How to do the Toronto Film Festival - Real Tips For Real People #3

Third of a four-part series

In How to do the Toronto Film Festival - Real Tips For Real People #1, I offered some general advice for travelers headed to the 39th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from September 4-14.

For those needing some help with their selections, I also posted a handy guide, How to decide what to see at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Then in How to do the Toronto Film Festival - Real Tips For Real People #2 we went over some of the rules, etiquette, and secrets of what happens from the moment you enter the theater until you leave.

Now you're ready to move on to the next screening. Hopefully you've allowed enough time, and that's trickier than you may realize. There are three basic considerations when deciding how much time is needed from the moment one movie ends until your next one begins. The first I discussed earlier -- the Q&A. Allow for anywhere from ten minutes to a half hour for that. Average is 15-20 minutes. The second consideration is travel time. I'll cover that in this entry.

Note that this isn't intended as a comprehensive guide to transportation for every logistical possibility -- TIFF utilizes 11 venues with 28 screens at sites scattered throughout the downtown area. Truthfully, TIFF's official map showing all the festival theatres and knowledge of the city transit system (PDF to save, download, or print) and parking locations for drivers should suffice. But there are some generalizations which can be made regarding travel among the various venues, and this is solely based on my own experiences.


1) The post-screening excitement is over (assuming you stayed for the Q&A), you've hopefully met and chatted with the filmmakers and actors, and you've taken care of whatever urgent business you need to take care of before exiting the theater. Now it's time to get to your next event. In the best case scenario, of course, you don't actually have to "go" anywhere. It is quite possible to stay in one location for an entire day of screenings. Heck, there are folks who do that for the whole festival. I've met many veterans who plan their week not around what films to see but around which venue to call home for the duration. That location of choice has changed over the years, though, and here's where a very cool story comes in.

Prior to 2008, the favored all-day venue was the Scotiabank at Richmond and John Streets (which was the Paramount prior to 2007, but I digress...). But the AMC Yonge & Dundas 24 opened that year and became the festival's primary multiplex. At that point, starting in 2008, the 14-screen Scotiabank only allotted four screens to TIFF. To make matters worse (for those of us who'd enjoyed spending the day there), they were set aside for press and industry screenings most mornings from opening day through the following Thursday. Even after press screenings ended, only six of the 14 screens were used for TIFF on closing weekend. Then something interesting happened. Cineplex purchased the AMC location in 2012. They already owned Scotiabank. With the same company controlling both multiplexes, more options became available to both TIFF as well as Cineplex regarding what to do with their theaters come September. The good news is, the decision was made to stop using the Yonge & Dundas location altogether and devote all 14 screens at Scotiabank to the festival. This effectively restores the Richmond and John multiplex to its former position as the favored place to be for those who want to stay put in one location all day. Personally, I couldn't be happier. I made no secret of my issues with the Yonge & Dundas venue in the five years it was used, and I can state with some confidence that the festival was just as frustrated every year making adjustments to what was a very complicated logistical challenge.

Scotiabank has a lovely lobby with a food court and even a small café with hot drinks and tables. Due to its spacious interior, provided one has tickets (the rush lines still need to be out on the street), there is no need to leave the building between films. It should be noted that most houses there will still host press and industry screenings from morning until mid-late afternoon through Friday the 12th. On closing weekend, Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th, press screenings are done and all but one or two Scotiabank screens will run public TIFF films from morning to night (see the calendar for specifics). Between shows, if you have time before getting back in line for your next movie, many filmgoers head to the food court (which has every imaginable gastronomic delight) or sit in the café. Make sure you check out the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine that dispenses over 125 different drinks. I highly recommend going to Scotiabank before their first screening of the day and staying. The fact is, the festival lineup is so dang good that it's almost guaranteed you're going to have a grand old time regardless of what you select. Other venues lend themselves to this as well, especially the festival's other multiplex, TIFF Bell Lightbox, which will run screenings in four houses almost all day every day. This grand new building opened midway through the 2010 festival. It is a magnificent space with several food and drink options, along with galleries and plenty to do between screenings if you have time before getting in line. The constant cacophony in this building keeps the adrenaline flowing.


2) Besides the two multiplexes, TIFF utilizes several proscenium arch theatres and auditoriums (discussed in the previous post) and one standalone movie theatre (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema) . With a few exceptions (see below) TIFF is concentrated in the downtown area south of Gerrard. Most festivalgoers will spend the bulk of their time at these venues.


3) The layout of the festival's primary venues is fairly simple and convenient. It might be easier to follow along here by referring to TIFF's official map and the transit map. Scotiabank, TIFF Bell Lightbox , Princess of Wales Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall, and this year's new venue, Glenn Gould Studio, are all located near each other in the southwest downtown area. Several blocks east, the Visa Screening Room (which is actually the magnificent, historic Elgin Theatre) and the equally majestic Winter Garden -- double-decker theatres, the last in the world -- are in the same building on Yonge Street. Ryerson is situated four blocks up from there (three, actually, if the end of the line has wrapped around to Gould Street). So the Scotiabank, Bell Lightbox, Princess of Wales, Roy Thomson Hall, Visa Screening Room, Winter Garden, and Ryerson roughly form an L-shape which is walkable although one can reach the subway within a few blocks of each (see section 6 below). So some plan their schedule around those venues. The only theatres situated further uptown and best reached by subway are Jackman Hall, a five-minute walk west from the St. Patrick station, the Isabel Bader Theatre, just east of the Museum station, and Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, on Bloor near the Bathurst station of the Bloor-Danforth Subway (or, alternatively, a couple blocks walk west from the Spadina stop of the Yonge-University-Spadina line -- no connection necessary).


