Yes, it’s that time of year again – The Toronto International Film Festival is back in town. Toronto is home to one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, attracting some of the best and biggest movies and A-list celebrities to our city. In its 37th year, TIFF kicked off yesterday and will be stopping traffic (quite literally!) for the next 11 days. Improv inTO caught up with TIFF Principal Member Michael Glover, an expert on the TIFF scene – who squeezed in time during his packed movie schedule via email (check out his schedule here), to get his insight on this film phenomenon.
How many years have you been attending the TIFF?
Michael Glover (MG): I have been attending TIFF since 2004 which makes this my 9th year. My first year I only saw two films (Creep and House of Flying Daggers). Each year as a sort of test of strength I would increase the number of films. I’ve been now seeing between 45-48 films a year since 2007.
You’re a TIFF “Principal” Member. That sounds very VIP. What does that mean? Are there any perks?
MG: It means TIFF likes me because I donate more than the minimum amount. 😉
The biggest perk I get is earlier ticket selection window. What I’ve found in previous years is that depending on what “box” you were in and which box was selected first, you might not get many of your film picks. For the average movie-goer, that’s probably fine, but when you’re scheduling nearly 50 films in 10 days, not getting what you want becomes somewhat of a scheduling nightmare! As a principal member, I get to start picking my films ahead of the Cast Member level and the regular non-TIFF member public.
Other benefits include a tax credit, discounted tickets at the Lightbox, and various promotions throughout the year. Since I don’t live in town, it makes it harder to attend some of the interesting things, but I did manage to get out to the Tim Burton exhibit from a couple years ago.
You describe yourself as a “movie addict.” As a film fanatic, what makes TIFF so great?
MG: I think it’s a little bit of everything. For one, I get to see a great variety of films, well in advance of the release date and a lot are world premieres. Some may not even get released to the general public for a few years! The showings themselves are great because you’re not just going to watch a film, you’re going to often see the director and the cast at the show. Often there is a Q&A afterwards and it’s interesting to see what they have to say. I think the most interesting “Q&A” I’ve seen was a few years back at the premiere for For Your Consideration. What started off as a Q&A turned into a 45 minute impromptu improv session with some very funny people: I’m looking at you Eugene Levy and Fred Willard! I ended up being slightly late for my next film because I didn’t want to go.
What film are you looking forward to the most?
MG: It’s really hard to narrow something like this down. 17 of the 46 films I’m seeing have been on my imdb watch list for over half a year. For big name films, I’m really looking forward to Brian De Palma’s Passion, which is a remake of a very excellent French film called Love Crime, and to Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film The Master. However, to be frank, I’m stoked for the entire Midnight Madness program as programmed by Colin Geddes – it’s always the most fun I have at the fest. Such a great crowd at the Ryerson at midnight, a lively and charismatic presenter in Colin and I’m a sucker for the genre fare (action / sci-fi / horror / etc).
You’re scheduled to see 46 movies over the duration of the film festival, averaging a whopping 5 films a day. That’s a movie marathon! Where do you get your energy?
MG: Starbucks. Many times a day. There’s a reason I have a gold card there! One year I tried a Red Bull prior to a Midnight Madness screening but it seemed to have the opposite effect. Halfway through the film I started imagining things that weren’t actually in the film: made for a unique film watching experience.
Is it technically possible for anyone to see more films than you’ll be seeing?
MG: Yes. I surmise with extremely good planning (this includes taking into account venue location travel time), not caring what you really see, ensuring you watch the earliest show in the day (9am ish) and every Midnight Madness screening at midnight, you could watch 6 films a day, which would be 65 films over the course of the festival (sadly there is no Midnight Madness screening on the last Sunday). However, you’d be ridiculously exhausted. I find around 47 seems to be the sweet spot for getting what you want and having a manageable schedule.
What is the process for scheduling all your films?
