The Toronto International Film Festival – make no mistake – is first and foremost a celebration of Cinema and Celebrity, but beyond the glare of flashing Cameras, the thick of the high-decibel screams of Fans and 8×10s being thrust on Clipboards, are the Publicists who keep it all afloat. Yes, that well-groomed and often tired looking Woman or Man in a Blazer standing behind Bradley Cooper or Ryan Gosling as they bask in their Red Carpet glow, is that Publicist whose job you wish you had. Think about it for a second – what chaos would ensue without a Publicist there to keep the Talent on-schedule and ushered in-and-out safely? How else would we be cognizant about the Films we are all dying to see at TIFF without Publicity?
I put together a The Expendables-caliber Panel featuring some of Toronto’s most prolific and adored Film Publicists, asking them about their own past experiences and plans for TIFF 2012, the Films they are most excited for and what they absolutely cannot do without this Festival.
Meet the lovely Ladies who among others, consistently are bringing glamour and excitement to our City: Alliance Films’ Kate Parkes, Claire Peace-McConnell & Jennifer Rashwan; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada‘s Barb Matheson & Candace Stevenson; Victoria Malloy, who has worked with a major North American Film Distribution Company; and last but not least, Touchwood PR‘s Andréa Grau & Kara MacLean.
GEARING-UP FOR TIFF 2012
A common misconception is that Publicists are busy during the actual Festival only, when in fact the reality is that in the weeks and months leading-up to TIFF, there are several All-Nighters involved in planning and executing a Film’s Premiere and Press Days. This of course is taxing, so how do Publicists guard themselves for this eleven-day-long physical and mental Marathon?
Claire Peace-McConnell: “I accept that I will be working long hours and remember that making time pre-Festival for Family and Friends is essential to keeping sane. I commit to making that time work-free. A 30-minute Coffee with a Friend can change your outlook on everything.”.
Kate Parkes: “I always start taking Cold-fX a month before. And a lot of positive self-talk.”.
Jennifer Rashwan: “It sounds weird, but I try to prepare mentally by telling myself not to be afraid of it! I used to have the mindset, ‘This is going to be awful’, because it is so draining and it really sucks-up about three weeks to a month of your life, but I’m trying now to be more positive about it and tell myself, ‘This is going to be fun!’. I also make sure I’m keeping my head on straight and not take it too seriously. Keeping perspective is my strategy.”.
Victoria Malloy: “I just jump right in. You can only psych yourself up so much. TIFF is full of the unexpected and there is only so much planning you can do. You’ve gotta be quick-thinking and resourceful and think on the fly; always thinking two steps ahead. You have to remember to have fun with it as well. The City comes to life and is an amazing atmosphere so you have to remember to take moments to soak it all in. It’s all about cleansing breaths.”.
Barb Matheson: “It’s been lighter for me the last few years, but I worked for a couple of Distributors where our Festival Films numbered in the double-digits. Getting geared-up meant creating schedules, then constantly revising them right up until the last minute, double-checking flights, confirming Makeup Artists, cars and dealing with inevitable last-minute surprises. If I was lucky, I’d manage to plan my outfits in advance to get me through the next ten days and maybe even squeeze in a Manicure somewhere in between the All-Nighters leading up to Opening Day.”.
Kara McLean: “‘It’s PR not ER‘ is always a good perspective. I heard this phrase once when I used to work for another Film Distributor and it always rings true. Yes, it’s an intense Job and it’s important to have every little detail ironed-out, but we all work in a fun industry where our work is our play, so at the end of the day it’s not worth major stress. Enjoy the Festival while it lasts and try and learn something new!”.
Candace Stevenson: “The best way to gear yourself up for the Festival other than being as prepared and organized as humanly possible, is to make sure you are all caught up on your zzzzzzs before it starts because once it starts you’re lucky to get a few hours a night!”.
Andréa Grau: “After a couple of decades of doing this, I can honestly tell you there is very little one can do to prepare for the intensity of the Festival. The only thing to do is surrender to the Madness and be as flexible as possible to be able to adjust to the constant schedule changes and inevitable mishaps. If you go in too rigidly you will lose your footing quickly. Plus, I keep my sense of humour – always.”.
WE’RE ALL FANS
In life, it is important to be passionate about your Work and perhaps this is why a Publicist can endure such grueling hours and a hectic pace. Although TIFF often is associated strictly with Work for these Ladies, they too are excited about some of this year’s Titles and like the rest of us, are true Film Fanatics. So which Films should we be excited about, I ask?
Claire Peace-McConnell: “I can’t wait to be in the theatre as audiences discover Dredd 3-D. One of my favourite Films of the year.”
Kate Parkes: “Silver Linings Playbook“.
Jennifer Rashwan: “I’m pretty excited for people to discover DREDD 3D at Midnight Madness. I think they will be very pleasantly surprised just like I was.”.
Barb Matheson: “The Master. Joaquin!! And I’m excited to see the audience’s reaction to Finding Nemo in 3D. It’s stunning.”.
Victoria Malloy: “Argo and Artifact“.
