Mamo #363: No More TIFF

Mamo!

In which the gentlemen of Mamo arrive at the corpse of the straw-broken camel that is TIFF’s most recent pricing upgrade, and wonder if enough is finally enough.

59 comments

  1. Kurt Halfyard

    100% Agree on experiencing the festival in the General Population, as someone who did a few years as accredited press, and then went to public tickets, I’m very, very much happier in the later category.

    I plan to do 40 films, but whoa, the cost is a doozy.

    My first year was, 1998 (about the same time as Matt Brown started doing this thing) and I remember my 30 film package cost $210. Under $7 a ticket, that’s not that long ago…

    • I just spent $420, before taxes, on a total of twenty tickets and a program book.

      As I mentioned in the episode, that’s only about a hundred bucks shy of what I spent to go to Ebertfest, including travel, lodging, meals, and a festival pass.

    • So if you get a press pass to TIFF, you have to go to the P&I screenings, you can’t go to the regular ones? That’s lame. Public screenings are definitely better. LAFF always has some early screenings for press, but you can go to the public ones instead if you’d rather.

      • I’m not sure if it’s the same for press passes, but TIFF industry passes allow Rush-only access to public screenings (with higher level passes allowing up to four days of public screenings).

        Also it is VERY hard to apply to TIFF for press accreditation, which still leans heavily towards print media and television, as opposed to bloggers.

        Just head here are look at the requirements: http://tiff.net/press/festival-media-accreditation

        • Yeah, I figured they were difficult to get, but I didn’t realize you were more restricted as to what screenings you could go to. With press passes to the fests I’ve been to here, they work pretty much like a festival pass that people have bought – you even queue up in the same lines with the paid public, and passholders (whether it’s press, industry, or public) go in before the rush line. At AFI and LAFF, individual ticket-holders are also in that same line; at TCM Fest, there are no tickets sold before the passholders go in, so it’s basically all passes and then a rush line to buy tickets.

          • Alas, his method doesn’t work for festivals on the scale of TIFF and CANNES.

          • Having volunteered for the P&I venues in my early years as a TIFF volunteer, I can say that it’s practically a whole separate festival. For the past few years, all the P&I screenings have been either at the Scotiabank Theatre or the Bell Lightbox and industry events are held at the nearby Hyatt Regency hotel. It’s all within a 2-4 block radius.

            Even though I haven’t been accredited for TIFF, I have gotten into other festivals as media. Here’s how it typically works out:
            Hot Docs: Pre-festival press screenings and screeners, plus all passholders have tickets reserved for them at the door. First come, first serve.
            Toronto After Dark: All access press pass. Line-up in passholders line.
            Reel Asian: Same as Hot Docs (accreditation by same PR company)
            Canadian Film Fest: Pre-festival screeners, comp tickets for screenings
            Blood in the Snow: Pre-festival screeners, very limited screening access (I only did screeners)
            NXNE: Pre-festival screeners, comp tickets for screenings

          • Jandy I think the difference is that for public screenings at TIFF there are no passes at all. Even when they were called passes they didn’t work in the way you mean. Public screenings involve 100% reserved hard tickets, regardless of how these are acquired (Flex or other packs, single tix). No-shows are counted 15 minutes before to facilitate a very small number of rush seats. Press passes ARE good for these rush seats(If you feel like waiting a long time in line, most P&I folks would rather just stick to their own screenings instead of sacrificing 2+ hours to this process). Also many with Press credentials get friendly with PR reps who can sometimes provide a hard ticket to a show directly.

            TIFF isn’t like other festivals in the sense that it’s so successful with the general public it really doesn’t need the press to fill the seats. And I know you mentioned wanting to be able to change your mind at the last minute, this is not your festival if that’s the case unless you stick to P&I. Public screenings need to be planned carefully and completely, there’s some flexibility (you can exchange a ticket up to the day before a screening, or sell what you have to the rush line) but it’s not really the way this runs.

