stuff, written by me

Category Archives: Toronto

Lessons in “taking it easy at TIFF”:

  1. Even if you sneak out of a Midnight Madness screening halfway through and make it to bed by 1:30am, you will still be tired in the morning. Skip your morning. It’s fine. What were you gonna do anyway, watch The Martian? That’s probably going to be out in theatres five minutes from now. You’re not some Matt Damon completist who needs to see it before everyone else. Oh wait, you weren’t going to see The Martian, you were going to see the new Kore-eda? Okay, that’s a bit better, but still, he’s kind of an internationally recognized master. This isn’t your only chance to see it. Sleeeeep.
  2. Don’t skip your 1pm lunch date. That would be rude, and besides, after all that sleep, you’re going to be hungry. Order something hearty and catch up with a friend from across the world.
  3. It’s late afternoon by now. Why not go see a movie? Kick up your feet in that IMAX theatre and enjoy a “New England folktale”. Then go back to the hotel and take some time to contemplate what the film is saying while you lie in bed. You need a break before dinner.
  4. Go to dinner. Enjoy the company of some Midnight Madness and Vanguard directors and enjoy a really great meal. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella.
  5. Go back to the hotel and starfish on the bed for about 12 hours. You’ve earned it!
The Witch ... or is she?

The Witch … or is she?

I genuinely don’t know what I thought about The Witch just yet. As I said on Facebook and Twitter, the film really wasn’t what I was expecting … but if you asked me what I was expecting, I’d have to say that I genuinely don’t know. I had a conversation with a friend who I saw the film with, who pointed out something I hadn’t really noticed or realized – and that  is the fact that the film presents, but does not comment on, the based-on-historical-records events it is depicting. It’s an interesting point because it hadn’t really occurred to me to think about the filmmaker’s point of view. I was too busy trying to figure out my own. I’m not sure where I stand on it yet but I might write a future, spoiler-filled post about it.

Demon

Demon

Another film that premiered on Friday is Marcin Wrona’s Demon, a totally gorgeous film about a possession that takes place in the middle of a big, boozy country wedding. This film was such a breath of fresh air, and the lead actor (Itay Tiran) is just brilliant. I didn’t see it at the premiere (I saw it when Colin threw it on after a day of disappointing screeners, and it knocked us both off our feet), but I wanted to give it a little bloggy promo, because it’s great, and deserves to be seen on the big screen. This is one of those festival titles that you legitimately might not get to see again (at least in a theatre), but it is very worth your while. Trust!


Every year, I make ambitious plans. I’m going to see 46 films! 50 films! All of the films! I’m going to see all of the films and go to all the midnights and attend at least three great parties! I am going to split myself into ten  people and attend every screening in every timeslot! I am going to become a black hole and absorb all of TIFF into my dark vortex!

This year, I’m chilling the fuck out.

My energy levels aren’t at maximum this year, plus  I’ve got pressing Birdland deadlines and other work to worry about while the festival is going on. I am taking it easy. I made a very ambitious nearly-50-movies schedule for myself, as usual, but in the back of my mind I kept reminding myself that I was only actually going to manage 25% of it, and that’s totally fine.

On Day 1 the ambitious schedule included four films. The reality is that I saw one and a half, and I feel excellent about it. We had a pre-TIFF party the previous night and I needed to catch up on some sleep, so I skipped my morning film. Then I realized that there was an urgent Birdland task that I couldn’t neglect until post-TIFF and which I would be better off getting out of the way immediately, so I spent my afternoon at the office compiling paperwork for our accountant. Being responsible feels great.

this actress, who plays Victoria, is crazy good

this actress, who plays Victoria, is crazy good

In the afternoon I saw Victoria, a German film by Sebastian Schipper which won the Silver Bear in Berlin this year. It is a stunning piece of filmmaking wizardry – a 2+ hour action-packed heist film that was all shot in a single take. If they’re telling the truth about that single take, then it’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment not only on a technical (and coordination / choreography) level, but also in terms of the performances. The actors had to go through a pretty broad spectrum of emotional highs and lows – apparently with absolutely no breaks or time to prepare. Kudos to everyone. It was really compelling and it took me about half an hour to calm down from the adrenaline rush of the final act.

At midnight I went to the screening of Green Room, in part because I wanted to see The Chickening on the big screen and in part because I wanted to see a bit of the audience’s reactions to Green Room, which I saw earlier this spring and absolutely loved. I stayed until the craziness and violence began, then snuck off to bed for some much needed rest. I wish I could have stayed for the Q&A (Patrick Stewart! Eeeeee!) but sometimes you have to prioritize your health and sanity over movies. Crazy, I know.

sooooooooo gooooooood

sooooooooo gooooooood

I think this new “take it easy” approach to TIFF might be the best decision I ever made. Unfortunately, it will make my festival diaries super boring. I apologize in advance.


