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TIFF Etiquette Guide

And we’re back! It’s TIFF, a genuinely electric and exciting time of year and an event that is massive in scope while still easily accessible. It’s a ten day spectacle from which people can enjoy a variety of experiences. That is to say, some seek star sightings, some endeavor galas and parties, while others want to take in the most movies possible, and many still look to escape for just a handful of films, hoping for the best.

It’s important to be prepared, not only so that you have the best experience, but so that you don’t ruin the experience others. In fact, reverse that – the experience of others far outweighs your experience. So please heed this handy and I think fair etiquette guide.


Dress Appropriately
Much of TIFF is spent standing in line, regardless of how important you are or how bad you want to see a movie starring Adam Sandler.

So make sure you’re dress properly. An endlessly cold and miserable winter gave way to a brief Spring and a completely disjointed Summer. Right now it’s disgustingly humid. Two weeks ago it hit single digits at night. Toronto is messed up, so check the weather. This means being versatile and maybe bringing a hat, a poncho, boots, scarves, sandals, the vest from The Big Lebowski or the papier-mâché head from Frank.

It’s whatever works, just make sure you’re comfortable, a task made all the more difficult because you’re going from an unpredictable climate –  a 15 minute downpour will give way to a blazing sun at some point – to one that is most certainly cold.

Don’t overdress so you become a sweaty and smelly mess in the sun, and take note of the rain so you’re not some soaking dog. This will make a tough go of watching a film for you and those poor fellows surrounding you.

Mind Your Food
It’s a big festival, so sure, you can eat your popcorn. But in the haste of running around and making it to theatres, you may be inclined to pick up a burrito or green curry or slabs of bacon or something irreconigzable that you heated up in your microwave. Chances are, it smells. And just like your own questionable odor, it’s easy to forget it’s there and bothering people.

If you’re in line outside, this is your opportunity to step aside and enjoy your Popeye’s chicken. However, do not under any circumstance bring any food into the theatre that is not popcorn, a chocolate bar, or vodka.

Stand Properly
As mentioned, TIFF is about standing in lines. You’d think it’s easy, but you’d be surprised. Allow me to help.

Standing in line is entering a tacitly agreed upon social contract. Your place is your place, so no need to stand six inches from the person in front of you. Conversely, let’s keep the line moving, because you better believe it’s going all the way around the corner and into traffic. That is why you must stay alert, so don’t lose yourself in your phone or your music lest you lose your place. Think of it like an online timer when you buy tickets – if all yours, just don’t wander off.

What’s more (for Rushers), you’re either getting into the film or you’re not, and just like waiting for a streetcar, you gain no more control by stepping out and looking on ahead. You just look ridiculous.

Know what to do during a Q&A.
I encourage you all to read Andrew Parker’s what not to ask. I will add one suggestion: if you’re not certain your question is worthy, it’s not, so sit down and keep quiet.

Respect the Staff
Just like the Q&A,, chances are is one are volunteers have had to deal with the same few couples all day, every day.  “Is this the line for…?” “Do you think I’ll get in..?” It probably gets a little frustrating. Throw in the fact that they have a chance to rush films and are often too busy or too tired to do so  – it’s not an easy beat. So be nice, and rest assured that they will take care of you and let you know what they know. And sometimes, no one knows.

Respect the Rush
This is tricky. Those who are rushing in should do so hastily and quickly, taking the first available seat and not scrounging around using whispers or lights to find the way.

At the same time, those who’ve already made it in early need not be smug or flippant about those rushing. When you’re going to a TIFF film, this is the agreement you’re entering on.

As a corollary, if you know you’re bolting for the Q and A, ensure you get a seat with easy access to the exit, lest it gets awkward when the credits roll.

Your Phone – Just Stop.
If your phone comes out in a theatre, if it lights up, vibrates, or rings; if you are looking at it when you’re given a signal by an usher; if you’re texting and tweeting and your gait is thus slowed by any margin; if for reasons unknown you think capturing the moment is more important than actually living it, then your phone is liable to become smashed, thrown, confiscated, stolen, or eaten.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.