Now that we’ve closed the Toronto International Film Festival 2016, it’s a great time to pause and reflect on what we’ve learned and how we can apply that to future film festivals and industry events. Attending TIFF, by day three I was seeing attendees with dark circled eyes from lack of sleep, humpbacked from the weight of all their gear, and pausing on the street to rub at their sore feet. With so much to see, not just at the festival but throughout Toronto, it can be difficult to convince oneself to invest in self-care. But with a 10 day long festival, ignoring your body could mean you miss out.
Try our 10 steps to a better TIFF next year — and try these out at any other festivals, industry mixers, and special events this season!
Get Good Walking Shoes
Toronto International Film Festival is spread over about six miles. And, yes, public transportation is great. It’s fast, reliable, and inexpensive. But after about 10:30 a.m. the busses start to fill up. If you’re attending the festival as a film buff this won’t be a problem. But if you’re showing a film, photographing an event, or attending an event promoting your film, you’ll be hauling gear or wearing fancy clothes — and you might want to skip the bus. You could order a taxi or an Uber, but that cost will climb quickly.
So, what are you to do?
Strap on your best shoes and get ready to walk. For TIFF, I recommend arriving a day before the festival. Pick up a map at the convention center. Then hit every theater on the map. Learn the shortcuts through parks, which streets will be blocked off, and where the rush lines will be formed. This information will make the next 10 days a breeze and your FitBit will think you’ve transformed into a tri-athlete.
The universally applicable takeaway? For any industry event, make sure you know where you’re going, how to get there, and a backup plan of how to get there — then allow plenty of extra time.
Make a Plan But Don’t Marry It
As previously stated, there’s a lot to do once you get to TIFF. Do yourself a favor and make a plan.
TIFF provides a color coded calendar on their website labeling each event. There are little descriptions in the calendar. Circle every event you hope to attend. Then place every event in a Google Calendar or a travel calendar you can have on you at all times. I prefer Google Calendar because it can send you an alert 10, 15, or 20 minutes before the event. If you place the location of the screening or event in the calendar you can also use Google Maps to navigate instantly, if you skipped step number one.
Now that you’ve cured your fear of missing out, be prepared to chuck the entire plan. Listen, when you’re walking around the Toronto International Film Festival you’re going to find so much to do. This year Express set up a pop up clothing store, Lindor released a new candy and were giving out bags for free, McDonald’s gave out free coffee accompanied by a live DJ performance, and Pure Leaf gave out thousands of samples of their tea. There were free concerts and red carpets and local street performers. Downtown Toronto is lined with the mouthwatering smells spilling out of restaurants.
Don’t miss an amazing opportunity to explore something new. The universal takeaway for any industry event: plan ahead, but be open to surprises.
Hydrate and Eat
This may sound like common sense advice, but it’s so easy to forget that each day at a festival is like two days in your normal life. With concerts, free food, speakers, conferences, and, of course, film, there’s something to do from sun up to sundown. The fear of missing out is real.
If you decide to follow our first rule, you’ll be walking back and forth all day.
Dehydration leads to fatigue, which means you’ll be moving slower and thinking slower — not a good look if you’re trying to present your work. A good rule of thumb is to keep a bottle of water in your bag. Before you leave the theater, fill up at the water fountain. Try to drink two bottles of water a day and you’ll be ahead of the crowd.
With so much to do it’s likely your adrenalin will get pumping. It’s difficult at times to slow down to eat, but luckily there are so many restaurants around town. King Street is littered with cuisine from around the world. Money won’t be an issue. There are street carts selling everything from hot dogs to falafel. Restaurants range from Canadian favorite Tim Horton’s to Starbucks to McDonald’s on the cheaper side to high end seafood restaurants and everything in between.
Universal takeaway for any industry event: hydrate and eat. You’ll want to be at your best, and you need fuel.
Do More Than The Festival – Meet the Locals
Toronto is an amazing city. Apparent in their architecture, they’ve managed to fuse the old with the new. Pockets of communities surround the downtown area. The Entertainment district is right downtown. Here you’ll find film financiers, publishers, and distributors. Head over to Kensington Market to explore vintage clothes shopping, classic coffee houses, and beautiful street art.
If there’s one stereotype that’s true about Canada, it’s that the people here are incredibly friendly. Even in the financial district it’s not uncommon to stop and strike up a conversation with curious locals. By sitting down with citizens, you can learn about hole in the wall dining, shortcuts, and, best of all, local events. Just because TIFF is in full swing doesn’t mean Toronto is slowing down. The Blue Jays are in the middle of an amazing series, the World Beach Volleyball Tournament is taking place, and soon the World Hockey Games will be kicking off. Locals can give you insight into the secret world behind TIFF.
Universal takeaway for any industry event: focus on the people and chat with the locals, and you’ll likely discover something incredible.
Everyone who is anyone attends these festivals. You never know to whom you’re talking, so be sure to ask. As I stood in the rush line for Netflix’s new show, “ARQ,” I struck up a conversation with a woman in line. We talked about the films we saw and which were our favorites, and then we began to talk about what we do. She said she was industry but when I pried a little further, it turned out she was a huge producer. She was At TIFF trying to make deals with Netflix, supporting friends, and locking in actors. We had such a good time she invited me, and a guest, to an industry event the same night. All this came because I turned around in a rush line to ask a question.
Universal takeaway for any industry event: you never know who you might meet. Really.
That’s it. Those are the essential rules to a better TIFF. If you weren’t at TIFF try applying these tips to other industry events. If you’re attending a play don’t be afraid to explore the area around the theater. Turn to the person next to you in line and ask them about their day. Come with a plan, but be ready to embrace the moment. You never know what you might find.