Remember a few weeks ago, when I was saying that it just didn’t feel real yet, and wondered whether it ever would?

Well, last week, on Wednesday April 29th (coincidentally my father’s birthday and this year’s National Canadian Film Day, so a great day all around), we signed our contract with Telefilm. The day also marked the halfway point of our prep period, which ends exactly two weeks later, on Wednesday May 13. Our first day of shooting will be Thursday May 14.

I guess I can officially say: it feels f***ing real now?

things that feel real: having a production office

things that feel real: having a production office

It was the contract that pushed things over the edge, even though the train had left the station days before, while we were working out of a tiny borrowed office and starting to confirm locations, send real offers to actors, and the like. The  feeling of “oh shit you are doing this” has been creeping over me day by day like a very slowly spreading rash. And now, I’m just one big red splotch of excitement.

That metaphor needs work.

Since early March, I’ve spent many excruciating hours waiting for paperwork to come back from this person or that, crossing my fingers that we’d get our interim financing loan, praying for good actors and locations to fall into place, and so on. Now, it’s all coming together at break-neck speed and I am finding myself marvelling at how quickly it all came together.

Quickly? The first time I read a version of this script was in January of 2013. So … I’ve been working on it for just over two years. I’ve been working on it intensively for at least one year (the year of endless funding applications), nearly-full-time for about five months, and actually-full-time for a few short weeks.

other things that feel real: locations like this

other things that feel real: locations like this

So, yeah. While two years might seem like a long time to struggle before you get to actually shoot a film, in the grand scheme of how long it can take to get a film off the ground, it has gone fast. This is nowhere near the length of time that people mean when they talk about  being trapped in “development hell”.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple of private meltdowns, one or two not-so-private freakouts, and a lot of great, calm days of feeling totally on top of it, and maybe just as many days of feeling like everything is out of control and there’s way too much to do and not enough days to do it in.

I am constantly tired. I can’t wait to start shooting, but I also can’t wait to be done shooting. I want to sleep without dreaming that I’m stuck in a hamster wheel made out of to do lists. Y’know?

things that chill you out on a stressful day: a location scout at the TD Centre

things that chill you out on a stressful day: a location scout at the TD Centre


Sometimes, a girl has to take a break from bashing her head against the brick wall of producing, and go shopping. As you know, I recently moved to a new apartment, and I’ve spent the past month (more like two or three) looking for a new couch. I have learned many things, the first of which is: couches are f*#!king expensive. I want a large couch for our living room (longer than our current 70-incher). I want it to be comfy, and modern-but-not-too-minimal, and not a sofa bed. I would like it to cost less than a month’s friggin’ rent, and I’d also like it to look nice. Basic requirements, and yet strangely difficult to fulfil.

Here’s a rundown of what I learned on my search. If you’re in the market for a sofa, I hope it helps.

At the top end of the beauty spectrum, you will find Montreal-based Montauk. Their couches are undeniably gorgeous, and can be customized to fit your needs. And, because they are beautiful and perfect and made lovingly just for you, they can easily cost between $5,000 and $15,000. I don’t know about you, but my reaction to that is … yikes!

The “Misfits” section of the Montauk website is worth checking once in a while, because overstock and other odds and ends get posted there at significant discounts (and organized by (Canadian) city). They’re still pricey, but you can sometimes find a great piece for half off.

this Montauk stunner is at least $6,000

this Montauk stunner is at least $6,000

If you’re looking for something more vintagey and don’t mind paying downtown Toronto prices, I recommend checking out Queen West Antique Market, a large vintage/antique spot at Queen and Roncesvalles that sells beautiful pieces at premium prices. They have perfect-condition Eames chairs, and they have $3,500 vintage couches, like the Scandinavian beaut below (and honestly, that’s the low end of the price spectrum). While the quality is impeccable, the prices are very high at QWAM. But hey, if you don’t have the time, the energy, and the car to go poking around at antique markets outside the city, this place will do all the hunting for you, and charge you for the service.

a Queen West Antiques joint

a Queen West Antiques joint

The Bay has some nice sofas, as well as some that look like they belong in grandma’s basement (not my grandmas’ basements, mind you, both my grandmas are style queens). One important note about The Bay is that they do put a significant markup on the non-HBC brands they carry. If you want to get a good sense of what’s out there but have the time to comparison shop, I recommend taking note of the manufacturers or brands you spot at The Bay and then finding their points of origin. You might end up paying a fraction of The Bay’s price.

