Thursday, August 28, 2008

Leaving the Peasants Behind

I love the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I've been going for years. I'm not someone who takes the week off to go to all 300+ films, but I do enjoy it every year.

They're really starting to piss me off.

Originally The Festival of Festivals, and then exploding as TIFF, it's still considered the 2nd most important film festival in the world behind Cannes. Some, like Sundance and Tribeca are gaining ground (the former will stay behind simply because it's indie-centric), but there is no fetival as well-positioned for Oscar-calibre launches and geographic ease.

But it was originally a festival for the people. Toronto has (or at least had) the highest per-capita movie-going population in North America. We know our films here. As TIFF grows in industry popularity though, the people are being left behind.

Up until this year, Roy Thomson Hall was the only Gala venue in the fest. Tickets cost more, the movies were bigger, the red carpet longer, etc.. Now, they've taken over the Elgin as a gala theatre as well. This was my favourite to see movies in because it was big, opulent (it's a live theatre most of the time), and showed the much cooler 2nd-tier films for the same price as the Galas. World premieres of movies that would go on to become critically acclaimed happened here. I saw many of them. Now? $40 and not on the regular program.

Fine, the festival grows, the prestige pictures grow, and they need more space. I get it.

But there was ALWAYS a way to see these films in one of the other venues after the premiere. This year? There's a bunch that are ONLY showing at Roy Thomson Hall and the Elgin... no chance to see them for less than the $40 tickets. For a movie. So I'll just wait until they hit the theatre. I mean, Burn After Reading will be out to the public before the fest is even over.

But I just saw something in my ticketing book that really annoyed me.

The advance ticket method has been as fair as they can make it in the past. Regardless of your type of pass, you get yoru order book, pick your 1st choices, and your 2nd choices, and have 3 days to hand it in. They put your order in a numbered box. After the drop-off deadline, they randomly pick a box number to start with and move forward from there. So if you get put in box #30 and they pick box #29 to start, you're in good shape. If they pick #31, you're hoping you picked unpopular films.

But NEW THIS YEAR! If you are a donor of more than $250, you get special boxes that JUMP THE ADVANCE TICKETING LINE! On top of that, even those boxes are sorted by donation amount.

You want the donors to feel special? Give them some free tickets to the Galas. Throw a party for them. Give 'em a fucking bag with a pen in it. But as soon as you create a second class of patron, you further destroy what makes this festival so great - that anybody can go as long as they can get to Toronto... which isn't a very difficult task. So now, if you get a good position in line, you have to wait for all the donors to get their tickets first, then any other box before you.

This shouldn't affect me too much, since I tend to see smaller films without all the buzz. I live in a big city that gets lots of movies. I can catch the big ones later. But the principle of the thing pisses me off royally.

Okay, back to whittling down 29 films to 10.

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