As TIFF reached its official tipping point, things have taken a weird turn…much of it due to the press gathered to cover the films presented.
As you might have already heard by now, an online critic (Alex Billington of FirstShowing.net) was in a press & industry screening for Ti West’s The Sacrament. The critic was incensed when a fellow patron at the P&I screening wouldn’t put their cell phone away. Further incensed that neither the TIFF staff, nor the theatre management would intervene, he called 911 and reported potential piracy.This situation is strange on so many levels, but the short-sightedness of it all is emblematic of a rowdy gang of media covering TIFF 2013.
In years past, TIFF used parts of two separate downtown multiplexes for both public and P&I showings. This year, they have decided to forsake one (AMC Yonge & Dundas) and take over the entire venue of the other (Scotiabank Paramount). This comes with certain inconveniences. For starters, you have a venue holding both public and P&I screenings, where over the last few years, the press had certain venues that were essentially all their own. The protocol for getting public ticketholders into their shows, and P&I into their shows are radically different. Thus, having them overlap in the same space makes things challenging for the TIFF Volunteers in charge of such things. But try telling that to the Press and Industry members congregated.
In addition to that problem, you are also gathering these lines of people – The Scotiabank Paramount is a 13-screen venue four stories above street level. Its corridors essentially form a giant “H”. While it’s a modern venue (opened in 1999), it wasn’t designed to hold the never-ending series of lineups that TIFF presents. Thus, the place has gotten a little cramped.
The sardine-like atmosphere in the Scotiabank Paramount lobby had led many P&I members to become a little rowdy. Voices have been raised, tempers have been shortened, and many assembled found themselves in a foul mood through the first five days.
TIFF’s solution to this? As of Tuesday morning, many of the ticketholders lines – including P&I – were outside on street level. As luck would have it, Tuesday brought Toronto some brutally hot weather. When humidity was factored in, the thermometer got as high as 40C / 104F. Think the press were grumpy before? Try talking to them when they’re soaked in sweat. Funny thing about being asked to wait outside the venue in the heat (or cold, or rain); it doesn’t seem to bother all of the paying customers who are asked to do so every day at a great deal of the TIFF theatres.
Here’s the thing: to the issue of cellphone use inside a P&I screening, it is – unfortunately – part of the bargain. If a press member doesn’t like it, then perhaps they should find a closer vantage point that makes it less an issue. Failing that, they could catch another screening of the film in question since there are several through the week. Failing that, they could put on their big boy pants and chalk it up to a bad day at the office. Everybody in the world has them, but we don’t call 911 when they do.
To the issue of the accredited press griping about where and when they are in line, I suggest they put themselves into the shoes of TIFF staff and volunteers. The herculean task of getting everything going in one direction is not an easy one. For every one thing that goes wrong at a given festival, I promise you that there are at least half a dozen other things they have improved since years past. If you don’t like the plan, suggest something better. If you can’t suggest something better, then (again) put on your big boy pants and chalk it up to a bad day at the office.
The funny thing through all of this is that the list of media applicants who are denied media accreditation is the length of a bible. If the gathered press who think TIFF is being run poorly don’t like the way they’re being treated, I assure you there are many others who would gladly take their place … and they’d chalk up heat, crowds, and cellphone use as the price of admission.