  2. I admit to being a bit spoiled, since I haven’t paid to see a film at TIFF since I started volunteering for them in 2006. I plan out my festivals based on how many volunteer voucher’s I’ve accumulated, so there’s no set number of films I see at the festival.

    That said, I am quite sympathetic to those that do pay to attend TIFF. I still have the ticket stubs from the first TIFF I attended in 2003 and the single ticket price was $14.50. With single tickets this year being $24, that’s nearly a $10 increase.

  3. I’m now aiming for about 30 films total, using back half/day passes. I will only take whatever vacation days I need. I will most likely see very few midnights, if any. Next year I may not do the festival at all if this isn’t a good experience.

    • But what if I wanna hang out when I return in 2015????

      Honestly I get you pal. I just shared my 2013 TIFF bill with you and twitter, and that includes travel, tickets, food and lodging (and that’s when I split the lodging with my brother). Was a lot cheaper in 2012 cuz I didn’t pay for lodging (stayed with my Aunt), but honestly I want to do TIFF again, but we’ll see if 2015 (or even ’16) sees me in Toronto. I’m starting to fear that it would require me moving/getting a job in Canada for me to do TIFF again, and I’m starting to think of hitting up other fests in the near future. Really want to do SXSW (and do the full film/music/comedy thing).

      • The gang is all here, if you happen to just show in Toronto, festival or not!

    • I know replying to my own comment is a sure sign I’m losing it, but for those that care I managed to purchase the following:

      20 Ticket day pass = $226
      12 Ticket back half pass = $144
      10 Ticket Flex Pack = $200

      Total – 42 tickets, $597 including all charges, about $14 per show. I will pick as many high profile things as I can with my 10 pack, and then go with my gut for the rest and hope for some pleasant surprises. Also I imagine I am seeing very few midnights, if any this year. Too much $$$ to take a chance on falling asleep or just walking out from exhaustion.

      • $14/ticket isn’t that bad in my opinion. I think I was in the $11-12/ticket neighborhood back in 09.

        Also, people talk about the “back-half” like it’s the bottom of the barrel. I remember seeing quite a few movies in that second half of the festival that were outright terrific. Just because it’s the second screening and Robert Duvall isn’t in the row behind you, doesn’t make the movie lesser than it was 5 days before. Or am I missing something (likely)?

        • The Back Half and Day passes don’t get to make their picks until all the regular flex tickets have had their crack at it, along with a day or so of single ticket sales. So in theory I will have less to choose from since things sell out. That said I have pretty broad taste and to some extent it is difficult for me to actually dislike most of what is available. Plus this is an experiment to see if I wind up enjoying myself as much as I have in past despite letting go of some of the control I’ve had in past. Breathe in, breathe out, they’re only movies.

          • Totally. And I think a lot of people find some of their most beloved gems by being forced to go to something that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen, just because it fits into their schedule or the one they really wanted to see is sold out. i.e. pleasant surprises.

          • Because I’ve been using volunteer vouchers for tickets, there have been times when I would get tickets halfway through the festival and take a gamble on some obscure film I never heard of.

            Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not.

            Of course, I haven’t got mid-festival tickets for a couple years, since I’ve managed to save enough vouchers to last me for the whole festival. Not sure yet what my plan will be this year. I always tend to get most of my summer vouchers in August (which always has a lot of pre-festival volunteer shifts).

  4. I think this year given how stacked Riot Fest is on Sept 6-7, I will be getting tickets to those, and spending a little less on TIFF

    • I splurged for the quite expensive VIP tickets to RiotFest. Mainly because of the Cure, who don’t seem to do regular shows anymore, just 3 hour long festival appearances. Plus the over all line up is quite good, although nothing compared to the Chicago or Denver line-ups.

      I’ll still likely get some TIFF tickets, more likely the Midnight Madness movies and anything other particular interesting titles that stick out. More likely as single tickets, unless I see enough titles that I hope won’t sell out to go with the Back-Half Pack for 6 tickets for $74 or 12 tickets for $148. That’s a decent deal for $12.33 a ticket. That does mean you only get to pick after everyone else has picked their titles, but that’s still a good deal for the price.