There’s actually a big sale on at The Bay at the moment, if you’re in the market for a couch like right now. Most pieces are at 50% off. The classy Manhattan, below, is down from $3,599 to $1,799. That’s not bad, but the sale is even better when you find the slightly cheaper models like the Martini Condo Sofa, which has been brought down from $1,199 to an IKEA-level of affordability, at $599.

The Manhattan Sofa at The Bay

The Manhattan Sofa at The Bay

Toronto also boasts a wealth of trendy and modern furniture shops (mostly along Queen West, and some along King and other places) such as C2B, Morba, Design Republic, etc. There are a lot of mid-range options, especially if you like that Mad Men look.

The 65″-long “Avec Apartment Sofa” below is $1,500, and the longer, full-sized version is $100 more at C2B. I love that mid-century modern aesthetic (don’t even get me started about chairs from that era, my obsession is real and severe) but some of these couches were too minimalist and austere for my tastes. I like to get cozy, y’know?

C2B sofa 1

The one below, the Dexter sofa from Design Republic, is $1,400 and a little bit more “classic” looking. The tufted look is so quintessentially couch-y, don’t you think?

design republic

One of the city’s most reliable med-level furniture stores can be found in Liberty Village (and also on King St. East). EQ3 sells expensive stuff (like Herman Miller / Eames chairs), but also some great, hard-to-find-in-Toronto items like Marimekko imports, and reasonably priced house brand sofas. The current winner is the Salema, which is on sale for $999, down from $1,300.

salema

The best deals can, as usual, be found at IKEA. They offer cheaper versions of just about every style of couch, sofabed and sectional, but for my money one of the current gems is the Nockeby sofa in dark grey, a total bargoon at $829. The picture below makes it seem very minimalist, but in person the wooly, woven / knitted-looking texture of the upholstery actually adds a great warmth and coziness to the couch. It’s long, wide and very comfortable to sit on.

nockeby

If you’re looking for a basic sofa, stores like Leons and The Brick can still offer good deals hidden amongst the dated-looking leather recliners and over-stuffed couches. The clean & simple Mackenzie collection at Leon’s is a steal, with the couch (pictured below) at $779 and a matching chair at $659. But be warned, if you go to these stores expecting everything to be cheap, you will be disappointed. A lot of their wares fall in the $2,000+ range. Which is nuts, right?

leons

And of course, if you have the patience for it and don’t mind a used couch, there’s always Craigslist and Kajiji. As a non-driver who is fairly particular about aesthetics and who really wants to be able to sit on a couch several times before committing to buying it, Craigslist really isn’t for me. But if you want to find something truly inexpensive, there are many great deals to be had. I found the cute loveseat below listed for only $45. I recommend you follow the very excellent Take This Sofa FB page for tips on all the best finds in Toronto.

sure, it's sitting out on a porch, but it's only $45!!

sure, it’s sitting out on a porch, but it’s only $45!!

And with that, I retire to my own, private, couch-buying decisions. When I get one, I’ll post a photo.


Saturday September 6, 2014

As I sit in my TIFF hotel room writing this, it is Monday morning, and I’m already having trouble remembering what I did on Saturday. Colin gets a hotel room, as part of his job, which is why I am in one. His “workday” ends at 3am every night, and the ability to stroll to and from the Lightbox over the course of a day to change clothes, take a quick nap, and so on, really makes a big difference.

So, Saturday? I started the day with The Duke of Burgundy, which may well end up being one of my TIFF faves. I’m interviewing the director, Peter Strickland (who you may remember from last year’s Berberian Sound Studio) for Toronto Film Scene, and had to make sure I saw the film beforehand. I’m doing two interviews this year, because my editor at TFS is a lovely woman, with two filmmakers I’m so excited about – Strickland, and all-time-lifelong-fave Hal Hartley. That interview’s already in the can. I did it over the phone a few days ago, and was all nerves, but he was charming and eloquent and smart and all the things I wanted and needed him to be. Writing up the interview (and whittling it down to a manageable thousand words or so) will be its own challenge, but I’m ready for it.

The Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy

I had to tell Hal Hartley, in the interest of honesty, full disclosure, and a smooth interview, that I hadn’t actually seen his film yet – not because the publicist didn’t send me a link, but because I was so looking forward to it that I had to leave myself at least half a film’s worth of surprises for the big screen experience. He seemed okay with this. I’ve written before about how Hartley influenced me, so you might understand just how excited I am about Ned Rifle, a film that stars every member of the ’90s Hartley stable and concludes a trilogy that practically marked the beginning of my own love affair with TIFF in 1997. It’s a big deal, is what I’m saying.

