What is there not to love about TIFF? Introverts will tell you very quickly: lots of things

Illustration of a person with a paper bag over their head in front of a movie reel.

A-list celebrities, red carpets, glamorous parties, a gazillion movies to feast your eyes (and wallets) on. What is there not to love about TIFF? Introverts will tell you very quickly: lots of things.

But even those who prefer darkened cinemas and seats alone to glitzy fetes and mingling among the famous deserve to have fun outside of the auditorium, and there’s no better occasion to build social skills than a festival about movies – the easiest conversation starter.

So how does an introvert make the most of TIFF and survive the madness that extends far beyond midnight hours?

Challenge yourself and chat up one person in line for each movie you attend. You never know who you might meet: the guy who edited one of your favourite movies, an enthusiastic film student certain her movie will be the breakout hit of next year’s TIFF or the self-proclaimed movie buff who loudly mansplains the best films of the last 10 TIFFs before launching into a defence of the DC Extended Universe.

Yes, if you try to talk to everyone, you’ll no doubt come across a pretentious movie fan or two. Don’t worry, though. If it becomes too much, try the volunteers instead. (They’re voluntold to be friendly.) You might even be doing them a service: asking them something other than “Is this the line for tickets or rush?” will remind them they’re still human after all, not just orange T-shirt-clad automatons giving away free labour.

If you’re a wallflower, look for like-minded peers at parties by literally looking at the wall. You never know who you might find there: a mysterious taciturn guest, an anxious distributor trying to land a deal, or Toronto’s friendly Spider-Man, drunkenly climbing it in the hope he’ll impress Andrew Garfield.

Speaking of celebs: keep a scanning eye and ear open, but for goodness sake, don’t approach them. You’re a social-skills newbie, so stay away from George Clooney and look for someone who can stomach your impersonation of him (better yet: don’t impersonate him at all). If you sight a celebrity, just take in the rare opportunity to admire their confidence, presence and how beautifully lumpen-shaped their head is in real life (movies really are magic!).

If the party is too intimidating, feast on free food. Don’t be ashamed; that’s what it’s there for. Simply locate the door where the servers enter from and get as close as possible. You might even meet a friend here; there are always crudite-hunting vultures at parties. As an ice-breaker, food is almost as good as movies.

Or you can mix the two together: “This tomato eggplant thing is divine! Do you like Ratatouille? Erm, no, I meant the movie.”

Originally published in the National Post (Sept. 11, 2017).