TIFF 2008 (Vickie’s Diary): Excuse Me, Miss… Is Your Record Broken?

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Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t continue to beat the dead horse that is the annual TIFF ticket lottery, but I only managed to snag 18 of the 29 films I selected this year, so I’m feeling a renewed sense of indignation over the whole thing. Last year, by some fluke, I got everything I requested, but this year the planets have un-aligned themselves accordingly and as expected.

But I think this will be my final rant on the subject, because how much more can be said? Not much. Except: the lottery blows.

Before anyone chimes in with “but this way is FAIR!”, let me just say: it is not fair. Not at all. Yes, it removes the first-come-first-served element so that all orders – regardless of drop-off time – are considered equal in the eyes of the TIFF gods, but how is it “fair” that you pay for tickets you don’t get?

Yes, I understand that those of us who don’t get what we’ve asked for can then re-ask for those same movies, or other movies, in the soul-crushing, serpentine queue known as the “exchange line,” but at what point does the entire process just become so ridiculous and time-consuming and labor-intensive that it’s just not worth the trouble?

Let’s say you’re me, and you’re missing 11 films – not surprisingly, almost all of those absentee screenings are on that first Fri-Sat-Sun weekend when, it seems, EVERYTHING is sold out. So, you try to find replacement films on the days where your schedule is suddenly severely lacking. But the Board of Lies says, “Sorry, sucker. Every film on those days is sold out.”

Then what?

Then you try for same-day tickets during the fest, which entails getting to a venue’s box office at 8am (or earlier)? Even though there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

Or you try for rush tickets, which involves getting to a venue some three hours (or more) before the start time of a film? Even though there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

And what if you were just coming into town FOR that first weekend and wound up with, say, 4 of your 10 picks? What if you couldn’t find replacement films? Or you didn’t have time to stand in line for hours on end because, you know, it eats up all your movie-going time and there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available?

Well, then you probably try to sell off your vouchers in some line somewhere, or you just eat the cost of the tickets you didn’t use. GREAT news for the fest (cha-CHING!); too bad for you.

Basically, the entire TIFF ticket lottery can be boiled down to: there’s no guarantee any tickets will be available. But the fest will nonetheless happily take your money off your hands, whether or not you manage to get what’d you like. Oh, and this just in: if you’re a festival “donor” and you drop at least $250 in their coffers, your order(s) will be processed BEFORE the ticket lottery. So, I suppose, if you’re willing to part with another couple hundred bucks, you can avoid the lottery headache altogether! Thing is, as I discussed with my linemates this morning, if I want to help fund the arts in Toronto (which someone theorized was a good reason for donating), I’m going to give $250 to an independent theatre group or a youth orchestra or some other in-dire-need-of-cash organization, not the Toronto International Film Festival, which is making money hand over fist AND already over-charging me for tickets as it is.

The “catch” to the donors-first policy? The more you donate, the sooner your order is processed. It all feels very much not in the spirit of “the world’s largest public festival,” I think.

And this really is the last time I’m going to stand on the exact same soapbox to gripe about the exact same issue. I promise.


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