The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today.
By the time it's over, a total of 349 films will have been screened and countless Hollywood celebrities will have been screamed at.
In Monday's Globe, John Doyle wrote that TIFF has a tendency to turn "sane people into fools."
The festival, he said, tends to break down into two distinct parts — one devoted to the movies and a second to star-gazing.
globeandmail.com readers had a chance to ask Review editor Andrew Gorham about the festival, its films and the celebrity frenzy that accompanies TIFF every year.
Already, the Globe has published a TIFF guide, offering readers tips on how to best navigate the festival, get tickets and spot the stars.
Sasha Nagy, globeandmail.com writes: Andrew: How do you rate the significance of the Toronto International Film Festival? Where does it rank in terms of importance to the film industry? Would you say it is more important than Cannes in terms of potential commericial success of a film? Most coverage focuses on the celebrities and the buzz, but what about the business aspect. This is also about cutting deals and selling movies isn't it?
Andrew Gorham: TIFF is far and away the largest fest in the world. But is bigger better? Perhaps. Cannes will always have the allure of old world charm and serious film making. It will always be the filmmaker's film fest. Venice is smaller but has recently upped it's celeb aspect. Sundance is the indie fest. That leaves TIFF to swoop in and nab the top spot for high-profile celebrity content. The great thing about TIFF is that its size (over 300 films) allows for both the big-budget films and the undiscovered gems. You could spend 10 days going to two films a day, see some incredible films and never see a star on the screen.
The business end of film festivals has drifted away from TIFF. More and more this fest is about generating attention for films. It acts as a launching pad for both Hollywood and the indie world. Deal-making has taken a back seat to film promotion. Want to make a deal? Go to Cannes or Berlin.
Jessica Tolen, Victoria, B.C.: Why does The Globe give TIFF so much coverage every year? If you're really a "national" newspaper and not a Toronto newspaper, shouldn't you give the arts better coverage in other parts of the country, too?
Andrew Gorham: It's a balance we work to strike. As Canada's national paper, we cover the festival for what it is: the biggest cultural event happening in Canada right now. Whether you are in Regina, or Yorkville, when the world's film industry arrives on our front door, we feel it holds a national interest. The fest also gives us the opportunity to look closely at the Canadian film industry. Read Michael Posner's profile of Robert Lantos today. It's a great piece that reveals the ins and outs of film making in Canada.
Jason Schmidt, Saskatoon: For those of you lucky enough to be in Toronto during the festival, what are your chances of getting close to the stars? How tight is the security?
Andrew Gorham: Security is remarkably light. You may not be rubbing elbows with George Clooney, but you will certainly see him on the red carpet. And he may come over to shake hands and chat. It all depends on the star. The consensus in Hollywood is that Toronto is full of true film lovers, and so are respectful towards the actors. And in return, the stars are more open and interactive with the crowds than at other film fests. And, of course, if you have the money, you can buy a ticket to such charity galas as the One X One event. That will put you up close and personal with star such as Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. And the money goes to a great cause. I saw Pitt at the One X One last year: Good looking fella.
Jasmine Francis, Halifax writes: What's going to happen to the stars who smoke in restaurants and bars? Wasn't there a big controversy about that last year? Or the year before? I seem to remember something.
Andrew Gorham: Sean Penn famously smoked through his press conference at the Sutton Place hotel last year, which is against city bylaws. Nothing happened to Penn, but the hotel was fined $600.
At the time, Toronto's medical officer of health, David McKeown said he planned on writing to Penn. I guess that's scary punishment.
John Robertson, Mississauga, Ont.: Do the studio executives, directors, producers, stars etc. get special immigration treatment? Personally, I'm betting that they are not standing in the same kind of two-hour lineup at Pearson that I stood in on my last trip to the U.S.
Andrew Gorham: The biggest celebs do get special treatment at immigration, and in many other instances (ever wonder why you don't see big stars at the lost luggage office?). But only the A-list stars get this preferential treatment -- and it costs. But I don't want to reveal too much on that now. Johanna Schneller, our columnist who has been interviewing and covering celebrities for years, has a wonderful story in tomorrow's paper about the "bubble" that surrounds celebs. I don't want to steal Johanna's thunder.
Helen Marshall, Richmond Hill, Ont.: What's Paris Hilton doing in town? Is she in any of the movies?
Andrew Gorham: Paris, that party girl, simply could not keep away from the action. With the world press in town and celebrities everywhere, Paris could not resist. So she arrived to celebrate a "pre-production launch" of her film "Repo", which will be shooting in Toronto. The premise of the film, according to imdb.com: "A worldwide epidemic encourages a biotech company to launch an organ-financing program similar in nature to a standard car loan. The repossession clause is a killer, however."
Personally, I've never heard of a "pre-production launch" celebration, and it certainly got a big laugh at our morning meeting. But for some, any excuse to party is a good one.
Edward Hum, Ottawa: Is the Rogers community cable channel still carrying round-the-clock TV coverage with press conferences and film reviews? The TV schedule seems to indicate no change in regular programming. What's the story here? Did TIFF not grant permission? Where else on the TV should I set my DVR so that I can see the best coverage?
Andrew Gorham: No, Rogers community channel is not carrying TIFF. As I understand it, CTV has the rights to the press conference broadcasts and Rogers and CTV could not work out a mutually acceptable deal. Rogers also said they are launching new programs in the fall and, after realizing they would not have extensive coverage of the fest, decided to focus on the new programming. CTV are media sponsors (CTV is part of Bellglobemedia, which partially owns the Globe) so that would be your best bet for TV coverage. Or (shameless plug) right here at globeandmail.com/tiff2007
TW from Toronto asks: Hi Andrew, I've often wondered what role proximity has played in the growth of the Toronto festival? It seems to me that it's easier for stars and other industry people to zip into Toronto for a day from New York or L.A. rather than make the trip to places like Venice or Berlin.
Andrew Gorham: Indeed that's the case. I was at Venice last year and it's a long flight and an even longer vaporetto ride to the Lido. Venice is stunning, but if you main goal is to work -- that is, promote your film -- a quick hop to Toronto gains you maximum exposure with minimal hassle.
Sasha Nagy: Andrew: Thanks for answering questions about the film festival. In closing, I am wondering how the media is treated during the festival? Are critics needed or merely tolerated? Is there pressure on reviewers to be supportive or non-critical of films? Do Globe reviewers ever get punished for unfavourable reviews?
Andrew Gorham: Globe critics are treated very well. With so many films at the fest, filmmakers and publicists are just happy to get the coverage, good or bad. Though at this fest, there are very few dogs in the batch.