TIFF2011: Random revelers on opening night party

Everybody from bow-tied festival volunteers to wannabe actresses who forgot to wear bottom parts to executives in form-fitting fancy suits showed up. Except celebrities.

It takes all kinds to get a party started and Thursday’s TIFF opening night extravagant bash at the Liberty Grand was certainly a good example of just that. Inside the series of connected opulent rooms dimly lit by dozens of chandeliers and outfitted with multiple bars and dance floors—plus an outdoor garden space with a giant disco ball strung overhead—was an astounding assortment of merry makers. The only type of reveler missing was actual celebrities (unless they showed up after 1am, and unless you consider the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi a star.)

Maybe Hollywood A-listers had little desire to mix with the hoi polloi, who didn’t seem to mind one bit that stars were decidedly absent. Actually, two lovely ladies with whom I spoke around midnight—and who I first noticed only because I saw every pair of eyes in the room turn to watch them, and their hair extensions and considerable assets, hobble by in their sky-high platform heels, might’ve cared. “Isn’t that white guy from Entourage supposed to be here?” Asked the buxom blond.

“You mean Adrian Grenir?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but she wants to meet him,” she replied, pointing to her equally voluptuous raven-haired companion.

I asked them if they were at all jolted by the heterogeneous (I didn’t use that word) nature of the crowd, and how they fit into it all.  The blond, who’ll be opening up her own nail salon soon in Niagara Falls, told me that her inbox gets filled daily with party invites, and not just any party invites, but the best party invites in the city.

I spoke with people in advertising, marketing, an art dealer, a Toronto cultural “tastemaker” from Paris, a performance artist, Miss Canada and Miss Toronto and an actual TIFF sponsor. Blake Goldring, the chairman and chief executive officer of AGF Management Ltd. was warm and welcoming to this TIFF novice and even offered up a few tips: “Pace yourself, rest, and tell your editors that you need to sleep in.” A sponsor since the festival’s inception in 1994, Goldring has met a number of filmmakers and stars, including Merryl Streep (a riot!), Robin Williams (shared financial advice with him) and Catherin Deneuve (chain-smoker), and he’s seen TIFF grow from humble beginnings to the world-class event that it is today. No wonder he was a touch disappointed when a director announced she wouldn’t allow corporate sponsors—the folks, like it or not, that make TIFF possible—into the green room the night her film, W.E., has its gala screening. “It’s not a rock concert,” whispered Blake, “it’s a movie screening.”

I was just about to leave when a young, slender blond-haired, blue eyed  gentlemen dressed in a checkered shirt and wearing glasses approached me for a light. (I thought it might be a good conversational starter.)  “Only if you tell me why you’re here.” He, Joe Clement, took the bait: turns out the landscape architect-turned-novice filmmaker’s life was just about to change. Clement pointed to a room on the second level where his producers, Robin Cass and Sandra Cunningham, were negotiating the sale of two of the 29 year-old’s documentaries. He was over the moon thinking about being how fortunate he was to be doing something for a living that he’s so passionate about. But blooming success sure hasn’t gone to Clement’s head: the filmmaker plans on giving his dad, a contractor, and his mom, a secretary, 25 per cent of everything he earns so that they can retire sooner than later and he’ll put the rest towards making his documentaries along with his cinematographer Jackson Parrell and editor Callum Moore.

Clement, like me, was equally charmed by the varied crowd. And he was also grateful for the roll TIFF plays in championing smaller projects: “When I was a gardener,” he explained, “sometimes certain plants really struggle to survive but if you pay a little more attention to them, they flourish and blossom into something beautiful.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.