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Festival News
Toronto Film Fest 101- or How to get a ticket

By ALYSSA SCHWARTZ, CTV News Staff
August 30, 2002

With 345 films from around the world being screened over a 10-day run, navigating the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival may seem like a task worthy of its own award category. But armed with our guide you'll be on the VIP list, schmoozing like a seasoned Hollywood pro in no time.

The first step is just getting on the red carpet. Landing passes to the screenings may not be as hard as landing a movie deal, but it does require the same dogged tenacity.

Festival passes and advance ticket books for screenings have been sold out since mid-August, but even if you don't have passes or coupon books by now, that doesn't mean you'll be shut out of the screenings.

"People still have an awesome chance of getting tickets," says Dan Butkovich, manager of customer service and event ticketing for the festival.

Butkovich says too many people, especially festival novices, think that because there are no more passes available that the festival is completely sold out. Not the case, assures Butkovich.

There are "tens of thousands" of tickets still available, "even for the big movies," he says.

"It's the festival's best kept secret that we would prefer weren't a secret."

Starting September 4, moviegoers can buy tickets to individual screenings from the festival box office located at the Toronto Eaton Centre. Gala tickets are available at Roy Thompson Hall.

Thousands of same-day seats to screenings that aren't sold out are available at theatre box offices starting an hour before the first screening of the day - sign up for a daily email list of best bets.

Five minutes before screenings are set to begin, box offices also sell off any empty seats left inside the theatre. Butkovich says there's no need to camp out the night before to access last minute tickets, but he recommends getting to the theatre an hour before show time.

But don't be discouraged if there's already a line snaking around the block filled with other people hoping luck into these so-called rush seats - you've still got a shot.

"When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon played at the festival, it was right after all the hype started. We had about 300 people in line for rush seats at Roy Thompson Hall and they all got in," Butkovich says.

If you did get in on the coupon book action early enough, advance screening selections were due August 29. Those orders were entered into a lottery and processed according to the order in which they were drawn. Coupon holders who didn't enter the advance draw can still make their picks, with orders processed on a first-come-first-served basis, or they can use their passes for same-day and rush seats at the theatre box office.

When you come to the festival, just remember to think like a movie producer and not to give up before you exhaust all your resources. For example, there are less conventional ways of getting in the door. A search of the online auction site eBay.com turned up a coupon book with bidding starting at face value.

Now that you've got your hands on passes or if you're thinking about trying your luck for last minute seats, the next dilemma is what to see. Screenings range from big-name Hollywood productions that are months away from hitting the multiplexes to small-scale foreign and independent works that would otherwise be inaccessible to the average moviegoer. The choices can be overwhelming, but festival organizers have tried to make your selection easier, sorting the hundreds of films into 17 different programmes.

TIFF mainstays, such as gala screenings - those star-studded, high profile premieres - and special presentations, featuring the works of big name actors and directors, won't disappoint film fans looking for a sure bet. This year's galas include Ararat, Canadian director Atom Egoyan's latest, Denzel Washington's directorial debut Antwone Fisher, Julie Taymor's highly anticipated biopic Frida, two Sept. 11 tributes, and more than a dozen others. Special presentations include movies directed by Robert Duvall, Pedro Amoldovar, Michael Moore and Paul Thomas Anderson, among others.

The Masters programme features works by Mike Leigh, Stephen Frears and and 18 other internationally acclaimed filmmakers.

But Butkovich urges festival-goers to be open to smaller, less-hyped movies.

"I can't tell you how many times I've been blown away by a little movie I knew nothing about. Often it's those movies that have small audiences for their first screening and are filled later because of word of mouth."

Programmes such as Director's Spotlight and Discovery focus on films made by up-and-comers, while Visions features more innovative works by well-known directors.

Canadian filmmakers will be showcased in two separate programmes - Perspective Canada, which features 50 works in a variety of genres, and Canadian Retrospective, this year honouring director-producer Allan King.

Foreign movie buffs will want to check out the National Cinema programme, which focuses this year on films from South Korea, or the dozens of films featured on the Contemporary World Cinema roster.

If you're more interested in seeing the stars off-screen than on, just remember it's all about location, location, location. Celebs who are in town to promote their latest work usually attend their own premieres (sometimes along with other famous faces), so make sure to consult the official screening schedule to find out which movie is playing where. And don't forget that the times listed on the schedule are for the actual screenings - stars walk the red carpet as early as half an hour before.

Another sure bet is to plant yourself in the lobby of one of the hotels hosting the film festival or where stars are known to stay - including the Four Seasons, Park Hyatt and Windsor Arms. Yorkville-area boutiques and restaurants also get their share of high profile traffic during the fest.

Just don't forget your camera.


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