I have pushed my way through walls of screaming fans, tiptoed behind stars on the red carpet, watched films that have changed the way I think and see the world, walked out on films I thought were utter crap, cried, laughed, had idiotic brushes with fame, enjoyed popcorn with a lover, talked shop, shaken hands, exchanged cards, got my hair did, partied until 4am and puked.

Each year TIFF has a different feel, and I walk away having experienced moments. For me, these moments are what define the festival, in all its madness and glory. And when I weave together my most colourful memories, a lively and rich history emerges that reveals not only my passionate relationship with the festival, but also my personal history. As I grow older, I experience TIFF very differently.

This year, TIFF turns forty, but for me, our time began fourteen years ago.

2002: “What if the bomb is in the aquarium?”

Fresh out of uni, I landed an internship at TIFF and my friends thought I was the coolest. “Omg, you’re working at the film festival? Are you going to, like, meet celebrities?” Little did they know that my role was to a) pack boxes for the theatres with stuff like pencils, clipboards, and walkie-talkies and b) make signs. With a Discman clipped to my back pocket and an exposed thong, I worked hard on my boxes and signs all summer long.

I graduated into the role of FOHA (Front of House Assistant), and stood on Balmuto Street for ten days straight manning the line. Never in my life have I had the opportunity to converse with so many strangers in such an intimate way. In between the movement, I played games with them. They’d dare me to eat a spoonful of wasabi, and I’d do it. Sometimes we’d chant together, flirt, or talk about our awkward teenage years.

It being the year after 9/11, there was much concern over preparing for a potential terrorist attack. In our training, we took a tour around the Varsity Theatre and our guide stopped us in front of the aquarium, “If there is any kind of bomb threat, we are to meet by the aquarium.” A slight gay man raised his arm, “Um, what if the bomb is in the aquarium?” There was absolutely no backup plan.

2003: Eating Sofia Coppola’s leftovers

Offering to buy a pregnant woman a Perrier helped land me a job at a high-powered film distribution company. During a press junket for Lost In Translation, I was so hungry that I ate Sofia Coppola’s half eaten bison burger. It had been ordered from the newly minted Lobby restaurant and left to rot in a hotel hallway. (I guess you could say it was my first taste of fame?)

That same year, I was also put in charge of leading Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro to their hotel suite holding room for a bit of R&R before interviews for 21 Grams commenced. I was literally told by the LA publicist to not look them in the eye. For the three longest minutes of my life, I hovered in the hotel room, fluttering my eyes in every direction but theirs while they talked about ordering some food and when they’d nap. It was as if I was an inanimate object, like a coatrack or ice bucket.

2004: Trying to make John Waters feel less like a prostitute

Still working in publicity, I was assigned to be the handler for John Waters. (Exciting, because I’m a big fan.) After picking him up a pack of smokes, I led him to the hotel room where he would be interviewed. “It feels like it’s a prostitute’s lair,” he said, very unimpressed. “I’m not sure what I can do. Do you want me to move some furniture around?” I awkwardly tried to push a couch, and he told me to stop. The situation was helpless.

2005: Holding my puke down for David Cronenberg

I partied way too hard on opening night, missed my alarm, screamed at my then boyfriend that I was supposed to be meeting David Cronenberg in ten minutes in the Intercontinental Hotel lobby. I wretched, as he darted around the room picking up clothes from dirty piles of laundry. Shirt half-on and reeking of booze, I flew into the cab and arrived a few minutes late. I apologized profusely to David and then sat in the darkest corner of the hotel room and timed interviews all day long, while trying my best to hold down my puke. It was horrendous, but I did get to share an elevator with Viggo. (He’s shorter than me. They all are.)

2006: Year of the puck

I took a year off while working for Hockey Night in Canada at the CBC. (I know more about raisins and Great Danes than I do about hockey.)

2007: Dancing with Tilda Swinton (sort of)

This was the first summer of Shedoesthecity. I didn’t have the same access to the festival as I had in previous years, but I saw some films, partied with America’s Next Top Model contestants at Schmooze Fest (BIG DEAL: I was a HUGE FAN) and danced feet away from Tilda Swinton during Bjork’s set at VFest.

2008: Danny Glover needs a wetsuit + the year of Paris Hilton

I was hired on contract to be a TIFF reporter for Toronto Life. There were many highlights, including listening intently to Brad Pitt, but the strangest story was how Danny Glover was determined to wear a wet suit while taking a dip at the hotel pool. Having a one-on-one with Kevin Smith about his sex life was also pretty memorable.

I stayed up till dawn for ten days straight, and wish I could take back the night where I waited alone for Paris Hilton to finally make her appearance at Ultra Supper Club. (It was 2008, the height of her fame. My editor needed the story.)

2009: My night with Drew Barrymore

I followed a hot tip that George Clooney was dining at Jack Astor’s and tried to befriend Mena Suvari as she befriended a goat. Bahh. However, the biggest win of my entire festival career thus far was when I had an incline that Drew Barrymore would leave Tattoo Rock Parlour and head to Sweaty Betty’s. It was a Monday or Tuesday, really late at night, so no one was there. She got behind the bar and poured drinks for a handful of us, and that’s when I took this amazing photo. Nothing that cool will likely ever occur again, because I no longer run to bars in the middle of the night to chase a story, or a celebrity that I sincerely admire.


2010: Hitting bottom with Geoffrey Rush

This was the year I hit bottom. Completely wasted, I wandered into Parkdale’s Salvador Darling and took a seat next to an older man. He bought me drinks and we talked about our private lives for quite some time, sharing intimate details. After an hour or so, the film festival came up, and then the conversation went like this:

“Are you here for TIFF?”
“Are you a director?”
“A director and actor. I’m here for The King’s Speech.”
“Never heard of it.” Slurring. Stumbling. “Are you famous?”
“I’m well known.”

We went outside and had a cigarette. He was concerned with my stability. We were the only ones in the bar. I said goodnight and stumbled off into the night. The next morning, I woke up with, yet another, lethal hangover. Sipping coffee and Googling The King’s Speech, I realized that I had spent the better half of an evening discussing my private life with Geoffrey Rush. Within a month’s time, I began the long road of addiction recovery.

2011: Sobriety trumps TIFF

No TIFF for me. Too busy working on the twelve steps. I wasn’t ready to attend the parties again, not yet.

2012: Lost my mind in a pile of weeds

Not sure if I totally lost my mind in 2012, but I thought that making this video in an overgrown yard off of Ossington was appropriate for TIFF. (I was going through a divorce, k? Life was not easy.)

2013: Scarlett to Scrillex, and much in between.

I interviewed Scarlett Johanson about porn, moved into the Target Hotel and hosted a party with Skrillex. (Yes, I said Skrillex. How or why, I’m still not sure.)

2014: Baby time

Skipped TIFF entirely but enjoyed reading the headlines as I nursed my newborn son in various Toronto parks.


I mean, anything is possible.