But back to Saturday. The Duke of Burgundy is the kind of movie that I don’t like to spend much time explaining, because it’s better experienced than heard about, the visual and aural beauty of it impossible to describe anyway, and the subtle story difficult to explain without giving too much away.

After the film, I joined Colin for a meeting with a company that might like to hire us to do some consulting. I can’t talk about it yet, but all my fingers are crossed that something works out, because the past year of “producing” has been a lean one for me, and the cost of business development, international travel and so on has all taken its toll. I’m tired. And kind of broke. And looking forward to an autumn spent in Toronto, and not anywhere else.

Luna

Luna

In the evening I went to see Dave McKean’s Luna, which I was so happy to have made time for on the big screen, because it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a long time. I went with my parents, and with Carl, a friend I don’t see enough of and miss all the time and was happy to catch up with for five minutes, though post-TIFF catching up with all my Toronto friends is a big goal.

I joined Colin at the reception for Tusk, the new Kevin Smith film that was playing Midnight on Saturday, where I drank several actually very good cocktails and ate a supremely odd “jalapeño popsicle” before jetting off to the Canadian party while everyone else went off to watch Tusk. I vote #walrusyes, for the record.

Canadian party!

Canadian party!

The Canadian party was at the Arcadian Court, on the eighth floor of the building at Queen and Yonge that houses The Bay, and it happens to be where my high school held its prom, at least on the year that I graduated. I’m not sure if I’ve been there since, but I can certainly confirm that there wasn’t a gigantic ice sculpture stuffed with mini-champagne bottles at my prom.

I stole a very soft Canada Goose toque from the party. It was on this weird life-sized husky-&-sled diorama that I couldn’t stop myself from hopping onto. I’m sorry, Canada.

MUUUSHHHHHHHH!

MUUUSHHHHHHHH!


Friday September 5, 2014

This year, I’m trying a new approach to film-watching-at-TIFF. I want to see as much as I can, but I don’t want to be overly rigid about my schedule. It’s hard to choose from among the hundreds of films, but stacking everything too neatly into a spreadsheet means missing out on the opportunity to see something that I might not have noticed in the programme book, but comes highly recommended by a friend, or a friendly stranger in a coffee shop lineup.

My new motto is “minimum three, maximum five”. I’ll aim to see a minimum of three films each day, though I know even that will be too ambitious on certain days. I’m planning to see most of the Midnights and many of the Vanguards as well, but for the rest of it, I’m going to keep things relatively loose. I have the luxury of an industry pass that gets me into the parallel shadow-world of press & industry screenings, most of which don’t “sell out” completely, and most of which don’t involve lengthy line-ups (though lineups are a large part of what I enjoy about the public festival experience at TIFF).

P&I access means I can afford to be slightly more cavalier about my schedule, though it’s a strategy I used to employ when I relied exclusively on public tickets as well. I’d get a package (10 tickets, say) and only select six films, leaving myself four unassigned vouchers to trade in for tickets over the course of the festival. That way, I could go to a film that I overheard strangers discussing in line, or walk into a film I knew nothing about, just because it happened not to be sold out. Those were – and still are – some of my best experiences at festivals. Going in with no expectations, open to the possibility of experiencing something beautiful and surprising, is a real joy.

people of the world holding kilogram prototypes of the world

people of the world holding kilogram prototypes of the world in 1001 Grams

On Friday I managed three films. I had a non-TIFF meeting to attend in the morning (how dare real life still continue to exist outside this bubble!?) so my first screening was in the afternoon. 1001 Grams, a charming Norwegian film about a scientist in charge of taking Norway’s prototype of the kilogram to an international kilo conference run by an international institute of weights and measures. As you can well imagine, hi jinx do ensue, but they’re of a quiet, relationship-y type, and the film is touching and funny and uplifting in all the right ways. More than anything, I was amused at the brief glimpse into a world – that of weights and measures – that undoubtedly does exist (someone’s got to be ensuring that the kilo weighs the same amount here as it does in Japan, surely?!), and feels as alien as can be without actually being exotic (though esoteric scientific worlds are alluring, in their own highly un-exotic way). A perfect backdrop for a sweet relationship story.

