My love of Film and Stars go hand-in-hand. I’ll never forget seeing my first Film at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001. After spending a couple weeks in Singapore earlier that Summer and hearing nothing but raves about Chicken Rice War, I thought I’d never get a chance to see it back home in Toronto. The chance came at the Festival, I got my ticket and being fashionably-late always, I remember being guided into a full theatre at Varsity Cinema by a volunteer usher in the pitch dark, before finally finding a seat somewhere at the front. This would become my favourite spot to sit watching Movies at the Festival. Odd, I know! But sitting close to the screen, you can see every bit of emotion on the face of an Actor, small details in the set design and best of all, be right up-front when the Q&A happens after the Film. How cool was it that we got to hear the Director (Chee Kong Cheah) talk all about the process of making the Film and even get to ask him questions? I was overjoyed. I felt right in my element. This was the place I was meant to be.
After that, I made it a point of putting aside a bit of money every year for my one big splurge in September, getting to see three, four Movies a day for the duration of the Festival, maybe taking one rest day for laundry and quality time with my dog. “Normal” people go on vacation with the couple weeks off work they get a year. Mine always go towards TIFF.
I’ll never forget the generosity of someone who gave me a tip-sheet on the greatest spots to see the stars at TIFF. Back in the day I first began going to TIFF, Press Conferences were held at the now-gone Sutton Place Hotel. Easily in one afternoon, you could see Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Charlize Theron come right through the side door. Paps would tell me to move. Clipboards got propped over my face by autograph hounds in pursuit of a “graph”. My one dry Sharpie given to Drew Barrymore literally f*cked-up an entire signing spree, leaving everyone with faded scribbles on their memorabilia and 8×10s. I literally got booed when the infamous parched pen was traced back to me. I never asked for autographs, but I had to have Drew‘s. But clearly none of that got me down because I loved the rush so much. I couldn’t believe my luck that I’d stumbled upon this secret celebrity underworld. I’d juggle my Stargazing in-between Movies and this ignited my decision to start a website devoted entirely to the joy this brought me. To TIFF I am indebted as it has led me to you.
Over the years I’ve spent many a TIFF cramming in the Films and snapping stars around town and I thought with the talent and fans staying safe right now in the Pandemic – as they should – I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite snaps from over the years!
I think it’s hard to dispute why TIFF is the world’s greatest Film Festival and I have the photos to prove it. The red carpets won’t be rolled-out and my camera sits on the shelf this year. While things aren’t the same this Festival, we are hopeful for what’s to come next year as we adapt to our new normal. Be safe everyone, and be sure to bookmark this page and check regularly for our #TIFF20 coverage.