. You can say that you’re at a screening and magically five people who’re in line join you. It makes post-film experiences more fun too, because you don’t have to wait to start discussing what you’ve seen.

4. Say Hi to Strangers

When I’m alone in a theater, in a line, at a Starbucks, whatever you want to call it, I’m quiet. I stand in line and wait like a patient monk awaiting my own reincarnated self to come around and make me awesome for the next life. However, since the festival is such a massive experiential event filled with film fans, it’s not hard to throw out a random Kubrick reference and have it land with the compatriot standing right next to you. Just like that, you’ve made a new friend.

5. Not going to See a Film? Give a Ticket to Someone in the Rush Line

While I’m not judging the people who sell their tickets, I do feel that at some point it’s great just to give them away. I, dead after four films, couldn’t muster the energy to go see I Declare War so with the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to successfully rush Silver Linings Playbook decided to give my ticket to the former away.

I waited to hear someone in the rush line say they were hoping to see the film I had a ticket for. When one man did, I whipped out my ticket and handed it to him. His stunned surprise and general happiness when I told him it was free was more than enough payment I could’ve asked for. I don’t know how the movie turned out (don’t think I know anyone who saw it) but I hope that guy loved it.

6. 4AM Pancakes Rule

After getting out of a boring Midnight Madness film, nothing beats heading out to a diner and getting pancakes with a bunch of movie lovers and talking for three hours as to why Christopher Nolan is better than most filmmakers and playing devil’s advocate to attempt to rile up people. I do that a lot. Pancakes enhance the experience.

7. Embrace the Randomness

While it’s understandable to go to a fest like TIFF and want to just see the films like Looper, The Master, and Cloud Atlas, a sense of randomness needs to hit you at one point to help aid you in finding gems that you normally wouldn’t have seen otherwise. If it weren’t for that adventuring attitude, I wouldn’t have caught Far Out Isn’t Far Enough, Key of Life or Reality, all films being some of my favorite discoveries from the festival.

Before I leave you all I want to take a moment to give a big shout out to all the great bloggers I met while in Toronto: Ryan McNeil, Lindsay Ragone, Corey Atad, Bob Turnbull, Sam Fragoso, Kurt Halfyard, Matt Price, Matt Brown, Courtney Small, Tom Clift, James McNally, Louis Plamondon, Edward Douglas, Leora Heilborn, Jess (Reel Insight), Andrew Johnson, David Voigt and many others. If I forgot to name you please forgive me, you still rock.

So thank you TIFF, thank you FSR and thank you movies for giving me something to enjoy as I spend my holiday meeting people that I’m happy to call friends.

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