I had planned to kick off TIFF by wrangling my way into Jodie Foster’s gala for The Brave One (opening worldwide September 14) on Thursday.
But Jodie’s people didn’t get my ticket request so I had to settle for 11:45am the next day.
Friday morning I found out there was a press conference for the film at 12:30. So there went that plan. (TIFF – the only time I ever make snap decisions.)
I have a two-hour movie window to fill and I slot it with Fugitive Pieces, Jeremy Podeswa’s festival opener. There are four ads before the movie plus a warning about how it’s illegal to photograph or video record the screen. Whatever. This is a fun little romp about concentration camps – you forget how cheery film festivals are in the eight months between them. Though beautifully photographed and acted, it’s not really my wavelength. As the credits roll I can hear shrieking breathing that I at first think is part of the soundtrack, then realize it’s a woman sobbing. (Or else getting some.) It’s very awkward.
On the way out there’s a line for the new Coen brothers film, and Roger Ebert is in it, wearing a neck brace, unable to speak, but candidly gesturing with some passersby. I first saw him in the lobby of the Eccles Theatre at Sundance 2005. He’s missed the last two. In today’s Variety there’s an ad saying “Welcome Back.”
Down at press HQ there are a bunch of photographers standing outside the closed doors of the FP press conference. I check in with my buddy Mike Tompkins who explains the sitch – in the past, photogs got a free-for-all two-minute blast at the start of each conference, then had to shut up for half, then got to shoot the last half. This year TIFF decided to give them two minutes, then kicked them out.
Now, as someone who wrote an extensive essay on last year’s media survey about The Photographer Problem – rude, standoffish, eating up precious chair space meaning I have to be here an hour early – I think this is awesome. But the photogs have predictably freaked out and are threatening to stop taking photos altogether. (Give me a fucking break. This would never happen.)
So of course TIFF confers within itself and comes up with a solution – they can only stand in the back or on the sides, but they can shoot the whole thing.
Annoying, but at least I can sit in the front row, which I do.
As I’m figuring out my shitty HP camera, zooming in and out on the sign eight feet away from me that says JODIE FOSTER, the woman who runs the press room comes over to me. She has a shitty job but is a bitch about it.
“I see you have a camera,” she says.
“I sure do,” I say in a tone that immediately turns her against me, as if I ever had a chance.
Then she gives me a big speech that I have a press pass, not a photo pass and if I want to take pictures I have to stand in the back.
I hold up my card-sized 5.0 mp that cost $89 and point between it and a nearby pap camera the size of a small firearm. “Seriously?”
“I can’t take one picture of Jodie?”
As I drop the camera into my bag she addresses the room and warns anybody taking photos from the audience will be escorted from the room and stripped of their credentials. I briefly consider whether one shitty digital photo of Jodie, my hero, is worth blowing the whole festival for.
It is. But how else am I supposed to fill the next week?
I notice Photographer I Hate, currently bitching to some intern about the white lights blasting across the room, has planted himself in the front row, camera in douchey hand. I hate that guy so much. Of course he basically sits on the floor in front of me the whole time. I think I should make a to-do about it but let it go – he obviously has permission. Probably cause he’s so awesome.
There’s a ruckus backstage and people start filing in. Superproducer Joel Silver, in a ridiculous pink jacket and fucking Bathing Ape sneakers. Producer Susan “Wife of Robert jr.” Downey. Terrence Howard. And then.
There she is, within tackling distance, in jeans and a simple top. My life makes no sense to me on days like this.
She’s got a price tag on the bottom of her right shoe, like maybe she bought them on the way over. So endearing. Two journalists ask her questions in French, and she answers them right back, to the awe of her assembled cast mates. “I love Canada, that you’re bilingual,” she says. “It makes me feel like I have a purpose.”
I run across the street, still dazed, and grab a sandwich. By the time I come back the line is moving and people are filing into the conference for Rendition, the movie that introduced Jake Gyllenhaal to Reese Witherspoon and their alleged romance.
I’ve got a few bites left of my sandwich when I’m stopped at the door. No food.
I sigh through a mouthful of ham and step to the side, where there is a giant Starbucks table.
“I find it interesting,” I say loudly to the girl closest to me, “that you guys are right here but we can’t take it in.”
The girl just smiles tightly the way I always have when assholes have made jerkass statements to me.
The woman who wouldn’t let me in totally heard me. “That was so rude,” she says to her volunteer partner.
I don’t give a shit anymore. I’m giving back the disrespect and idiocy I’ve always gotten here. I’m a giver, I’ve decided.
When I finish my sandwich I walk back in and flash the woman my press pass, but she won’t even look at me. I’m making friends all over this room.
I reconnect with Constance, who I met last year in the Four Seasons ballroom from hell. She is working for CTV, People AND Women’s Wear Daily. We discuss how the vibe in the room is really anal.
Jake and Reese sit two chairs apart. She has a cold and keeps coughing into her forearm. Meryl Streep is also in this movie but not here, unfortch. The director is Gavin Hood, who made Tsotsi, who is South African and articulate and hilarious.
The press conference is 20 minutes long, half the normal time. There’s no hanging around for post-chat photos.
I walk four blocks up the street to the Varsity – pausing to make drink plans with Halifax-via-Newfoundland filmmaker Eva Madden on the way – to catch Juno, one of Ellen Page’s three TIFF films. Though they are all ensembles, she is the certifiable star of this one, getting billing above Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. It’s a really quirky comedy about a girl who gets pregnant and gives the baby up for adoption. Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) and written by Diablo Cody, it’s got a language all its own and is way funnier than Smoking.
I witness my first festival applause. It’s heartwarming.
In the evening I take a long-ass streetcar ride to the Dakota Tavern to see my girl Jenn Grant. It's a full-circle moment for me because the first time, somehow, I ever saw Jenn play was at the Canadian Music Cafe with the Heavy Blinkers at my first TIFF in 2004.