For the first of our multipart series we thought we’d tackle the most important aspect of the festival, actually going. The very top complaint I hear is that the ticket process is confusing, or that you “wouldn’t know what to see”.  Here we hope to resolve those two issues.

Beyond the guide, and throughout the festival, we’re happy to answer any further questions in comments, by email, or you can find us on twitter: @ChantelleJoy & @Anzi!

Getting Tickets

Sure, the TIFF Ticket process might seem intimidating, and with nearly a dozen packages available, and hundreds of films at even more screenings, How Do?

The Official Festival Ticket Wizard is alright, I guess…but it doesn’t give you the most important info you’ll need right up front. I’ll give you the same advice I give most people; you really only have two options (and actually, if you’re just looking into it now, kind of only one).

First thing is first – the complete Film Schedule isn’t available until August 20th.

Secondly, most people will either buy Single Tickets or a Flex Pack.

If you want to buy individual tickets to a specific showtime for a specific film, your choice is easy – then go ahead and wait till September 1st, that’s when single tickets go on-sale. It’s that simple!


But, not nearly that easy. You can either go in-person to the festival box office (Go early, as many people will camp out for the entire night before to get a spot in line.). Or, you could always go online at 9:00am and fight the internet masses for a spot in (what we have lovingly nicknamed) Virtual Waiting Room Purgatory, for probably at least an hour. It doesn’t have to be all stress and sadness though, you could always just wait till later in the day, if you getting your exact selections is not life-or-death.

If you want to buy a pack of tickets, and select your showtimes in advance of the Regular Public on-sale, you’ll want to get a Flex Pack. You have to buy your package far in advance of when the schedule is available, like July early. Sadly, they’re already mostly sold out, only the Daytime pack remains.
* Updated to add: Sadly the Daytime Packs are now Sold-Out as well.
But here’s what your options were:


Anytime Flex Pack – Select up to four tickets per regular screening.
Available in packs of 10, up to 100 tickets.>
Premium Flex Pack – Select up to four tickets per Premium screening.
Available in 6 or 12 packs.

Back Half Pack* – Select up for four tickets per regular screening, during the second half of the festival.

Daytime Pack* – Select up for four tickets per regular screening that takes place before 5:01pm each day.

If you’ve purchased a Flex Pack, you’ll get an email on August 19th giving you a ticket selection start time, before which you wont’t be able to log in to select your screenings.The ticket selections start August 27th, and the deadline to pick your options is 7pm, August 30th.

*Ticket selection for these packs is Sept 2nd.

Sure, some TIFF Members get to make their picks before August 27th, and other package folks may get a selection start time ahead of you – so you’ll probably not get everything you want, but don’t fret. I nearly always get to see every film I want to, here’s how I do it.

Chantelle’s Ticket Acquisition Tips

1) Be Flexible. Study the film schedule and make your ideal personal itinerary, and then back-up itineraries that will work in multiple scenarios, so if one screening sells out you can try for another. (I highly suggest trying TIFFr for your scheduling needs).

2) Be Diligent. Re-Check for tickets Every. Single. Day. They update inventory every morning at 7am for all screenings, and I can personally vouch that Sold-Out screenings sometimes go back on-sale. We’ve managed to score early morning tickets several times.

3) Stay Informed. Stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist & Kijiji: people sell/trade tickets *all the time*

4) Rush Early. Lots of people depend on Rush tickets, and I doubt there’s been many screenings that don’t have at least a few seats open up very last minute. So, you’ll need to get there early. Like, at least an hour in advance, more like maybe two.

Finally, a quick note about ticket pricing/types.
There are two ticket prices: Regular ($23.50) and Premium ($45.00), and three types of screenings:

Gala: The big-name movies, prime-time screenings and top-notch venues. The first screening of films in this program are always Premium Price, and often the second screening too. Expect cast & crew, but do not expect a Q&A, it’s a growing rarity at these events.

Special Presentation: These are also usually larger, more popular films, and are sometimes at larger venues, but aren’t always Premium priced. Only if they expect a Red-Carpet event (cast & crew attendance, and/or Q&A afterwards) do they tag it as Premium, otherwise it’s the Regular price.

Regular Screening: Just because you’re not paying extra, doesn’t mean you won’t get extras. I’ve found that lots of directors or writers like to attend the regular screenings to interact with the audience. Once in a while you’ll get an actor or two along for the ride!


Festival Programmes

Ok, so the time has come to select your movies. Not everyone has the time to obsessively watch for every press release that TIFF makes announcing films, or for checking and re-checking the schedule for last-minute additions. It might even be the day that tickets go on sale before you even decide if you want to see something this year. So you bring up The Schedule and – oh lawd, it is massive! How on earth to decide what to see? The festival programmers have given an answer in the form of a variety of Festival Programmes, to better sort though the volume of media. But for the first-timer or novice those categories can still be a bit inexplicable. So here is my best attempt at breaking them down into layman’s terms, to better help you decide how you’ll spend your festival.

**Note that for additional confusion some films will be in multiple categories. It makes a bit more sense though if you look at the ticket descriptions again. A movie in the TIFF Docs category could also be a Special Presentation.

First, the most popular Programmes, here are the ones that you’ve probably heard of.