Spring

the romantic meta-horror of Spring

Later, the World Premiere of Spring, by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, the adorable duo who brought the world Resolution a couple of years ago. This one’s a Vanguard pick of Colin’s, so even though I’d seen the screener with him a few months ago, I was very excited to see it on the big screen and share it with friends. It’s a beautiful, smartly written, gorgeously shot film. I brought my parents to it, and after the screening my father called it “meta-horror” and my mother called it “touching and romantic”, so it’s clearly a film for everyone! Post-Spring, in the sudden downpour, I scurried across the way to Paupers for some drinks with the filmmakers and assorted pals, and yelled over the house band (why on earth does Paupers have a house band?) about movies and felt good to be in the middle of the TIFF maelstrom.

When Team Spring left for dinner, I left for the Big Game party, Friday’s Midnight film, where I downed a couple of sliders and some potato chips with slices of steak on them (don’t question the TIFF party hors d’oeuvres, just be thankful they exist).

TIFF dinners. They are not actual “dinners” 70% of the time. They are burritos eaten while standing in line, elaborate canapés inhaled at receptions, mints found at the bottoms of bags and hungrily sucked on during movies.

By the time midnight actually rolled around, I was incredibly sleepy. The kind of droopy-eyed sleepy that feels as if it’s already a barely-lucid dream. I lost some chunks of the first 20 minutes, but Big Game won me over. The action, the comic timing, that adorable Finnish kid, Samuel Jackson as a somewhat bumbling and refreshingly un-badass US President, it all came together into exactly the kind of kid-power film I truly love and wish was made more often these days.

Big Game

Big Game, m*******cker!

And then another cab ride home, during which Colin scrolls through tweeted responses to the film and I read Matt Brown’s impossibly-quickly-posted blog entry for the day, and think to myself, “I love that Matt Brown, I wish he was in my life more.”


Thursday September 4, 2014

After a late-but-not-too-late and boozy-but-not-too-boozy night at Cold Tea on the eve of TIFF, I managed to start my festival with a bang. Four movies on the first day feels like a victory and it also feels like a return to what it’s really all about. I got into film because I love watching films. I started going to festivals so that I could watch as many great films from around the world as possible in a short span of time, with the heightened atmosphere of an international community of cinephiles surrounding me in a cocoon of giddy enthusiasm.

speaking of giddy enthusiasm, I am SO going to get a bingo this year!

speaking of giddy enthusiasm, I am SO going to get a bingo this year!

And yet, and yet. These days, when I go to Cannes or Berlin, I don’t see much. There are meetings, dinners, receptions. There is rushing around and trying to find people and frantic texting. But there is not a lot of time left for films, and that makes me sad. At TIFF, I am not only on my home turf, but I’m also not at a film market – not an official one, anyway, though my sales agent friends might disagree. I feel protective of my own TIFF experience because it’s my hometown festival, the first one I fell in love with, the one I started going to as soon as I graduated from high school. I still want to experience it as a festival, not just as an opportunity to do business. I want to be swept away by the actual power of film. Old fashioned, I know.

This year, I started with a bit of Cannes catch-up, with the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night, an uplifting downer starring Marion Cotillard as a depressed factory worker who’s fighting not to be laid off. Next, Cronenberg’s Maps to the Starsa bleak film whose premise seems to be that Hollywood is a place for depraved monsters to paint their cruelty upon each other until there’s nothing left. Someone gets bludgeoned with a Genie Award though, and that might be the best use of one of those ever committed to film.

Marion Cotillard, the undisputed queen of looking uglybeautiful

Marion Cotillard, the undisputed queen of looking uglybeautiful

In the evening, I go to the premiere of Sunshine Superman, a doc about the delightfully nerdy dude who invented base jumping. It was beautiful, but it did not make me want to jump out of planes, or off cliffs, or antenna towers, or bridges, or skyscrapers. My commitment to terra firma remains, well, firm. My date is the effervescent Sam Horley, an exec producer on the film and England’s most charming film sales person (sorry, everyone else). I hit up a falafel joint with her and some friends post-film and pre-party, then headed to the Sunshine Superman reception, where mac & cheese croquettes are served. I met a couple of Torontonians who aren’t in the film biz, but happen to be friends with someone affiliated with the film. Always refreshing to chat with people at film parties who aren’t schmoozing or hustling, or even necessarily interested in only talking about movies.

Around 11ish I jetted off to the Ryerson for the Midnight Madness opener, the Japanese hip hop musical Tokyo Tribea film that’s not exactly my cup of tea, but is undeniably entertaining and a fine addition to the cannon of films that make Japan seem like the batshit-insanest place on earth.

Tokyo Tribe, never ever die ... Tokyo Tribe, never ever die ... Tokyo Tribe, never ever die ...

Tokyo Tribe, never ever die … Tokyo Tribe, never ever die … Tokyo Tribe, never ever die …

And then bed, sweet bed, for too few hours before we do it all again.