Photo by Paul Henman, used under Creative Commons License

A brave new world without dual-colored markers

We began attending the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2002. Being beginners, we took the easy road: the Visa Screening room, where you just show up at the same theatre at the same time for eight consecutive nights and watch whatever they put in front of you. We saw a few good ones and a few that were utter crap, so in 2003 we decided to try our hand at picking our films. This meant entering the lottery process.

The lottery was a complicated procedure: on Monday you were given a schedule, two colored markers, an envelope, and — if you wanted to shell out the extra bucks — a detailed programme book describing each film. You made two selections for each movie you’d purchased, coloring your first choice green and your second choice yellow, and dropped your completed form in a numbered box. Friday at noon you’d find out which box had been selected. On Monday — Labour Day — you’d line up somewhere (College Park, for most of my early years) stupid-ass early because you didn’t know how lucky or screwed you were. It was common to see people who’d drawn a late box, and therefore got few or none of the movies they’d wanted, sprawled out on a food court table or park bench poring furiously over schedules and programme books, hurriedly making hail-mary picks. It was nerve-wracking, but excited. Over the years they introduced email alerts to at least let people know in advance whether they needed to line up for replacement tickets, or whether all was well, which gave a lot of people back their holiday, but still kept people on pins and needles until the email arrived.

This was our tenth year taking part in the lottery. Only twice have we missed any picks, and it didn’t hurt us either time — we went 13/15 one year and 14/15 a few years later; every other year we’ve batted a thousand. But this year we cheated. We became donors.

See, donors get preferential treatment at lottery time. Sure, you get a lot of other TIFF-related perks too, but this was the big draw for us: having our picks processed before the rest of the lottery entrants. So we made our donation and waited for our early access window (more on that in a minute) and felt pretty smug.

However, the anti-smugness gods made themselves known when we, not thinking clearly, booked a camping trip on the weekend in which the donor-selection windows would fall. So, when it came time for us to log on to the TIFF website and make our picks (no more colored markers or envelope drop-offs or waiting-for-email stress!) we would be four hours away in a tent with (obviously) no internet connection. Son. Of. A Bitch. Oh well; we knew we’d get home early enough on Sunday that we could still make our picks before the bulk of the lottery entrants.

As (bad) luck would have it we’d end up back in the city earlier than we planned, so we were able to make our picks just a few hours after our intended window. The new process was incredibly easy, and using tiffr to make our picks is even easier (if a little more unwieldy) than when I used to scrape the TIFF website’s entire schedule and convert it to a spreadsheet. Anyway, all that to say: we got all five of our top picks this year, and the selection process took maybe three minutes. Awesome work, TIFF.

Just to be clear: the only reason we’re going to see Much Ado About Nothing is because Joss Whedon is directing it, and if there’s so much as a 1% chance she could be in the same room as her Messiah — even though it’s not the premiere — Nellie’s not passing that up. We’ve been burned **cough Young Adam cough** by this kind of thing **cough Diggers cough** before, so let’s hope it works out a little better this time.


Photo by Paul Henman, used under Creative Commons license

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