Gala Presentations
TIFF Definition: “Movie stars. Red carpet premieres. Major audience interest.”
Layman’s Terms: These are the fancy-pants ones, the showings that are most akin to (and in some cases are) World Premiers. Everybody in the film that can make to to Toronto shows up in their finest to present the movie. Usually Hollywood Blockbuster/Oscar Contenders.
Be sure to see our upcoming Venue Guide for how to best enjoy these showings.
Previous Years Examples: Looper (the opening night movie), Silver Linings Playbook, A Royal Affair, Argo

Special Presentations
TIFF Definition: “High-profile premieres and the world’s leading filmmakers.”
Layman’s Terms: The festival programmers have word that at least one big name (usually the director) will be there, but not enough star power guaranteed that they can bill it as a Gala. The first showing of a film is also usually its Special Presentation, so it’s a great chance at both celeb pics and a Q&A
Previous Years Examples: Cloud Atlas, The Hunt, Laurence Anyways

Contemporary World Cinema
TIFF Definition: “Compelling stories, global perspectives.”
Layman’s Terms: World premiers for foreign cinema. A good place to see the future Best Foreign Language Film winner at the next Academy Awards.
Previous Years Examples: Three Worlds, When I Saw You

TIFF Definition: “The latest from the world’s most influential arthouse filmmakers.”
Layman’s Terms: Hard-hitting, non-mainstream work that might get missed if it doesn’t make it to standard theatre release. This isn’t these filmmakers first Rodeo, in fact, they’ve probably been to TIFF before.
Previous Years Examples: Amour, Like Someone In Love, In Another Country

Midnight Madness
TIFF Definition: “The wild side: midnight screenings of the best in action, horror, shock and fantasy” cinema.
Layman’s Terms: If you like movies where things (and people) explode, then this is the place for you. Very exclusive set of 10 films. Come prepared for a rowdy crowd and some bloody good fun! Oh, and they all premier at Midnight.
Previous Years Examples: DREDD 3D, Seven Psychopaths, The Lords of Salem

TIFF Definition: “Provocative, sexy… possibly dangerous. This is what’s next.”
Layman’s Terms: Think of it as Midnight Madness’ younger sibling, a place for films that make you groan, but can have substance to them.
Previous Years Examples: Sightseers, Pusher, Berberian Sound Studio

And the ones you probably haven’t;

TIFF Definition: “Engaging on-stage conversations with leaders in the film industry and beyond.”
Layman’s Terms: Excellent Q&As in store with dedicated filmmakers that love their craft and the audiences.
Previous Years Examples: The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Chinese Zodiac

TIFF Definition: “Candid and unscripted: the best non-fiction cinema from around the world.”
Layman’s Terms: Documentaries! Possibly some of the best Q&As too, a great opportunity to ask about what was left on the cutting room floor.
Previous Years Examples: The Act of Killing, anything by Werner Herzog

Contemporary World Speakers
TIFF Definition: “Watch, experience, and participate in post-screening discussions with film directors and subject experts.”
Layman’s Terms: 5 films from the Contemporary World Cinema programme are assigned expert scholrs from the Munk School, to discuss the film subject matters, and their relationships to the world around us.
Previous Years Examples: Nope, this one is brand new! Be the first to brag about going!

TIFF Definition: “Daring, visionary and autonomous voices. Films that expand our notions of cinema.”
Layman’s Terms: One of the rare situations where the festival calls out for submissions from the filmmaers drectly – they are looking for the avant-guard, the unexpected, the challenging. Next year maybe you can show your film at TIFF!
Previous Years Examples: Far From Afghanistan, The Lebanese Rocket Society

Short Cuts Canada
TIFF Definition: “The best short films from emerging and established Canadian filmmakers.”
Layman’s Terms: Short films, usually packaged in bulk so you can sit back and absorb a bunch all at once.
Previous Years Examples: Shit Girls Say

TIFF Definition: “Directors to watch. The future of world cinema.”
Layman’s Terms: Up-and-coming new film makers, the newcomers to the scene that TIFF Programmers want to shine a spotlight on.
Previous Years Examples: Fill The Void, Eat Sleep Die

City to City
TIFF Definition: “Bringing international cities to Toronto audiences. A snapshot of where’s hot right now.”
Layman’s Terms: Giving you the chance to see what’s trending elsewhere. This year the focus will be Athens, Greece.
Previous Years Examples: Mumbai was the focus in 2012. Miss Lovely, Ship of Theseus

TIFF Cinematheque
TIFF Definition: “Curated gems from the history of Canadian and international cinema.”
Layman’s Terms: Old favourites, polished and brought back to the big screen.
Previous Years Examples: Dial M For Murder, Tess

Future Projections
TIFF Definition: “Taking the moving image from the cinema to the gallery — and beyond.”
Layman’s Terms: Taking contemporary art and presenting it on film. And taking the films out of the festival and into the city.
Previous Years Examples: Peaches Does The Drake

TIFF Definition: “For the next generation of movie lovers: selections approved by our youth-driven”
Layman’s Terms: The festival for, and scheduled by teenagers. Like, TIFF PG-13.
Previous Years Examples: Perks of being a Wallflower, Fat Kid Rules The World, Artifact

TIFF Definition: “Family films from around the world: entertaining and illuminating.”
Layman’s Terms: Stuff for the whole family!
Previous Years Examples: Hotel Transylvania, Finding Nemo 3D

Special Events
TIFF Definition: “Onstage and onscreen: exclusive engagements and celebrated guests. “
Layman’s Terms: More than just a Special Presentation – they’ve gathered even more exclusive guests and planned for longer, more in-depth Q&A. Quite similar in feel to a lot of the Lightbox programing seen throughout the year, like their In Conversation With…series.


Hope that helps you wade through the sea of options. If it stills feels like too much then you can always view the film options in alphabetical order and read each description. Or if you only plan to see one or two films as your schedule allows then you can wait until the full festival schedule is released and view your options day by day. Good luck!