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August 11, 2015

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Don’t Run with Clipboards and Other Lessons I’ve Learned from TIFF

It’s that magical time of the year when half the city is thrown into a frenzy of flashing light bulbs, celeb sightings and fancy parties and the other half of the city is wondering why traffic in the downtown core is more jammed than usual. Sprinkle some movies in there and you have the Toronto International Film Festival otherwise known as TIFF. Some people call it the “four letter word”. And when I say “people” I mean me. And when I say “me” I mean most publicists. And when I say “most publicists” I mean the ones who have so many films and events to manage that they forget the last time they ate, but they DO remember that there’s a filmmaker’s breakfast a week from Tuesday at 10 AM and a gift lounge on the 6th floor of the Ritz Carlton – make a right at the elevators. The reason for that is because TIFF is an ass-kicker. It’s when your gym instructor lies and tells you that you have 2 more reps when you really have 8. It’s making it to the finish line and realizing you still have to walk your ass all the way back uphill to wherever you parked your car. It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay. Not really the last one, but I was on a roll. Basically, by the time TIFF starts, all of the prep work already has you dreaming of your onesie and has your onesie dreaming about your Netflix. All this to say, this year will be my 9th ass-kicking care of TIFF and along the way I’ve picked up a few survival tips to help soothe the pain. Here are just a few I’d like to share with you, my loyal readers (looking at you, mom).

1. Sleep. This one always seems to top any kind of survival list unless you’re trying to survive while locked in a room with a bunch of starving, hormonal teenagers with a taste for human flesh and a tendency to steal clothing. In that case, don’t sleep. But for TIFF, getting a solid amount of Z’s is crucial. You go into the festival already tired so getting a proper sleep as much as you can during the festival is the only way you will be able to react quickly and effectively to an actor walking out on half of his press day.

2. Burritos. You know that feeling when your stomach feels like it has given up on the idea that you will feed it so it starts to wonder how your organs will taste? And while it starts to eat itself and everything around it, it sets off that dormant volcano that violently erupts and makes you want to set fire to whoever invented the granola bar? Yeah, when I’m hungry all I really want to eat is the stuff I scraped off my shoe in bar form. If any of my crazy resonates with your crazy, then heed my advice young padwans when I say a burrito a day keeps the hanger away. Burrito Boyz (my nosh of choice) is a heavenly combination of meat (if you’re into that sort of thing), veggies and sauces all swaddled up in doughy tortilla goodness. Get the large, and you have a lunch and dinner combination sure to keep you moving well into an endless night of pre-screening cocktail (no cocktails for you!), a red carpet, a screening, Q&A, talent dinner (no food for you!) and after-party. Veggie and gluten free options are available. *this message was not paid for by Burrito Boyz, but I do accept free burritos and swaddles.

3. Awka-robics. During TIFF you tend to meet, work with and hallway nod with so many people that it’s hard to keep track of who is who. After 30 years of life on this planet I still have no strategies for how to remember people’s names. Hey buddy from whose interview suite I’ve been “borrowing” coffee from all week! You may find yourself alone in an elevator with someone who you used to have a poster of on your wall when you were in grade 8. Be. Cool. You may be waiting in the hotel lobby for your talent to come down for so long that hotel security has asked you to wait outside with all the other Beliebers. You may have had to hold an actresses purse while she walked the red carpet and not realized until an uncomfortably long time after she was done that you are still holding it or trying to remember where you put it down. Things like this will happen, but turn that rock into a diamond and rather than have that painfully awkward moment hang over your head for the rest of the festival, remember to tell your co-workers the next time you’re all together because the best way to get through TIFF is by having a few really good laughs.

4. Plan to lose the plan. As a wise woman (Andrea Grau) once said “you can schedule all you want, but then someone’s going to have to go pee and ruin your whole day”. Planning is important and it’s good to have a plan, but becoming too attached to the plan is where a good publicist can go wrong. Best to make a plan and plan to throw the plan out the plan-dow.

5. To booze or not to booze. Working TIFF with a hangover is like walking into a Terrence Malick film – there’s no end in sight and you can’t find the exit. Some people (and they may even be people you work with) get to experience TIFF in a different way. Their job is to go out and entertain clients and contacts and enjoy the parties. Do not be fooled by these people. If you’re a publicist expected to function on a level above sea monkey the following day, put the 4th glass of wine down. I’m not saying don’t drink, but don’t over do it unless you want to experience what it’s like to be one of the zombie extras in The Walking Dead and not the one who gets the coveted arm-biting scene. I’m talking about the expired bag of bones who wanders in too late for dessert. You’re supposed to have a little fun at TIFF too, but mind your limits.

If you’re still with me, thank you for reading. I am looking forward to seeing some of you at the festival and perhaps by next year as I embark on my 10th TIFF, I will have more, equally valuable tips to share. With any luck it won’t include anything about wearing helmets around selfie sticks.


Careers, PR, TIFF