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By Kevin Park | September 19, 2001

First, I would like to send my deepest sympathies to those who have loved and lost in New York and my full respect to those volunteers working day and night. You are all heroes. Also, I would like to dedicate my writings to a mentor of mine, Mr. Bryan Charles, who, unlike so many others, made it out of the World Trade Center safely. Glad you’re still with us.
Right off the bat, before leaving my home heading towards Toronto, I knew I didn’t have press credentials through the festival. All I had going for me was the name recognition through Film Threat and my studly black hat. To my sadness, neither of those helped. My frumpy face was posted on the web page along with all the essentials of getting hold of me while I was in town and that didn’t help. I received one voicemail message from a sweet sounding woman going off on something exciting about her movie; sadly it was in French. I’m sure what she had to say was interesting, but I’ll never know.
I suckered two good friends of mine into going to Toronto with me. Since the three of us had never really experienced Toronto, we decided to take our first night and wander through the streets to grow familiar with our surroundings. We had no idea at the time that we were going to spend the remainder of the weekend in the same manor, just meandering through the streets helpless, bored and looking for something to do. Friday morning was spent mostly on trying to get hold of the publicists to let them know of our situation and what we needed to do to get in to see their movie. Many phone calls were ended shortly and many inquiries went unanswered (helpful hint: always go in person). Friday morning was also spent accidentally getting stuck in a revolving door with original Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings (we have yours truly to blame for that).
The biggest disappointment for me was my failing efforts for an interview with one of my favorite actors, Alan Arkin. I couldn’t get an interview because I hadn’t seen the film that he was there promoting. O.K., I can see the reasoning behind that, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve worn through copies of “The In-Laws” and “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” I’d have more questions for him than anyone at Variety, Entertainment Weekly or any of the other vultures out there who are just there for a few juicy photos.
With all the disappointment, we did manage to get our hands on a gala ticket for Hearts in Atlantis. That helped our outlook on the day, that is to say, until we saw the movie. Define Irony; we finally get our hands on the golden ticket and it’s just a piece of gold plated s**t (see my review).
By this time, we had spent so much of our day trying to get into galas and trying to reach publicists that we had missed most of the movies we wanted to see at the festival. After seeing Hearts in Atlantis, almost made me want to see another film again.
We did meet up with a group from who was using last years badges and a Canon XL1 to sneak into the after parties. Good plan, unfortunately for them an after party at Toronto is kind of like a law firm Christmas party: everyone important is there but no one wants to be there, everything is too expensive, and it’s just boring business talk. Luckily for us we met up with the guys behind the Planet Indie film festival and were shown a good time. Without them, Toronto would’ve been a waste.
From what I saw and from the conversations I was having (and listening into) everyone seems to have the same feeling about Toronto: It’s too big with nothing behind it. It’s a nice looking package with not a lot inside it. I felt more business then there was love of the cinema. They use the faces of the famous to promote the festival instead of using it to benefit the film. They target more to the blue hairs and the moneybags in Toronto who want to feel satisfied or important by talking to Kevin Kline or Ethan Hawke. I will admit that it is a great feeling to talk to someone of that stature, but Toronto as big as it is has forgotten that a festival’s main purpose is to deliver new films to those who love film. Those who care and push for festivals are those out there studying film and acting who do have something important to ask these people, who have deeper reasons for attending the festival and who struggle to learn the craft from these people.
I guess by the end of this there is a lesson to be learned: if you want to go to the Toronto Film Fest and want to see everything you can, don’t wait to the last minute. By the biggest deluxe package as soon in advance as you can and plan ahead of time what films to see. By doing this, you don’t have to wait in line and you don’t end up having to pay three times as much in a rush line. Or, in my case, if you want to have a good time, don’t wait until the last minute to get credentials. I hope to make it next year, and maybe next year I’ll get my Alan Arkin interview. Hell, maybe next year I’ll see some damn movies.
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