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My TIFF 2015 Experience

And just like that, another Toronto International Film Festival season has come to a close. This was my second year as a volunteer at TIFF and the experience just keeps getting better and better. I was able to view a few films as well as gaze at a few celebrities from afar throughout the duration of the festival. Let’s just say there was never a dull moment.

Friday September 11th 2015 | Volunteer Shift #1: TIFF Bell Light Box 

Friday September 11th was the second day of the film festival and the first day of my volunteer shifts! I was situated at the TIFF Bell Light Box and participated in the role of “clicker counter” in which I literally clicked a little clicker while patrons entered the theatre. A simple task of great importance as keeping track of how many patrons have entered also allows theatre representatives to keep track of how many empty seats are left over within the theatre so that they can open them up to those waiting in the rush line outside. Everything Will Be Fine was screening at the time and Rachel McAdams herself even made an appearance (which I totally missed).

Overall, Friday consisted of a great first volunteer shift of the season!

Saturday September 12th 2015 | First Film + Volunteer Shift #2:
Winter Garden

On the first Saturday of the festival, I managed to see my first film of the season. That film was the Danish/German Land of Mine. I won’t say too much about it here as I did write a full review, but just know that it was insanely nerve-wracking and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The director of the film, Martin Zandvliet as well as the star of the film, Roland Møller, made an appearance to participate in a Q&A after the film which was a great thing to experience.


After the film it was time for my second volunteer shift of the festival, this time at the Winter Garden theatre. This was an incredibly busy night as there were two back to back premieres at this venue as well as at the Elgin theatre which is within the same building, making a total of four premieres in one night. Let’s just say this experience was a rather intense one. Within the Winter Garden where I was volunteering, one of the films premiering was Truth, starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid. Quite the star studded line up! Appearing at this film for it’s Q&A was Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Dan Rather (whom Robert Redford portrays in the film), all of whom I was able to admire from afar while guarding some exit doors within the theatre.

Afterwards, the second premiere to air approximately 15 minutes later was Into The Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood. I was also able to view this film while volunteering from within the theatre. I didn’t write a full review as I did miss the first 15-20 minutes of the film and I didn’t feel I should be writing a review without seeing the film in its entirety. From what I was able to see though, it was very well acted and it told a rather powerful story. Appearing at this premiere was Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page who I once again was able to view from afar while guarding some exit doors.

I must say that the Winter Garden theatre is one of the nicest venues throughout the entire festival even though it is quite literally a “winter” garden. The place tends to get pretty chilly. Overall, I must say volunteering at the Winter Garden during the first week of the festival is definitely beneficial if you want to spot some celebrities while also working in a beautiful environment.

Wednesday September 16th 2015 | Volunteer Shift #3: Elgin

As you may have noticed, I skipped a few days of volunteering/seeing films at the festival. I had a pretty busy Sunday which left no room for film watching/volunteering and I’m also balancing a full time job so I didn’t want to over-do myself by going to late night shifts/films on a work night. I did break this little rule though on Wednesday September 16th because I thought why not? It’s the middle of the week, I’ve had two days off…I can do this! Oh boy was I exhausted after that. After working for a full day at my full time job, I commuted straight from work to the Elgin theatre where I was a volunteer from 6 until midnight. By the time I commuted home it was 1 AM and I needed to be up at 6 for work the next day. It was exhausting, but well worth it.

This Wednesday evening called for two films, both followed by an extended Q&A after the film which run for about 30-45 minutes as part of TIFF’s Platform Program. The first of these films was Sky, starring Diane Krueger, Norman Reedus & Lena Dunham. Funny story, as I was walking in the back entrance of the Elgin for my volunteer shift I saw Norman Reedus nonchalantly having a smoke break outside. The thing is, a couple of years ago I may have been a little star struck but I’ve already met him twice at Fan Expo for a fan photo op 3-4 years ago and I saw him around the convention centre in 2014 & earlier this September at this years con. I honestly feel as though he’s a local at this point. So when are you moving to Toronto Norman?

I only had the chance to see the last 15 minutes of Sky which kind of ruined the entire film in terms of spoilers. It still looked like a great film and I hope to watch it from start to finish sometime soon! I also was only able to watch the last 15 minutes of The Clan which aired directly after Sky and that also unfortunately ruined the ending of the film. However, before seeing the ending I was pretty indifferent about watching The Clan as it didn’t seem like something that would interest me. Well let me tell you that the second I walked into that theatre to guard the doors, I could not take my eyes off of the screen. The Clan grabbed my intention instantly, especially when it used Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks in a very juxtaposing manner.

