Midnight madness

Late-night notes for TIFF, color-coded and everything. (29 August 2007)

It’s done. My Toronto International Film Festival schedule has been completed, following their somewhat byzantine guidelines to the letter, and has been zipped by FedEx back to Toronto. Tomorrow, the TIFF squad will begin the thankless job of deciding, via a lottery system, how many of my 20 choices (with 17 alternates) will actually be allotted to me. So, I’ll be on pins and needles until I arrive in Canada’s sweet spot on the evening of 6 September, and pick up my tickets at the box office. If all goes according to my plans, I’ll be seeing at least four movies a day—except for 11 September, when I’ve scheduled a trip to the Beguiling (best comics store in North America); a quiet, brief reflection in a park on the events of six years ago; and a day to unwind before Takashi Miike’s midnight movie knocks my pants off. (Well, that’s the hope, anyway.)

Then again, I’ve been a fidgety mess since I got my TIFF package at work yesterday morning. I mean this in a good way. It’s been a while since I’ve been so giddy with anticipation, so much so that my anxious, happy mood radiated off my skin.

Shiny, pretty schedule.

Part of it could have been cracking open the full-color catalog, which is about half as thick as the Jackson, Mississippi, phone book—business, residential, and Yellow Pages combined. It’s gorgeous. It also must have been printed less than a week ago, as it still reeks fervently of printer’s ink and newsprint.

The horror, the horror!

Mostly, though, it was me. I jogged a few miles after work to work off the nervous energy—no, actually, it was mostly because I needed the exercise. And then I got to work. I wouldn’t call myself superstitious, but I admit to rubbing the covers of my filmcriticism talismans for good luck before I started scheduling. I armed myself with a good drink and sat down, green and yellow highlighters in one hand, a ballpoint pen in the other. (The highlighters, in those colors, are deemed necessary by the TIFF squad.)

Three wise men—well, two men and a woman—supporting our Savior Martini of Vodka.

I spent two hours skimming the phone book. Sure, I had about 25 choices staked out, but the catalog’s descriptions got me excited about at least 30 movies that I’d never heard of. Then, there were the suggestions from Girish (and the always-fascinating comments board) and others to account for. I felt fine, though—no worries. I had the fantastic new Lyle Lovett album in the CD player, on repeat. By 10:30pm, my choices were set. That’s when I noticed that I’d written down the wrong date and time for one of my must-sees, John Sayles’ Honeydripper, which effectively screwed up two days of my meticulously planned schedule. The talismans were failing me, so I scratched my cat’s ears for guidance and solace. She didn’t give a damn, but I felt better.

My accomplice. (30 August 2007)

By midnight, I had re-jiggered everything, filled out the forms in yellow and green, made sure I hadn’t accidentally inserted my pick-up voucher into my return FedEx package—as opposed, mind you, to my drop-off voucher, which did need to be sent to Toronto. I put my passport, pick-up voucher, handwritten schedule, and fresh-breath gum in my knapsack, since I know it’s coming with me. Lyle Lovett’s “Up in Indiana” pranced on my speakers—goddamn, it’s a catchy song—and I was ready for bed.

This morning, I scheduled the FedEx package. It’s all on a plane to Canada. I’m crossing my fingers. No matter how many of my advance selections pan out, though, I know I’ve got a good time in store. The goosebumps aren’t anxious, not anymore.

UPDATE: Roger Ebert got TIFF panic, too.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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5 Responses to Midnight madness

  1. Darren says:

    Walter, we should know by the end of the weekend which films we’ll be seeing. Last year, confirmation emails were sent out on Saturday evening.
    I had almost the exact same experience filling out my forms this year. Joanna and I opened a bottle of wine with dinner and I made the mistake of taking it upstairs with me. I finished my first draft of my schedule just as I finished off the bottle, and the next morning I realized that I’d forgotten to enter one of my must-sees and had put another on the wrong day.

  2. Walter says:

    Good to hear about the confirmation emails. And I’m glad I wasn’t the only accident-prone scheduler.

  3. Ray says:

    Check out http://www.tiffreviews.com for the latest news, reviews and blogs on the Toronto International Film Festival.

  4. Michael says:

    Walter, creating a TIFF schedule is an event, isn’t it? I had hand-written notes, a day/time chart I assembled hastily in Microsoft Word, a red pen for the printed schedule, and (like you) music on the stereo. When TIFF confirms our choices, let’s see if we’ll be catching some films together (chances are we will).
    And, yeah, the TIFF catalog is awesome.

  5. Walter says:

    Ray: Thanks for the TIFFnews link. Michael (and, actually, everyone): I plan to post my movies and times on the blog, once I get the confirmation email, so that it’s easier to coordinate. I hope there’s some overlap amongst us.

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