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Behind the scenes with TIFF Red Carpet Diary Hosts Sandra Benjamin and Joan Kelley

Throughout TIFF, the Red Carpet Diary will pump out dozens of video interviews daily, catching all the celebs as they enter the premiere for their films. Sure, being a host is glamourous but it can also be total chaos. As thousands gather, push and scream, these ladies have to ensure they get the mic in front of George Clooney or Keira Knightley and ask the right quote to get a solid clip. (And it’s not just the fans they have to deal with but also pushy international press!)

From awkward encounters to knowing how to hook a celeb in the right way, and some beauty secrets for fun, we asked Sandra Benjamin and Joan Kelley to reveal their secrets to survival during the film fest mayhem.

Oh, and stay tuned because we will be showcasing our favourite Red Carpet Diary videos daily on Shedoesthecity. Let the games begin!

SANDRA BENJAMIN

What film premiere are you most excited to work the red carpet for this year and why (more like who)?
George Clooney has been my white whale at TIFF. Somehow, I’ve always managed to wind up on a different red carpet during his premieres (or, in the case of TIFF 2009, he walked the carpet with a bandaged hand and didn’t give any media interviews.) With his two films at TIFF this year, Ides of March and The Descendants, I’m hoping to finally get me some George!

Did you ever stumble and ask a question that just didn’t work?
I covered the red carpet for a Korean film years ago and for some reason, thought it might be fun to ask a few questions in Korean. It was hilarious. The actors clearly had no idea what I was saying, but they laughed and answered anyway. In the end we were actually able to turn it into a fun piece with subtitles. That’s the key to red carpet interviews – you never know what will happen so just be ready to roll with it and make it work!

What was your biggest interview last year that left you giddy?
I had a blast interviewing Ryan Reynolds last year at the premiere of Buried. He’s so quick and witty (and let’s face it – hot.) At the end of the interview, he joked that he’d “be calling me.” Of course I knew it wasn’t true…but still a nice thing to hear from Ryan Reynolds (and to have on tape.) When I watched the interview back I realized that I’d been grinning from ear to ear the entire time.

Who, in the past, responded with the best quote? Do you recall what it was?
Ricky Gervais. Every time. I don’t remember what he said – in fact I don’t remember much from those interviews – except laughing, hard.

With all the crowds, what are your tactics for ensuring your mic gets paid attention to?
I make sure that I have something interesting to say to get the celeb’s attention besides just shouting out his or her name. After that, to borrow a famous ad slogan: just do it.

What do you always carry with you or what secret weapons arm you for TIFF mania?
My smartphone, the biggest purse I can find with the most compartments, water, and breath mints.

How do you manage to look good each day? Beauty tips? Energy savers?
Blowouts are my best friend during TIFF (and like any true friend, the good ones tend to last.) I use frequent, light makeup touch ups throughout the day to maintain a polished look, and make sure to cleanse my face really well at night for healthy skin. The big energy savers are breakfast (I never skip it) sleep (as much as one can get it during TIFF) and coffee – plenty of it!

What film do you anticipate will attract the biggest fan crowd?
Ides of March. George Clooney + Ryan Gosling = lots and lots of screaming (and not just from me.)

Which film are you most excited to see?
Very excited about both Take Shelter and Drive.

JOAN KELLEY 

What film premiere are you most excited to work the red carpet for this year and why (more like who)?
Are you kidding me?? There are so many great movies and HUGE stars at TIFF this year, I want to interview them all!  Madonna, Pearl Jam, U2,  Keifer Sutherland,  Kiera Knightly, Marissa Tomei, Nicolas Cage, Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Jenifer Hudson, Ryan Gosling, Christopher Plumber…the list goes on and on…Of course any premiere that has Brad Pitt is a must see, so his film ‘Moneyball” is at the top of the list for me, same thing with George Clooney.  He stars in and directed ‘The Ides of March” which I have already seen and I loved it.

Did you ever stumble and ask a question that just didn’t work?
Yes it can happen! One time I was interviewing Thandie Newton about a horror film that she was in. We always try to go to the screenings but it is impossible to see ALL the films. I knew the basic plot of the film.  Thandie’s character is a Mom whose baby disappears. My question was about the Mother/baby bond and how difficult it must have been for her to do that scene seeing as it was so emotionally charged. She looked blankly at me and said “its designed to scare the crap out   of you!” so we laughed and carried on. I guess I was over- thinking it a bit!

What was your biggest interview last year that left you giddy?
I loved talking to Collin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and the Director of ‘The Kings Speech” Even at TIFF last year there was Oscar buzz. The director is a huge history buff and you could tell he had done a tremendous amount of research to be as historically accurate as possible. It’s amazing to interview people who are excited and passionate about their work. TIFF draws those people together.

Who, in the past, responded with the best quote? Do you recall what it was?
I was interviewing Eva Mendez about a film called “Last Night” that she was in with Sam Worthington. My question was ‘what did you think when you found out you’d be acting with Sam Worthington?”  Eva’s response “I didn’t know who he was at the time!” And when she saw the surprise on my face she said “It was before Avatar. Cut me a break!”

With all the crowds, what are your tactics for ensuring your mic gets paid attention to?
The most important thing to do is to ask thoughtful questions and be in the moment. I always try to get to know who is running the red carpets and the publicists and star’s handlers if possible. They will bring the Stars to you. I find if you lead with a good solid question and keep things conversational, the stars will continue to talk to you. You have to listen to what they are saying and respond appropriately. You need to do your homework before hand so that you are familiar enough to be spontaneous.

What do you always carry with you or what secret weapons arm you for TIFF mania?
Well I can’t disclose all my trade secrets :)…but  I always bring flat shoes for all the running around between TIFF interviews and carpets. I always bring make up, snacks  and my notes. I always review everything before I get on the carpet. There are many variables ( like people on the carpet you didn’t expect) so there’s a lot of scrambling no matter how prepared you are. You have to have a few good questions that will work for anyone.

How do you manage to look good each day? Beauty tips? Energy savers?
When I first found out I would be hosting Red Carpet Diary, I was thrilled. The only person I knew who had done carpets before is Lisa Rinna, who had done  carpet interviews for the Oscars. Lisa gave me great advice. She said “Get yourself looking gorgeous and then forget about it. This is not about you!” So I put myself together and focus on the job at hand. During TIFF, All I do is Red Carpet Diary. I don’t ever try to have a social life while the festival is on. I’d rather be rested and sharp and well prepared during the festival! if I have any time to myself, it’s when I get my hair  or makeup done. Outside of that its rest and research.

What film do you anticipate will attract the biggest fan crowd?
No doubt the big traffic stopper will be Brad Pitts “Money ball” and they’re going to close down Yonge Street on Saturday night because George Clooney is at the Visa Screening Room for “The Descendants” followed by Akshay Kumar for “Breakaway”. You have one of Hollywood’s biggest stars followed by one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. It’s going to be crazy.

Which film are you most excited to see?
I have already seen some amazing press screenings!  Not a dud in the bunch!  

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