Overall, Norman Reedus is a fantastic human and I hope to watch Sky soon and judging from the last 15 minutes of The Clan, it seems like a must-watch.

Friday September 18th 2015 | Volunteer Shift #4: Elgin

Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed working at the Elgin/Winter Garden theatres? Both of these venues are gorgeous and have a certain elegance and appeal to them. Friday was my last shift at this venue which was pretty sad, but it definitely ended with a bang!

There were two films playing during my shift, the first being The Family Fang, starring Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman, who also directed the film. I did not have the opportunity to watch this one as it had already started before my shift began, but I was able to see the last 15 minutes as I guarded a theatre exit. Spoiler alert! Seeing the ending kind of ruined the movie for me unfortunately, but that’s just the nature of volunteering at TIFF. I still would  like to see the film in its entirety though as the ending was rather intriguing.

Next up was a premiere red carpet screening of Angry Indian Goddesses. Once again I was only able to see the introduction with director Pan Nalin, who gave an amazing thanks to the volunteers which I really appreciated, and the final 15 minutes. From what I had heard, this film was mostly an upbeat comedy, but from the last 15 minutes I would never have guessed it. It definitely took a serious turn.

Overall, the shout out to the volunteers from director Pan Nalin was very touching and very much appreciated! Judging by the endings to both of these films, they seem like films I would definitely love to watch in the near future.

Saturday September 19th 2015 | Volunteer Shift #4: ACE

Good ol’ ACE shifts. An ACE shift basically means as a volunteer, you will sit in the ACE lounge and if any of the theatres are short volunteers or need extra help they will make a call to the ACE lounge for your help. Basically, you could end up anywhere! Typically, these are more beneficial towards the start of the festival as a lot of theatres are super busy and need all of the help that they can get. ACE shifts are a great opportunity to explore new venues and to learn more about them before next year’s festival.

My mistake this year was scheduling an ACE shift at the end of the festival. By the final weekend, no one really needs help anymore and all of the premieres have basically come and gone. If an ACE sits in the ACE lounge for two hours without being placed, they get signed out early. For the most part, this is not such a bad deal as you still get all of the vouchers you’ve earned plus you now have time to go catch a film! The downside is, by the end of the festival you’re most likely exhausted. Instead of catching an extra film I decided to just head home as I was completely exhausted and would have definitely fallen asleep in a dark theatre.

Therefore, not too much happened on the final Saturday although I did get to see one of my friends from a previous job who also had the same ACE shift as me…even if we did just take a nap in the ACE lounge the entire time we were waiting.

Sunday September 20th 2015 | Volunteer Shift #6: TIFF Bell Light Box

Sunday brings the final day of the festival. Most films have already premiered and the atmosphere is slowly winding down. Sunday also brought my last shift, which was also one of the longest I had signed up for at a total of 7 hours. I was located once again at the TIFF Bell Light Box, ending the festival where I had began. The TIFF Bell Light Box has multiple screening rooms so there were quite a few films screening within the 7 hours that I was there. Those films included: The Wait, Land Of Mine, The Club, The Clan, Casual, Hurt, Les Cowboys, Rabin-The Last Day, The Other Side, The Event & Starve Your Dog.

I ended up working Cinema 1 which was showing screenings of The Club & The Clan (which made it really fun to make sure everyone in line had the right tickets…). I worked as a clicker counter when patrons were entering the screening of The Club which basically means I was just clicking a button to keep count of the amount of people who entered the cinema, a task in which I have proven to be quite good at.

Next up was The Clan. As you may remember from one of my previous shifts, I had already seen that last fifteen minutes of The Clan and I was so intrigued I knew I needed to see the film in its entirety as soon as possible. Lucky me, I was chosen to usher the film which basically means I get to stand inside the theatre throughout the whole film while also obviously helping patrons to their seats, to the bathroom etc. Good thing The Clan was as mesmerizing as it was because no one got up throughout the whole film and I was able to watch the film without interruption. My shift technically ended before the film did, but I politely asked if it was okay if I stayed in order to finish the film. My volunteer captain was more than okay with it as long as I was okay to stay longer and I finally had the opportunity to see another film, one that I really wanted to see no less! You can find my review here.

Although Sunday consisted of a long shift, I was able to see a film that I was really hoping to see! The benefits of volunteering!