4) All venues are located within a few blocks of a subway stop on the downtown U-shaped route (it's called the Yonge-University-Spadina line, although most simply refer to it as "the subway") or the connecting Bloor-Danforth subway line (see map). Tokens cost $3.00 a ride for adults (same as last year!) or $2.70 each (a five-cent increase over last year) if bought in packs of three ($8.10) or seven ($18.90). Seniors and students pay $2.00 per ride or $1.85 when purchasing a pack of five ($9.25) or 10 ($18.50). A weekly pass can also be purchased for $39.25 ($31.25 for seniors and students) but, unfortunately, the "week" runs from Monday-Sunday so the festival straddles two "pass weeks." Not very convenient for most people, so I recommend purchasing the packs. Stations sell them at booths and and various other locations. Machines dispense single tokens and sets of 3 or 7. There are also Day Passes for $11.00 and other good deals. For the complete fare schedule see the TTC site.


5) There are also buses and streetcars (trolleys). Taxicabs are readily available on the major streets but those in the know will have a much better chance of hailing one in front of a hotel. For those with their own vehicles there are convenient garages, surface lots, and metered spots on streets, but I won't go into detail regarding those modes of transportation. I've tried all the above and recommend foot and rail, especially if you're on a budget and in a hurry. If you do have a car, I recommend locating a garage close to the subway lines or the downtown cluster of venues. Park there in the morning and leave it for the day. Some have "early bird" specials if you come in the morning so shop around.


6) There are a lot of great maps out there. TIFF's official map and the TTC transit map are pretty straightforward. If you're a subway person like me you'll want to know some tricks. For example (it would be helpful to refer to the maps as you follow along in this section), the way I go from Scotiabank to Ryerson (or vice-versa) is to walk three blocks east on Richmond and one block up to Queen to the Osgoode station, then take the train south until it loops around and comes up to the Dundas station. Ryerson is a couple of blocks up from there. Alternatively, take the Queen Street streetcar from John to Yonge. The route is walkable if you have time but transit is especially welcome in heat or rain. You can use that same subway loop trick to get from Bell Lightbox, Princess of Wales, and Roy Thomson Hall by walking east on King to the St. Andrews station and then heading south around the loop up Yonge. For Bader, just head north from the St. Andrews or Osgoode station and get out at the Museum stop. Bader is a half block to the east. The TIFF Midnight Madness Blog's Sanjay S. Rajput has a fantastic graphic featuring walking distances and times between venues.


7) A note about walking, especially for Americans. Toronto is north of the border but it's not the Arctic Circle. The weather in early September can be downright steamy. My first year I didn't bring a pair of shorts and lived to regret it. It can also be quite wet, as the city sits on the shore of Lake Ontario which provides a source of moisture to the occasional storms above. There's always a brisk business in umbrella sales.


8) Summing up, travel time can take anywhere from ten minutes or less (walking from Ryerson to Elgin/Winter Garden, for example) to a half hour (Scotiabank to Bloor via subway at rush hour). Average is 15-20 minutes. The trains are rarely crowded but allow for extra travel time at rush hours. Again, this isn't meant to cover every possibility. These are just some of my personal recommendations based on several years of TIFF experience.


The third and final aspect to consider in booking your screenings is what happens when you arrive at your next venue. It's a time-honored tradition, and one which may prove quite valuable as the festival goes on -- waiting in line. I'll cover that in Part 4...where to go and how long it will take, venue by venue.

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Some of my favorite sites for film information, trailers, links, helpful search parameters, scheduling tools, and more are TOFilmfest.ca and tiffr.com. I couldn't put my calendar together without them. Once again this year, the TIFF Midnight Madness Blog's Sanjay S. Rajput has a set of tips on how to, literally, navigate the festival (including some tasty graphics).

The schedule including dates, times, and locations of screenings is now online along with the official list of expected guests. The program book can be picked up now the Festival Box Office, 225 King Street West inside the Metro Centre. A special section about TIFF will appear in the Toronto Star this Thursday, August 28, which will include the full film schedule. Single tickets will go on sale this Sunday, August 31 by cash, debit, or online at TIFF.net/thefestival, by phone at 416-599-TIFF or toll free at 1-888-599-8433 (10 AM to 7 PM daily), or in person at the Festival Box Office, 225 King Street West inside the Metro Centre. Everything you could ever want to know about getting tickets is posted HERE.

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Here is the complete online schedule of films with screening dates, times, and venues:

SCHEDULE - CALENDAR -- Click GRID VIEW

SCHEDULE - BY DAY - Click LIST VIEW

Here is the complete 27-page color-coded calendar with all dates, times, and venues, including an A-Z index of all films by title with all screenings to view, save, download, and print:

DOWNLOAD OFFICIAL SCHEDULE (PDF)



Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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