Day in the Life of TIFF: Saturday
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Day in the Life of TIFF: Saturday

A friendly reminder to film critics who take themselves too seriously.

Jason Reitman, director of Men, Women & Children

Jason Reitman, director of Men, Women & Children.

First off: if you’re not starting TIFF early mornings by eating an egg at Zupa’s on Adelaide Street West, who even are you? The breakfast special is, like, five dollars, and they have all the Toronto Suns you can read! It’s the sort of hearty fare we few, we brave, we people-who-have-media-badges-on-lanyards require to fortify us for a day of ricocheting between movie venues. And it’s even tastier than the free muffins they lay out in the press room.

Yes, the press room. The rapidly beating hummingbird’s heart of TIFF media coverage, where journalists, reporters, bloggers, photographers, and other TIFF cover-ers gather to drink free coffee (and Eskas, if you can get ’em), discuss movies, boast about celebrity interviews they’ve nailed, and shush each other. For the most part, the self-governing press room runs smoothly, everyone respectful of each other’s space, criss-crossing electric cords, and so on. But then someone cuts in the sandwich line, and it’s like a passive-aggressive Lord of the Flies, with spiked non-confrontations like:

HERO: Oh so you think you’re more important than everyone else?
LINE-CUTTER: What?
HERO: Nothing.

Yesterday a man with a soul patch so long he could dip it in India ink and use it to sign his name (which is probably, like, “Jason” or “Wizard”) actually mumbled “Are you flirting or eating?” because two people were speaking to each other in line, and not shuffling toward the tuna-gruel baguettes at full plod.

I don’t want to get off on a Dennis Miller Brand Raaaaaaaant™ here, but anyone who’s using a sandwich line as some measure of civility needs to get their chill pill prescription refilled, stat. Sure, TIFF is stressful. There are often mere minutes between screenings, there are people snoring during the new Godard movie (sorry), there’s the constant pressure of having to spell “Zyvagintsev” correctly and come up with newer, more biting Jason Reitman tweets (RT@johnsemley3000: More like Jason…Wrong….Man).

But for love of all that is holy and decent, when it all shakes out, you are writing about movies. It’s a hobby-career you chose. It’s not like your dad died and you had to leave law school to run the family film criticism shop to support your enfeebled mother and kid sister. A little appreciation that you (or we, or whoever) basically have the easiest job in the world and that you don’t have to take it so insufferably seriously goes a long way.

Without hectoring, these press rooms lessons in civility can apply to the whole festival. Don’t use your phone in a movie. Don’t save seats. Don’t talk over Q-and-As. Don’t do that pirate voice “arghhhhhhhhhh” thing when the anti-piracy notice comes on screen before the movies (festival brass deliberately changed the wording of the notice to dissuade you, and plus, that joke stopped being funny about six years ago). Don’t shush people with some screechy, just-as-obnoxious hiss that makes it sound like you’re slowly opening one of those enormous cans of Arizona iced tea.

At TIFF, as in life, a little consideration and a little patience go a long way. And at TIFF, as in life, “don’t be an asshole” shall be the whole of the law.

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