And thus the festival came to an end. It’s a sad time for movie buffs like myself, but it was yet another fantastic experience nonetheless. I made many new friends and had many great conversations discussing the world of film! It is a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by people who love film just as much as you do and who are all eager to discuss their experiences and the films they were able to see! I will definitely without a doubt be volunteering again next year and hopefully for many more years to come!


38 thoughts on “My TIFF 2015 Experience

  1. First, as someone who was at TIFF – thank you for volunteering.
    Second, I was at the premiere of Into the Forest!
    I was actually in the row that had to be evacuated toward the end of the lady’s medical emergency.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know! Well, I do know. It’s a big theatre, and it was during the movie so they tried to keep it quiet. It was one of the back rows on the ground floor of the theatre. The row in front of us had been reserved, I think for the rising directors, but no one showed, so at some point during the movie, a bunch of volunteers sat there. But a woman in our row was having some sort of trouble, and there was a big whispered exchange, and then I think a house doctor was called in, and then we all had to file out of our row to let this woman be assisted out. So I just watched the rest of the movie standing up in the back, and then eventually sat back down for the Q&A. It was weird.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow! I watched the film for the back as well, but I had to stand back in my position 15 minutes before the ending so I was standing by the exit doors on the left hand side of the stage. I can’t believe I missed all of that! Wow


  3. Hi! I came across this blog because I was researching about TIFF volunteer experiences. I’m planning on applying this year, but I’m feeling nervous about the application & interview process and slightly worried that I might give a stupid answer in the application form that definitely won’t grant me an interview. I just want to ask, what was that process like? Was it easy, or are they really picky about the volunteers they hire?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Yay! I’m glad you’re interested in applying to volunteer at TIFF! I was definitely really nervous about the application and interview process when I first joined the TIFF volunteer team as well! I can guarantee that there is no stupid answer that you could give! The application itself is really just so they can get some basic information about you. The interview process afterwards was basically about 3-5 questions if I remember correctly! They set up a bunch of chairs on a stage after a large crowd of potential volunteers goes through the orientation session. So it’s not just you and a TIFF representative alone in a room together, it’s a bunch of people sitting in a huge theatre! The process was super easy and very calm and fun, not strict at all! They need about 5,000 volunteers every year so I don’t think they turn many people down unless they have a very good reason to. I would say that it was definitely an easy process! I volunteer by myself every year and at first, I was really nervous about going through the process and everything all on my own, but this year will be my third year volunteering alone and it is definitely one of the best experiences! I wouldn’t worry about it at all! Just fill out the application truthfully and you should get into the orientation session and small interview portion without a problem! Good luck! 😀


      1. Oh wow, that’s not bad! They call you in for orientation before the interview? Doesn’t that mean you already have the job? Also, do you remember what questions they asked during the interview? And last question, sorry I have so many… Do they actually call your references when reviewing the form?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So basically they email you and say something along the lines of “we’re interested in having you as a part of the volunteer session!” and then they kind of explain what TIFF is all about on the big theatre screen. In that presentation they talk about the different theatre venues and the different volunteer jobs. Then they give you this handout where you get to choose two volunteer options that you would be interested in volunteering for. Then they call you up for the interview process. It does seem a little backwards now that I think about it, but I think the interview portion is just to make sure you’re the right person for those specific venues/jobs that you selected. But basically after they ask you the questions, you wait for another email to come through soon after that says they have approved you for the volunteer jobs you checked off. I think once you get into that orientation, you’re basically approved as a volunteer but they need to figure out where to place you. I can’t recall the questions unfortunately, I’m sorry about that, it was two years ago for me and my memory is lame haha, but I don’t remember them being difficult questions at all. It was a very short process as they need to get through quite a few people. I’m also not too sure if they called my references, neither of them mentioned it to me. I hope this helps and feel free to ask more questions! 🙂


      3. Yes, your answers have helped a lot. Not only that, it also helped get rid of my nervousness a little bit. I actually don’t know if I’m still able to apply now because they need a professional supervisor reference, and the junior managers I work with a lot at work aren’t allowed to be references. Only the senior manager can, but I never work with her so I doubt she knows enough about me to be my reference. Do you think they will still take me into consideration if I don’t have a supervisor as my reference?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’m glad I helped erase your nerves a little! Really? They only ask for a supervisor now? I could have sworn I remembered different options, like a manager or something like that as well! I would still apply anyway! You never know! 🙂


      5. Yeah, it’s mandatory to either put a current/former supervisor or co worker. My job now doesn’t give out references so I just put 2 church leaders as my references. Anyway, I don’t think I got it. I was just checking Twitter, and there have been tweets about getting accepted so yeah 😦 I just wish they would send me a rejection email or whatever just so I know what’s going on. Orientation is next month, and people are already signing up I think so I’m really bummed. I was really wishing I got accepted.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. aw no, I’m so sorry it didn’t end up working out 😦 but there’s always next year!


