As welcome as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is every September, it can still seem like an overwhelming 10 days (especially if you’re not particularly film savvy). But worry not: TIFF has become so much more — and so much more accessible — than a few marquee red-carpet events you have to know the director’s cousin to get a ticket to. Just remember who sent you when you inevitably become, like, actual besties with all the stars.
1. Think of rush lines as a fun excursion with a prize (a ticket!) at the end.
While tickets tend to get snatched up in a matter of minutes, it’s still possible to snag a spot at a gala by manning the rush lines and lining up pronto. This means it’s time to be keen: Bring coffee, a snack and your most comfortable shoes and hope for the best. Rush lines open the day of the screening, so line up for yours as soon as another one’s queue is finished up. You’ll know 10 minutes before curtain time if you’re in or not.
2. Embrace the peripheral programming.
Whatever you do, make sure to attend any/every live read (possibly ever). In 2015, Jason Reitman directed a live read of The Princess Bride (starring Rachel McAdams, Gael García Bernal and Donald Glover), while in 2013 he helmed Boogie Nights, featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Josh Brolin. On 2017's can’t-miss agenda? A series of talks with Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Javier Bardem and Gael Garcia Bernal.
3. Be aware of “casual” celeb-spotting opportunities.
While most TIFF events are invite-only, there are still ways to spot the famous without hanging out near the red carpet. Head to Holt Renfrew, where you will probably see some celebs shopping, and then book lunch at the Windsor Arms Hotel, which typically plays host to a slew of TIFF events. After, work the restaurant circuit and make dinner plans at Momofuku, Terroni or The Bar at the Shangri-La Hotel — go-to places for stars year-round. If you’re really balling out this fest, spring for tickets to a gala opening and you’ll have a chance of sitting next to a (gasp) real movie star.
4. Maybe just soak in the atmosphere.
But maybe you (and your wallet) need a reprieve. In that case, head down to Festival Street (specifically King, in front of the TIFF Bell Lightbox) and bask in the food, vendors and live music.