Six years ago, when I moved to Toronto, one of my dreams was to go to Toronto International Film Festival. Since I arrived in late summer of 2012 and was starting school, it was too late for me to get tickets for any galas, but I still managed to see one movie.
It was “Laurence Anyways” by a French Canadian director Xavier Dolan. The movie screening was very low-key compared to my later experiences at TIFF, but nevertheless, I found it very exciting. The screening was at Scotiabank Theatre, but we still got to meet with the director and the cast. To watch the movie and then have a chance to be at the Q&As with the cast inspired me so much. I couldn’t wait for 2013.
During the summer of 2013, I purchased TIFF membership, and I did not regret it to this day. There was an orientation for new members, which I went to and even wrote a post on Tumblr about it. I am going to insert a part of my blog post here:
Today was the orientation tour for new members at Bell Lightbox, and of course, I went there. There was a pretty big group of people (bigger than I expected), and we were split into two smaller groups. First, we had a tour around the building and were told about the architecture of the building - the concept of light and shadow and boxes within boxes. I have been to Lightbox before - both times during the festival, this and last year. I was only on the second floor and inside cinema 2. Today we had a tour, and we were able to go inside halls 1 and 5. We also went inside the Bell Blue Room which is for TIFF members only.
The best thing about membership is that you can come over to the Lounge (on the second floor - Luma restaurant/bar) or to the Bell Blue Room (which is open only on Thur-Fri afternoons and all throughout Sat-Sun). You can just hang out there. Have a snack. They also conduct workshops, screenings, exhibitions. Some things (like special exhibitions or TV shows season finale/premiere screenings) are free, others are available at a discounted price. (They also used to organize the Oscar ceremony screening in the members’ lounge for a couple of years. It was a lot of fun!)
They also have a Book club, and film discussions. They also have a film reference library, and you can watch any title there on the spot for free.*
I went a bit crazy with TIFF in 2013-2015. I watched a lot of movies in those years, some of them I rushed, others I was lucky to get tickets for in advance.
With years, TIFF membership benefits and the process of obtaining tickets for TIFF have changed. This is the information that I got from TIFF website as of today in regards of festival benefits.
At the Toronto International Film Festival:
- Exclusive ticket package pre-sale
- Exclusive advance-package ticket selection
- Exclusive individual ticket pre-sale
- No service fees on exchanges via your TIFF Account Manager
- Priority service through the Box Office
If you are reading this during the festival, it is already too late to get any festival packages. For those, you have to sign up for TIFF newsletter and watch your email months ahead. However, if you plan to buy individual tickets, getting a TIFF membership would still be beneficial as it gives you priority at the box office.
Naturally, you can purchase tickets online or over the phone, but if you have vouchers, you need to exchange them for movie tickets. The lines at the festival are unbelievable!
If you have a ticket for a movie, arrive about 1 hour before the screening as there will be a line for ticket holders and everyone would be admitted about 10 mins before the screening. The seating is usually not assigned, and once all ticket holders are inside, the volunteers would count empty seats and let in the rush line.
Rush Line is a great way to get tickets for screenings that are sold out. There are usually at least 10% of seats are being saved for that purpose. Sometimes extra tickets might be released on the day of the screening. Checking the TIFF website every day of the festival is a great tip!
If you want to rush a ticket, then arrive 3-4 hours before screen time. Bring a chair, an umbrella, snacks and a book, and make friends with people around you. I have experience standing for 5-6 hours in rush lines, in the sun or under the rain, reading books, talking to people, taking breaks to run to a nearby Starbucks or Tim Hortons, and cheering every time the line moves one foot ahead.
It is hard to describe the feel of the festival. You need to experience it on your own. See mobs of fans crowd every entrance and exit waiting for Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. Watch a fan ask Benedict Cumberbatch a very inappropriate question. You get so used to being around people who talk about festival movies and discuss spotted celebs almost 24/7 that later being outside of that orange bubble feels less real.
Unfortunately, I missed a year or two of the festival due to being away on vacation, but every time when I had an opportunity, I would see at least a couple of movies.
Would having a TIFF membership help you get the best out of the festival? In my opinion, yes. It definitely helped me get early access to tickets packages and priority in Ticket Office. Not to mention discounts in some local restaurants. Members’ Lounge is pretty cool too, although it is usually not available during festival days.
*Please refer to the official TIFF page for membership benefits, prices and festival tickets. As the details might change without my knowledge.