Kara Maclean: “There’s so many Films I want to see that it is hard to pinpoint one, but if I could see Films during the Festival (which I likely won’t) that I haven’t seen at other Festivals, I would see To The Wonder, The Sapphires, Underground, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Rust and Bone, The Master and several Documentaries.”.
Candace Stevenson: “Midnight’s Children“.
Andréa Grau: Our Films range from Foreign Language to Midnight Madness, from Documentaries to Special Presentations, from Vanguard to first-time Canadian Filmmakers and each one has a uniqueness that I am excited to share with the Press and Public. The Film Geek in me is pretty pumped to see Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder that we are working on. Yes, even we haven’t seen it yet.”.
Ask any Publicist what they need to survive TIFF 2012 and all of them will tell you the necessity of a good, reliable Cell Phone …and Charger. The perpetual Nightmare of your Cell Phone Battery dying as you’re trying to reach Jennifer Lawrence‘s Driver for an unplanned Pick-up is a devastatingly possible reality. What one thing could these Publicists absolutely not do without?
Claire Peace-McConnell: “iPhone and iPhone Charger”.
Kate Parkes: “Portable Phone Charger, Clipboard and a black Blazer, always.”.
Jennifer Rashwan: “My Charger!”.
Barb Matheson: “My Blackberry.”.
Victoria Malloy: “Car Driver’s Phone Numbers on Speed Dial. The Talent’s Transportation is the most overlooked and underestimated part of the entire schedule and logistical process. Without a well- thought out Transportation Plan and reliable, experienced Drivers, the Talent would be late to interviews, late to Carpet, stuck in traffic or lost.”.
Kara MacLean: “Number one would be my iPhone – as I will keep a copy of all our Master Schedules on there, Phone Numbers, and will be Tweeting from our Company Account. Number two would be Gum. Others would be the usual – Advil, Lipstick and Water (if there’s space).”.
Candace Stevenson: “Blackberry and equally important, Blackberry Charger”.
Andréa Grau: “My iPhone. I am naked and lost without it. Gum for obvious reasons. A Lighter – you’d be amazed how useful (and popular) you are when you have a light. Especially when working with Europeans.”.
TIFF triggers a variety of memories for my Panel of Publicists. Some getting to meet their own personal Heroes and Heroines, some stuck in awkward situations, some were left disappointed after working with individuals they prior held in high regard. Some were stuck in uncomfortable positions even. I probed these Publicists for their insights on just how crazy TIFF really can be.
Claire Peace-McConnell: “2010 Opening Night Midnight Madness, when FUBAR 2 premiered. The Cast arrived on a Flatbed Truck, rocking-out with a full Band, Dancers.. you name it. We got the Crowd incredibly pumped and ready for the amazing Film to follow.”.
Kate Parkes: “The Breakaway Premiere last year… we had an Elephant, Bollywood Dancers, Talent in Rickshaws in a Parade beforehand. Needless to say, an Elephant walking down Yonge Street is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget!”.
Jennifer Rashwan: “Last year, Maple Pictures was acquired by Alliance Films right before TIFF and I was the only one from my Department carried over, so I was suddenly the New Girl with a whole new Team. Being thrown into the TIFF Trenches with everyone on my second week after starting there was a great way to get to know everyone, that’s for sure!”.
Barb Matheson: On the Press Day for one of my bigger Films, the Director – who shall remain nameless – decided he was tired and had done enough interviews after just a couple of hours. We waited 45 minutes for him to start our two hours of Canadian Media interviews, only to have him sheepishly sneak-out of his room and onto the elevator, never to return. His A-List Cast, one of whom was quite sick that day, completed the day like Professionals. But the Journalists who had made time in their insanely hectic schedules to speak with him were out-of-luck. It still bugs me to hear his name.”.
Victoria Malloy: “2009 – Oprah – ’nuff said.”.
Kara Maclean: “I remember having to sit beside an Actor during his Midnight Madness Premiere (to fill the seat beside him). This Film was quite out-of-the-box and the Actor happened to be full-frontal naked for the first five minutes of the Film. I stole a glance to see if he was… watching himself – he was… intently. This Movie also ran about two-and-a-half hours.”.
Candace Stevenson: “I once had to pick up a certain A-List Actor at the Airport. Sadly, his car was delayed in getting to the door to pick us up and apparently waiting those 2-3 minutes nearly killed him. Once we were (finally!) in the car on our way to his hotel, he proceeded to tell me how horrible I was at my job and how everybody was going to hear about it, many times uttering the words “this is bad, this is bad”, while scowling at me. To add insult to injury, once he had finished verbally assaulting me and we finally had some silence, he began to look for his hat frantically. When he asked me if I’d seen it, I began to look frantically as well as I couldn’t stand the thought of another tantrum… and low and behold, there it was… I realized I had been sitting on it the whole time! Suffice it to say, he was not pleased.”.
Andréa Grau: “One word: Oprah.”.
As the Credits roll and the applause fills the theatre this TIFF, know that you should be clapping not only for the Film, the Talent and Festival Volunteers, but also those seldom-recognized Publicists whom the Films, Talent and Festival could not do without!