MG: Well, for me, it’s really a 2-step process. First step is selecting the films that I want to see. This basically involves going through every film and reading the synopsis. The second step kind of brings out my nerd factor (and my background as a software developer). I wrote a computer program a few years back that takes my list of films and prints out a schedule for me. I realized that when I was trying to figure out how to fit 50 films in 10 days, where each film has only 3 showings throughout the week, that it was kind of a daunting prospect. So the program takes a list of films where I specify: the film name, the running time, the screening times and a rating from 1-10 of how badly I want to see that film. The program then finds the best possible schedule taking into account my desires, the constraints and something as simple as travel time between venues. Sometimes I can leave it running for about a day before it coalesces on a solution. Generally, a near best schedule is produced within about 20 minutes.
Are there any movies not on your schedule that you’d like to see, or did you get all your top picks?
MG: There are a few things I would have liked to have seen. I really wanted to see Seven Psychopaths with Christopher Walken but it was considered a Premium showing and the MyChoice package that I have does not include Premium showings. It would have been a blast to see Walken in person. Another thing that didn’t quite fit was In Conversation With … Jackie Chan. It’s a live thing where Chan is interviewed for about 90 minutes. I’m a big Jackie Chan fan, so I thought it would be a great experience.
How do you travel between theatres? Do you have enough time to make it to your next film, or are there any close calls scheduled?
MG: Most of the time I end up walking between venues. I think I lost 7 pounds last year from all the walking I did. It’s also the only reason why I don’t like the addition of the Bloor Hot Docs cinema this year: traveling between it and say, Ryerson, would be just painfully long. I definitely get some close calls: sometimes shows run late or I just schedule things close together because I REALLY want to see certain films. In those cases, I’ve taken the subway or when I’m really desperate, I flag down a cab.
How do you pass the time in line for a film?
MG: A variety of things. I have a couple friends that go to TIFF and we have around 20 films of overlap per year, so I’ll chat with them. I also will strike up conversations with fellow TIFF-goers, and when all else fails, I have my trusty iPhone to keep company. It’s scary to think that, given 30 minutes to an hour wait in line and seeing nearly 50 films, I probably am standing in line for 1-2 days over the course of the entire festival.
Do you plan on hitting up any of the gourmet food trucks that will be lined up outside of the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema?
MG: If I’m hungry and it’s there!
What is your favourite TIFF film from all your years at the festival?
MG: Oh man, this is a tough question … given that I’ve seen probably 350 films at TIFF. When in doubt, go with something that’s fresh on the mind: last year’s world premiere of The Raid. The Raid is probably one of, if not, the best martial arts action films I’ve ever seen. It had mind blowing fight scenes, non-stop action, and even some artistic flair (like the slow motion scene where the firing of a gun lights up the room and you see the silhouetted heads of the bad guys lying in wait against the wall).
Are there any films you’ve walked out of?
MG: Yes, and some I have even fallen asleep in. Sadly you cannot always pick a winner. Unfortunately, I nearly scared my sister off TIFF for good with just such a film. A number of years ago, I went with her to see a film called Monobloc, which promised to be Lynchian. Instead it turned out to just be Monoblah. Half way through the film, we just couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave. I feel bad leaving films at the fest, since often the people who made the film are there. However, sometimes, you have to just bite your lip, get up super quietly and head out.
What is your most exciting TIFF memory?
MG: Probably my first introduction to Midnight Madness, which isn’t your typical screening experience. There are rocking tunes playing prior to showtime (I discovered Justice this way), there’s a packed, excited Ryerson audience, a number of beach balls being tossed around and then Colin comes up to the stage with sheer enthusiasm “Weeeeelllllccooomme to Midnight Madness 2012!”.
Have you had any brushes with celebrities? Who are you on the look-out for this year?
MG: In terms of personal experiences, in 2009 I went to see a film called La Soga. I talked to the guy next me, who was very friendly and funny. After I watched the film, I realized that the guy I had been talking to played the main villain in the film (General Colon). I thought that was pretty cool.
This year in terms of celebrities I’d really like to see, I can’t wait to see JunoTemple at the Brass Teapot premiere, Gemma Arterton at Byzantium, Noomi Rapace at Passion and, if I somehow manage to score a ticket to Seven Psychopaths, Christopher Walken.
Final question: Popcorn or candy?
– Cindy Hackelberg
What movie are you in line to see? Have you had a celebrity sighting? Is your film schedule as jam packed as 46 shows? Leave your comment below to get the TIFF conversation started.