Toronto, Here I Come

Toronto Film Festival

For the longest time, whenever I’d sit back and think about what a dream job might look like, it always included one thing: attending film festivals. From the moment I stumbled into one in Indianapolis over a decade ago, I was smitten. Lots of movies? In one place? With all kinds of other people who love them too? Sign me up!

And over the last few years, I’ve managed to carve out some attendance as part of the various roles I’ve held. Sometimes I was working for the actual festival organizations, and other times I attended as part of an acquisitions or publicity team. It’s not like I’ve been jetting off to Cannes or Telluride, by any means, but I’ve (gratefully) made it to my fair share.

Fast forward to my decision last year to build my own rocket ship. I knew even then that part of whatever I created would include film festivals. Whether I went as part of a film team or had to send myself, I’d be there. What’s the point of doing it myself, after all, if I can’t do it exactly how I want to?

I gave myself that first year to get my footing, and then a few months ago I dove in: I bought my plane ticket to Toronto, locking myself into a trip to TIFF before I could make excuses not to go. Now that it’s less than a week away, I’m looking at it as a working vacation. I’ll be on the clock with all my existing clients, and I plan to use the week to meet and network in-person, too.

And then I’ll see movies. All the movies.

Because why not?!

For one, I’m not going on anyone else’s dime, which means I’m not beholden to an employer’s expectations, schedule or demands. I’m the only one I’ll be reporting back to about my trip.

But also, I’m gonna soak up all the movies I can because…well, because I want to. I’m gonna go be a big ol’ geek about the art around which I’ve made my living, a level of enthusiasm that might seem uncool to some of my professional peers, but oh well. I love the field I get to work in, and a big reason why is because I freaking love movies.

What am I going to see? I’m so glad you asked…

Top of my list is Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beal Street Could Talk, about a woman fighting to free her falsely accused husband from prison. That’s followed closely by Alfonso Cuarón’s (Gravity) epic Roma, about a year in the life of a Mexican family in the 1970s. There’s also the latest remake of A Star is Born, marking Lady Gaga’s debut in front of the camera and Bradley Cooper’s behind it; and Damien Chazelle’s latest collaboration with Ryan Gosling (after La La Land), the story of the first moon landing in First Man

But it’s not all awards bait I’m looking forward to (though it is fun to be among the first to see some of the best films of the year). Mélanie Laurent, a French actress with a few English-language roles to her name (Inglorious Basterds; Operation Finale) is also an accomplished director (if you haven’t seen Breathe, you must); this year, TIFF presents her English-language directorial debut, Galveston starring Ben Foster and Elle Fanning. There’s also the latest films by a few independent directors I’ve worked with previously, including Rima Das’s Bulbul Can Sing and Sebastian Betbeder’s Ulysses & Mona.  

And then, of course, there’s room for the unexpected. As I look at my schedule ahead of time, there are some gaps here and there where anything could happen. Drinks with friends? Sure! Sneak into a film that wasn’t even on my radar? You bet! Squirrel away at my Airbnb to get some work done? Probably! 

However I fill the time, I’m looking forward to a week that’s entirely mine to make the most of.