Despite my TIFF absence this year, I got a bit of a fix thanks to my friend A. M. Matte’s recount of her (mis-)adventures one festival evening. An enlightening and hilarious read on the behind the scenes of a big TIFF event. Thanks for sharing your words with me and my readers, chère amie! 😉
If you’d like to read more from A. M. Matte, click here and/or follow her on Twitter @ammatte
Ms. Watts will have to forgive me; I live where TIFF is born, bred and thrives every year – Toronto – and I haven’t attended a TIFF film in eight years. I haven’t ever been to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, even though it’s only about ten minutes from where I live. I don’t celebrity-chase; I barely celebrity-recognize.
But when came the opportunity to be an extra at a TIFF Entertainment One event this week, I jumped at the chance. (Ok, I mildly applied at the chance – it was a paid gig after all – but it wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t get accepted.) The job? “We need 25 ‘guards’ for a TIFF event. You will be part of the eOne Army, a sort of Hunger Games vibe.” Huh? “Dress in black; some extra costume pieces provided.”
I’ll spare you the details of how I struggled through black dresses, semi-black sandals, black dress pants (really? I don’t own black jeans? good to know.) and black – salt-stained – boots only to end up at the venue in anything but my own clothes (men’s size nine combat boots, anyone?). The assignment was, literally, to act as army guards, in eOne tshirts, hats, boots and glowstick, and stand still outside, along the blue carpet, as guests made their way up to the Moss Park Barracks in downtown Toronto, which had been turned into a gala-worthy event replete with trendy food, drink, decoration and music.
Or so I assume. It’s not like I got to set foot inside the party.
Who did set foot up the blue carpet was a glitter of TV and film stars, some of which I actually recognized – the cast of Rookie Blue, the cast of Trailer Park Boys, Jason Priestly, Omar Epps, Laura Vandervoort, Jian Gomeshi, Michael Seater, Don McKellar (ok, I didn’t recognize all of them, Google helped a little) – and most of which who seemed suitably affected by the vibe our presence created.
For four hours, 28 “enthusiastic, clean cut and reliable” – part of the job description – young people stood at attention outside the eOne event in order to set a scene of a highly-guarded, exclusive, and perhaps a little dangerous, party. Let’s just say the enthusiasm waned pretty quickly and we wished we hadn’t been so reliable after all.
Do you know how exhausting it is to stand still, feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind your straightened back? I didn’t. “At ease, soldier” is hardly easy. Basically, at ease is “a position of “rest” (my sarcastic quotation marks) in which soldiers may “relax” (ibid), but cannot leave their places or talk.” My shoulder muscles ached, my feet were stiff, my brain was bored after counting the windows in the building across the street about five times (what else can you do when you can’t talk* or move?).
But the glitterati was impressed. That’s a direct quote. “Impressive!” said some. “So fascist,” said another (no joke), “eOne goes military.”
“Looks like they could just pellet you.”
Even Rookie Blue’s Enuka Okuna was intimidated by our presence, “You guys make it look so official!” and she plays a cop on TV.
*Wait, did I say we couldn’t talk? Well, we weren’t supposed to, but when stars and their entourage ask a direct question, it’s rude not to answer, right?
GLITTERATI: Are you guys military, or acting?
NOT-SO-STOIC-OR-SILENT-GUARD (me): (whispered) Acting.
GLITTERATI: Very good job.
NOT-SO-STOIC-OR-SILENT-GUARD: (subtle head-nod of acknowledgement)
GLITTERATI: Are you guys allowed to smile?
NOT-SO-STOIC-OR-SILENT-GUARD: (whispered) Not really.
GLITTERATI: What happens if you try to run?
NOT-SO-STOIC-OR-SILENT-GUARD: (whispered) You get shot, I guess.
GLITTERATI: Shouldn’t you have weapons?
NOT-SO-STOIC-OR-SILENT-GUARD: (weakly and unimpressively show tiny glowstick)
After nearly three hours of standing “at ease” in my plastic-bag-stuffed oversize boots, I got a 15-minute break (thank the TIFF gods) during which I stretched, and scrambled to find a pen with which to scribble a few notes on the evening. It felt luxurious to lounge around on an orange plastic chair, sharpie and lined paper in hand, just steps away from the glitz and glamour (we were not to enter the actual party; the staging area was our break room). Rarely have I been so grateful for loose leaf paper. Rarely have I been so grateful to downward dog.
Another hour at attention and the increasingly uncomfortable ‘army’ was disbanded. We didn’t march with dignity into the night, we didn’t parade away as we had arrived. We heaved a collective gasp of relief, broke rank and shuffled off – did I mention my five-sizes-too-big boots? – to collect our well-deserved honoraria.
If anything, I’m now going to try a bit harder to make it to TIFF affairs. After all, they are right next door. But it won’t be to star-gaze or to take selfies on whatever-colour-is-trending carpet. It’ll be to catch the eye of the staff, extras and literal working stiffs who make the Toronto International Film Festival the amazing event it is, and salute them.