  5. Robert Reineke

    It sounds like TIFF may have grown so much that it’s just caught in the cycle of trying to feed the beast.

    It’s probably also a good reminder that there are plenty of affordable smaller film festivals around.

  6. For me the last couple years I have front-loaded the festival experience, so get the sense of the crunch and full experience and then by tuesday go back to the real world. How long does Eberfest run, probably comparable this way.

    • Ebertfest runs from Wednesday to Sunday (the Wednesday is an evening screening, the Sunday is only an early matinee), but the pace is completely different from Tiff. One venue and no choices make it very low stress – there’s no sense of “the crunch” really just the opposite. Tiff feels like another job in a sense, but Ebert feels like a vacation.

  7. Rick Vance

    I guess I picked the right year to jump into all this didn’t I guys…

  8. Huh. I was actually planning on going in 2015. But that’s WAY too steep for a bunch of movies I can probably see later anyway. They’ll be playing theatrically a couple of months down the road anyway. Or on Netflix or on Blu-ray or on Amazon or at another (probably local) festival.

    • Maybe I’ll go back to TAD! Press and still get to hang out with the movie blogging crew!

      • I’ve come to consider Toronto After Dark my “vacation” film festival, since I have so much fun covering it. Of course, I do miss the Bloor Cinema as the venue (the festival relocated last year to the Scotiabank Theatre, which is where it will be hosted again this year).

  9. Fantasia! Fantasia. Montreal is nice in JULY.

  10. Just curious if anyone knows if any of TIFF’s funding has changed recently. As the festival gets money from the federal, provincial and municipal level, all of which have been trying to cut back their budgets over the past couple of years. The federal government I know for certain has been cutting back cultural funding across the board, so perhaps TIFF got hit among that?

    Some quick Google searches, I couldn’t find anything with details about funding cuts to TIFF.

  11. Last year I did a combination of a 10 pack/ 6 back half pack/ 4 free Cinematheque screenings. I was tempted to do that again this year but begrudgingly opted for a straight 20 pack (with hopes of few free screenings along the way). Although I think the back half pack is the best value for my budget (I did it two years in a row), I just did not like the idea of wasting two different days (one in August for the 10 pack and then again in September for the back half pack) to pick my films. The September date in particular was rough because it took so long to access the site, despite logging on during my giving time range. So essentially I am paying more for the convenience of picking all my films at one time. Even though I could see 22 films instead of 20 at $52 less had I just done a 10 pack and a 12 back half pass. It is a little ridiculous.

    The pricing has really impacted the number of films I see over the last four years. Gone are the days of seeing 35 plus films. Heck, the second year I went the 30 pack and programme book combined was cheaper than what the 20 is now…so was the combo of a 25 Daytime and 10 Regular. While I love the festival, I just find it harder and harder to justify dropping $400 at the festival (based on my budget). Especially when you factor in the cost of the yearly TIFF Family Membership which I get far more value from year round. At this rate I can foresee myself moving to a 6 or 12 back half pack in the near future.

  12. Robert Reineke

    Just for a point of comparison, the unlimited pass at the Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs late September to early October, is $372 for non-members which looks more and more like a bargain.

  13. Boyn Dean

    Been Tiffing for 18 years. I started with 2 first year then 10 then 35 (for like a decade that many). Now i’m only going to do the Midnight Madness for two reasons: price and not having to deal with the lottery. I use to take chances all the time with movies, didn’t mind if I didn’t like it, I wanted to absorb the experience, not as much anymore.

    Tiff is way insanely too big. How much does it cost to get Brad Pitt to come? Who pays his airplane/hotel/security? I’ve tried getting this type of info out of Tiff and I just end up hanging up because anyone who knows won’t answer because they know we won’t like the answer.

    Why do distributors get in free ahead of time taking the better seats in the theatre?

    Toronto has over 80 film festivals now. Tiff gets the least amount now and the others much more.

