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The Real Stars of TIFF Weren't the Celebrities

So, what did you see? What a crop of films. What a 10 days that was.

Oh TIFF; how Toronto, how Canada, how the entertainment world loves you so. The largest public film festival globally. Over 432,000 attendees and over 30 films sold. But, who are the real folks making it all seem so seamless? They are the "engine" that enables the magic to happen. Meet the true award winners of TIFF.

First up. Those very helpful volunteers. So eager to tell you all they know. 2,500 of them strong this year. Let's meet one of their conductors, Justin Ingraldi, Manager, Volunteer & Intern Resources at TIFF. His take on what he does? It's the best job at the Festival. Did you hear that, Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling? He works with 9 others who prepare these volunteers for action and their close up. His favourite memory of TIFF's past? An Oprah moment he had back in '09. He likes the unexpected. On the very idea of being tired? He mitigates it with the excitement of it all and that odd triple espresso. And now that the Festival is over, what's next? Sleep. A home cooked meal. Seeing his family and friends. Then back to work preparing for next year. Eager beaver. Applause all around for him and all the folks with those bright orange shirts.

In the suave & debonair category, TIFF is lucky to have someone making those special guests who are visiting our fair city feel, well, special. But is it the hair? The scruff? The smile? His dialects (does he have any?) Everyone wants to know. Meet Tony Manni, Senior Manager, Guest Services at TIFF who oversees all of the invited guests (directors and talent) visiting the TIFF Bell Lightbox throughout the year as well as during the Festival. Year round this means 2 full time staff and for TIFF, 30 seasonal staff are added. Knowing Tony personally, one can always admire his "get it done" mentality and no curve ball is too overwhelming for him to handle. He is one smooth dude. How does he keep his energy up? Coffee and very little alcohol at parties. So now what? Phone off. Sleep. Relax on a beach. In that order. We think he has other secrets, but he is not telling. Guest services? Come on Tony, spill the beans why so many notables say that TIFF treats them better than any other Festival.

So you want to know who is really responsible for processing film submissions to producing the all the official TIFF parties? Ladies and gents, meet Aaron Campbell, Director, Programme & Event Services at TIFF. Mr. Protocol himself. His department is 11 people year-round and the team increases to 17 in the lead up to Festival. For him, it's all about the energy of audiences that keeps him going and those wonderful moments when meeting people from abroad. He spoke of an Australian on her first vacation out of her home country and was struck by the amazing impact TIFF had on her and other visitors to our city. His secret for doing his job? Sleep is for the weak. And he's not kidding. He had one great night's sleep when it was over and now is full-tilt into Fall programming and the Exhibition Opening Party for "David Cronenberg: Evolution" on October 30th. No rest for the... well, you know.

Ok, so you had your tickets, but were at the wrong theatre, and your friend was late? Nightmare. Happen to you? Well, you must have turned to someone like Shamayne Skelly, Director, Patron Services at TIFF who made it all better. Or at least tried to. She oversees all ticketing and front-of-house operations, both year-round at TIFF Bell Lightbox and at all Festival venues. A crew of 85 throughout the year, and another 460 are added to welcome Festival-goers. The key? It's all about then front line team. These are really the ones that Festival goers seem to see most often and she very much feels fortunate to the caliber of talent she can lean on, and in the following case, pun is intended. Skelly revealed that during the week, there was a moment that she may have closed her eyes for one moment standing up. Just once. But then she snapped to! These folks are like Energizer bunnies. They keep going, going, and going. Props to these super humans for processing 432,000 audience members in 10 days. That must be some sort of a record.

And then of course there are the TIFF programmers. If you break it down, they are some of the most powerful people in the film business. It is the gems they find, the filmmakers they follow, and the ends of the earth they travel to searching for the best of the best. And then they recommend and are part of the decision making process of what is screened. What you see. What is bought. What could win an Oscar. They have a discerning eye, and a persistence to get the stories they believe audiences should see when the world is watching. Who is screaming when they arrive at a red carpet? No one. That's not why they do it.

Some honourable mention shout outs from this year's Festival should go to Spike Jonze's chat and early sneak peak at scenes from his upcoming new film with Warner Bros. Pictures and Annapurna, called Her. It's gonna be a goodie. And who could forget the scene after a screening of The Square (eventual winner of the People's Choice for a documentary) when we were directed to an alleyway where the featured advocate joined the audience from Egypt for a Skype call via a huge screen? Over to the sponsors. The Grolsch beer folks stood out as they were all about making it special for the public. Their first ever Grolsch Open Housewas a hit at the centre of the action. Nice work. Hope it comes back next year along with that one of a kind pop up called Bedouin Inc., which turned into a sanctuary for the discerning. And who can forget about the publicists. How many Vitamin Water's do you deserve now?

But after all, what makes TIFF so special is that it is a blank canvas of possibilities for filmmakers. Dreams can be fulfilled. Lives changed. Filmmaker Ingrid Veninger and her team were on their game, blanketing the city with a whole lot of surprises causing audiences to do that one thing any film wants. DON'T FORGET ME. The Animal Project premiered to fanfare and will be out in Canadian theatres via Mongrel Media. It's this type of effort that should be revered and respected. That is the responsibility of the artist does not stop once a creative work is complete. Exciting audiences and garnishing interest is very much part of the process, and it's great to see Veninger and her peers taking on the challenge.

So what do these folks do now that it's over? Some have said they feel like they should be somewhere, but they don't where. Like it feels weird that they should not be at a meeting. Doing something. Some say it's was 10 day sprint, now it's important to regroup. But almost all of above are already enthusiastically planning for TIFF 2014. Now. Crazy, but true.

So in the end, did TIFF 2013 achieve one of its main goals of "transforming the way people see the world through film?" Well, on that, it's really over to the audiences. Think the real test comes over the next 355 ish days and beyond. For it is the very lessons & insights they took away from the films over the 10 day Festival that will or will not be applied to their everyday life. But even simpler, the hope is that sold out film from that small country with that no-name cast does find an audience when it may come back to a theatre near them. Them hopefully being you.

Takeaway? Go. See. Film. Every. Day. It's not about 10 days. It's about, well, a life. Your life.

The above are perfect examples of people who make film their life and all they wish for is for you to go see film. Always. How about it? It may make that "after party" that much more memorable and your attendance to others even more so. Talking about and knowing film is sexy. Don't trust me saying that. Trust them.

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