You’ve done your research and you have your choice of films to see. Now what?

This is a guide for first time TIFF-goers. I’m sure fellow TIFF vets can relate :) Feel free to share in the comments if you have any to add!


(Crowd waits for celebs to walk the red carpet at the Elgin Theatre)

  • To say that the line-ups are long would be an understatement. Let’s see… there’s the ticket pick-up line at the TIFF Box Office (225 King St. W) (if you managed to buy your tix online or over the phone) which is usually about 2-3 hours during the first few days. And then there’s your actual movie line. My first time attending TIFF, I foolishly thought it would be like any other movie and planned to be there 30 minutes prior. BIG MISTAKE! You need to be at your venue at least an hour prior, especially if your screening is in the evening. For obvious reasons, most lines will be shorter the earlier you go! No matter what, leave ample amounts of time in between screenings.
  • You will be hungry and thirsty. Look at it this way: Your film (let’s say 2 hours) + waiting time (1.5 hours) + Q&A after the movie (20 mins) + getting out of the theatre (10 mins) = at least 4 hours without eating. And that’s if you ate something right before you headed over to your venue. I don’t know about you, but that’s too long for me! Make sure you eat lots of protein, complex carbs (you’ll need your energy) and veggies! Of course, always stay hydrated and keep a reusable water bottle with you. Most venues have a water fountain that you can use to refill your bottle. Liquids are otherwise not permitted in the venues.
  • You may be overdressed. Since it’s your first time, you probably think most people attending the films will have “red carpet looks” – they don’t. Well, what’s everyone wearing, then? Their regular clothes! always choose comfortable clothes during TIFF (and I learned that the hard way). You’ll be sitting down for 2-3 hours, waiting in line and possibly running around town catching movies. You need comfy shoes + clothes! I’m not saying  you have to look like a slob, just don’t go overboard and wear a gown to a movie thinking you’ll fit right in. If you want to wear a gown and you don’t care what anyone thinks or how uncomfortable you are – then go for it! Also – bring a jacket if you’re catching a movie at night. By the time your movie finishes, you will be freezing! Learned this the hard way, too.
  • Your phone will die and you will panic. If you’re the type to tweet + instagram your TIFF adventures (and why would’t you), be prepared and bring a charger with you. You can fight other TIFF-ers at Starbucks for the outlet if you’d like, or maybe you’ll get lucky and find a charging station! I haven’t found any this year yet (usually there is one near the Box Office), so if you’ve spotted one, let me know! My big tip is to actually turn off your phone during the movie (not just on silent of airplane mode)!


(Yonge/Dundas during TIFF, taken in 2009)

Final piece of advice? TAKE IT ALL IN! TIFF is the best time of the year in Toronto. There are celebs walking around (you’re bound to run into one or two!), tourists excited about visiting Toronto and seeing films from around the world. Try not to get caught up in the little things that might stress you out. Get to know the people you’re in line with – you’d be surprised how friendly everyone is! Enjoy and give yourself time to reflect on the films you saw :)

Please let me know if you found this helpful! These are the exact tips I share with my friends when they ask me about going to TIFF for the first time, so I would appreciate it if you let me know if you found it helpful! You can do that by commenting below or sharing this post! Or if you’re a TIFF vet and can relate, or have any to add, please do so :) 

Thanks for reading! Happy TIFF!

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  • Megan Barnecutt

    Wish I had seen this before Tiff ’13 – but I’ll file it away for next year! Cheers!