    • As a long time volunteer, I will say that the reserved seating is never specifically the best seats in the theatre. I’ve had to hand reserved signs a few times and pretty much we are just asked “Reserve XX number of seats”

      The most extreme case of reserved seating I’ve experienced while volunteering is the premiere for STORIES WE TELL, which had over 100 reservations (which included Sarah Polley’s family, a choir, etc). In that case, we had to instruct the patrons to go to the Bloor balcony first, before taking up whatever seats were remaining in the lower level.

    • Generally festivals cover basic festival expenses for guests. Meaning hotel accomodations and plane tickets, for both them and their party.

  14. Robert Reineke

    I suppose it’s worth asking, but is there a good guide out for film festivals, when they run, how much they cost, # of films, distinguishing characteristics, etc.? If not, someone should put that type of list together.

    • There is indeed a website for the countless festivals put on in Toronto – http://www.torontofilmfestivals.com/

      • Robert Reineke

        I was thinking of a general North American guide.

        • I believe there are several resources for this online, and from time to time people have tried to publish guides in physical form. The problem is that it’s a very crowded and very volatile field. Beyond the big guys lots of stuff is in flux, starting and stopping. That’s one of the reasons it’s hard to take what Tiff is able to accomplish for granted – it’s a massive undertaking and they are basically able to handle the logistics almost flawlessly every year. Imagine planning 1000 weddings at once, you start to get a sense of what’s involved. 1000 simultaneous weddings just may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, and in any case may also not be worth $1000 just to participate.

  15. Should’ve listened before commenting. Price hit the nail on the head. I think everything I saw in 2009 at TIFF is available in other ways. Everything. Castaway on the Moon is even on Netflix. At the time, I thought to myself that this is the only chance I’ll get to see these types of movies (which is why I skipped all the big stuff).

    So I’m in agreement. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I’d rather go to two or three smaller festivals and see some equally great (arguably much better) films in a little more intimate setting.

    I know who’s curating and what the films will be like. Much like a bunch of midnight madness programs, but for different genres. This is why I goto Flyway year after year.

    • Yes, films from festivals are now more widely available thanks to VOD and other digital platforms (like Netflix).

      However, TIFF (and other festivals) is probably the only opportunity I have to see many of these films theatrically. I am still VERY ANGRY that The Brass Teapot (which I missed at TIFF in 2012) never got a theatrical release in Toronto (and I still have yet to see the film).

      • Brass Teapot is a decent movie. But I don’t think it has all that much to gain on the big screen. Putting aside that yes, all movies are better on the big screen. But some are worth being a little upset about, some are not. Brass Teapot is not one to be upset about. It’s on Netflix (US anyway).

        • It’s not on the Canadian Netflix and I’m not one of those people that hack DNS addresses to access the American site.

          • Sean I think the larger point is that there are plenty of movies out there and I don’t think anyone who’s seen it would put Brass Teapot on their list of movies they are glad they got to see before dying. It’s a good and inconsequential film. Also, video stores!

  16. @Kurt

    As someone the regularly attends Fantasia is there any advice you can give, particularly if it works like TIFF with the first week front-loaded with the goodstuff, or like if I wanted to see this year’s Magic, Magic, when does that usually get slotted? Gotta say last year’s slate has got me interested.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      Well, Fantasia is in a bit of an evolving state right now with their co-development markets and such, but it has been my experiences that the edgier and slightly outside the usual genre boundaries (which admittedly are very wide) – things like Magic Magic and The Broken Circle Breakdown (both of which made my top 10 films last year) – usually happen in the first week of the festival. It is also the week that I usually attend. Though in light of the emphasis of many folks coming to town for the second week film-market, I’m trying out the 2nd week of the festival this year.

      From what I’ve seen of the programming so far, this looks to be a very good FANTASIA year.

