Tuesday, September 06, 2011

TIFF newbie questions

With my schedule for the Toronto International Film Festival more or less set, I have some newbie questions for which I need answers.  I've conducted some of this over Twitter, but rather than annoying most people and limiting responses to 140 character bites, I figured I'd post them here, which will allow you to extrapolate to your heart's content.  (Comments are moderated because the only ones I tend to get are spam or of the "you suck/get a life" variety--trust me, I need no reminding--but I'll be keeping up with these.  Comment away.)

So, here are my "I've never been to TIFF before and have a million questions" questions:

1.  Are point-and-shoot digital cameras or small video cameras (a la Flip) permitted in the theaters?  I'd like to take some photos, and maybe a little video, while I'm out and about, but if this is going to be a problem, I won't bother.

2.  Is outside food and drink permitted in theaters?  (I'm guessing it isn't, but with festival attendees eating on the go a lot, I'm hoping it is.)

3.  Along with the first two questions, how vigilantly do festival venues conduct bag searches?  (No, I'm not looking to bootleg.)

4.  What do I need to do with my iPhone to make sure I don't get crushing data and phone bills?

5.  If I know what exchanges I want to make when picking up my tickets, can I do that then and there?

6.  Should I travel by subway or by foot when on my own late at night?  (I'm staying downtown, but the hotel isn't necessarily close to any of theaters.)

7.  Anywhere you suggest that's good to eat that won't break the bank?

8.  Anything else I ought to know?

If you're going to be TIFFing it up and want to meet, e-mail or DM me.  We'll see what we can work out.

Thanks in advance for the answers you can provide.  It will be a relief just to dive into this after all the prep work.


  1. 2. There's no food and drink (other than water) allowed in the Ryerson, Jackman Hall or Isabel Bader theatre. I think the Elgin might be on that list too, but I can't remember.

    Since the AMC doesn't have coffee/tea on their menu, I've brought my own in from outside with no fuss. But I haven't tried anything more than that. Your success will probably depend on the strictness of the individual theatre.

    3. I don't think I've ever seen a bag search happen. Too time-consuming, I would think.

    5. Yes. Also, you can't make exchanges the day of a screening, you need to do it before.

    6. I don't think there are any big safety issues with the neighbourhoods you'll be walking through, but then again, this is my city and I tend to be oblivious to things that might cause concern to a newcomer.

    7. If you're at Jackman Hall, there's a good, varied food court across the street in the Grange. For Scotiabank, walk up to Queen St and try Ginger for Asian noodles or Cafe Crepe for baguette sandwiches. At Lightbox, the restaurant on the main floor Canteen has very yummy takeout sandwiches. I'm sure others have better suggestions.

    8. People tend to get in line early to nab their preferred seats. Don't freak out if you see a humungous line stretching all the way around the block - if you have a ticket, you will get in.

    Have fun!

  2. Don answered most of them, but ...

    (1) they do watch the theaters with night-vision equipment pretty diligently while film is running. But there's so much stargazing that you can pretty much do whatever you want re photo and video before the film and during any Q/A

    (2) the Elgin sells its own concessions that I think you're supposed to eat in the foyer, but I have never had difficulty sneaking in a chocolate bar or anything discreet and odor-free in my bookbag. Nor have I ever had it searched but they do, as they say, "reserve the right."

    (4) DO NOT ROAM. I repeat -- DO. NOT. ROAM. Your plan may vary on IM and phone charges. But using 3G to get onto the Internet, or anything other than Wifi spots, is the killer.

    (6) To amplify what Don said from an outsider's POV ... none of the festival venues are anywhere near any neighborhoods you might wanna avoid, even at 2am. It's usually not even deserted, frankly. I have never felt threatened in 10 years of walking around downtown Toronto. If it's a nice night (Toronto in September usually is) and I'm not on deadline, I'll sometimes walk for the sheer pleasure.

    (7) You have not been to Toronto until you've eaten one of the street vendors hot dogs / sausages. They're enormous, you can get them well-spiced (Italian, Polish and German sausages as well as franks, only a little more) and they're as filling as a whole meal for around $4 plus a $1 soda/water.

  3. Two things about the subway you might need to know:

    - the subway closes down around 1:30am, but there are late night buses following the same routes.

    - on Sunday, the subway doesn't open until 9am-ish (basically, whenever the first train reaches your station), so if you have an early morning screening that day, you might need to walk or look for a bus.