      7. honestly, I can’t remember exactly, but I would say sometime in August 🙂


      8. Well, they just announced the majority of the lineup so this is exciting!! 😅 But I heard first year volunteers don’t get many options for shifts? Like we don’t get to go to the main theatres. I’ve heard we only get 2 options: TIFF Lightbox & Scotiabank Theatre.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. you still get all of the options but because the returning volunteers get to choose first, a lot of the other locations get filled up fast. Because the TIFF lightbox and scotiabank theatres need a lot of volunteers, those positions don’t usually fill up quite as fast. My first year I did the scotiabank theatre and ACE shifts! I highly recommend getting those ACE shifts cause you never know where you’ll end up and you could discover a great theatre! That’s how I discovered the Elgin/Winter Garden theatres and I’ve been volunteering there ever since! 🙂


      10. Yes I have 😁 when you choose an ACE shift you basically report to the volunteer lounge where you wait until a venue calls for help. If they are overwhelmed and need more volunteers or if some don’t show up, the ACE shift volunteers are there to save the day! 😊


      11. Lucky!! Where did you sign up to be, and do you know what movies you’ll be doing? I’m curious to know where the premieres will be, but I don’t think they gave out that kind of info to the public. Thanks for the advice! I’ll for sure take an ACE shift😊

        Liked by 1 person

      12. I signed up for the Elgin/Winter Garden and the TIFF Bell Lightbox! 🙂 They usually say where the premieres will be when they release the schedule! They’re usually at Roy Thomson Hall, Princess of Whales or Elgin/Winter Garden, but you never know! 🙂


      13. I prefer it for sure! It’s less crowded and crazy and some really great films are shown there! It’s definitely a better atmosphere in my opinion 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Well, it’s official! I’m a volunteer! But I don’t get to pick my shifts til next week so I’m pretty sure all the good spots will be gone. Anyway, am I only allowed to take shifts from the venues I get placed in?

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Congrats!!! 😀 I just picked my shifts today! Yes, they will only make the shifts that you were approved for availble to you when signing up! and ACE shifts 🙂


      16. Oh, nice! Do you know which premieres or whatever you’ll be helping out with, or is it just a time & place right now?

        During orientation, they gave us all the venues for options so I’m hoping they’re actually open.

        Liked by 1 person

      17. No idea yet! I’ll have to wait until the schedule comes out! I just picked the days that I was available to volunteer as I have a full time job and can’t do weekdays 😦 Good luck! I hope you get the venues that you chose!


      18. Yeah, I got the venues I chose! 🙂 It says I don’t need to attend the training sessions so I’m planning not to do it since I have work too. But do you know when/how we get our volunteer shirt?

        Liked by 1 person

      19. Yupp! Once you lock in at least 4 shifts and the deadline to choose and change shifts comes, they will email you and let you know when and where to pick up your shirt (usually at the TIFF bell lightbox on the left side of the elevator, but this location could change so don’t quote me on that haha)


  4. Hello! I’m thinking of applying for this years TIFF ,
    But I’m wondering what the schedule is like (is there work going on in the day, or evenings, and how many days would a volunteer attend of the whole festival? I just wasn’t sure if it possible to keep work alongside or not. I’d love to do as much as possible, but I’m also wondering about whether I would be able to work alongside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! That’s so exciting! It really is a fantastic experience! Pretty much all of the different venues have morning, afternoon and evening/night shifts throughout the entire festival! I work a full time job from 9-5 Monday to Friday and I was able to fit in a few evening / weekend shifts! Each volunteer is only required to work a 4 shift minimum so you could also just work both Saturdays and Sundays at the festival if you have a 9-5 job. Basically, it’s pretty accommodating to those who work full time/part time! Hopefully this helps! Feel free to ask any more questions if you need! 🙂


  5. Hello,
    I got approved to be a volunteer this year at TIFF, however, I am doing an intership in a different country and only arrive back on the last possible day of orientation (so I won’t be able to make it). Do you know if they would accomadate my needs to do it online or come the following day?


    1. Hello! I’m not sure, but I highly recommend contacting the TIFF volunteer office by email @! They’ll be able to answer your question properly! I hope this helps!


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