  17. Matt Dinn

    I’ve cut back this year as well and may cut off altogether after this year. The prices have gotten insane and I seem to always have no luck with the lottery/random selection and am hampered in my choices for the already expensive price I’ve paid. I love the Festival, it’s something I look forward to every year. But I’m reaching the point where I’m not sure the price justifies it.

  18. I’ve had going to TIFF as a bucket list goal, but if the prices keep going up like this, by the time I could actually make it up there, it’ll be even less feasible. Since I largely just want to meet all the Toronto bloggers, maybe I should just get a Lightbox schedule and head up during a cool retrospective, see some classics and hang out with you guys over beers, and call it a success.

    Incidentally, doing the 10 ticket/$200 = $20 a ticket math made me wonder how this compared to TCM Fest, which I think is expensive ($20 a ticket walkup; I couldn’t afford it without a press pass). Looks like the main pass to TCM Fest was $549 this year, which lets you into every screening except the opening night gala (to get that, you have to get the $699 pass – not even press passes let you in there without special clearance, which I have never gotten). But it’s hard to compare, because TCM Fest is only four days, but the pass lets you into anything, no pre-reserved tickets or lottery system.

    • The TIFF public ticket package process/lottery is complex for the neophyte (only Cannes is more labyrinthine in the TOP list of Festivals), but once you are done with it, and the festival starts, you are at least in the clear to just attend and enjoy the films.

      I switched from P&I screenings back to public tickets in 2011 because even if most of the P&I screenings are walk-right-in access, the high-profile screenings generally require a arrive very early queuing line. (In contrast, I just sail into the public screenings, regardless of venue or populating at the last minute, thus allowing easily for 5 screening days with no fuss if I’m solo.)

      • That is true, at the fests here you have to spend some amount of time waiting in line (though TCM Fest is scheduled in such a way that you wouldn’t really be able to see more films even if you weren’t in line). I guess I just like the freedom of being able to change my mind. This year I waffled on one time slot until that morning.

    • Don Marks

      I think you can only reasonably fit in around 16 screenings at TCM Fest (I only managed 14, myself), making it quite a bit more expensive than TIFF.

      Anyone know how much NYFF tickets generally go for? I think that’s a more valid point of comparison pricing-wise than some of the smaller festivals that have been mentioned. Of course, NYFF runs with a much smaller selection of titles, whereas TIFF’s huge programme seems designed for the kind of binging that the prices no longer support.

      • Many of us in Toronto have become VERY accustomed to binge-watching 50+ films in September during TIFF. It’s quite the menu of options, but the cost of doing so keeps rising out of step with inflation.

  19. is TIFF kinda self-destroying this year? Even with the higher cost I tried to buy a premium pack as today is the day for VISA holders and has yet to let me in. The regular pack of ten no problem. So I am now throwing my money at you and still not good enough. Premium packs says offsale and has been since they opened this morning.

    • That’s because they went offsale when they went onsale to members last week.

    • Premium Packages were offsale even when it was Member’s Only purchasing, this happened sometime within the second day of Member-Presales. Ouch.

  20. I miss the ability to edit comments… as I am always writing on the sly

  21. something to consider for those getting back half passes: “The new policy states that all films playing during the fest’s first four days, from Thursday through Sunday inclusive, must be either be a world or North American premiere. Films failing to meet these criteria will screen in the last week of the 11-day event.”

    reacting to Telluride last year… http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2014/06/26/tiff_vs_telluride_tussle_turns_movie_premieres_into_a_battle_of_wills_peter_howell_column.html

  22. Sanjay Rajput

    Sorry I’m a little late to this party. I got my 100 flex pass as normal. It didn’t hit me until later how much the price had gone up. TIFF is an annual vaca so I don’t mind splurging a little. But this will likely be my last, or second to last full TIFF :( I’ve read that Audi pulled out as a sponsor and a replacement hasn’t been found. The podcast is spot on about this feeling like a divorce.

    • Credit where it’s due, I made an ordering error and TIFF phoned me up this week to correct it – ending up saving me nearly a hundred bucks overall. That’s some good customer service, and it was wholly voluntary on their part.

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