As some of you know, my bosses at Maclean’s asked if I could help cover the Toronto International Film Festival this year: you know, do some videos, write a few blog posts and a print piece for the magazine. How hard could it be?
Well, for a first timer who had no idea what to expect, it was a bit of a fucking nightmare: trying to get invited to parties that you don’t belong at, then going to said parties alone (celebrities have assistants and PR people to keep them company, seasoned media, who’ve been covering this beat for years, have each other to chat with and everybody else are professional rich people or party crashers). And then there’s the nervousness of being on video with messy hair or getting tongue-tied, and not having the time to do your research before a press conference, interview or round-table because you only found out that you’re covering something an hour beforehand. And also the fear of being late for everything or, heaven forbid, missing something. Plus, there’s the anxiety of getting 50 new emails when you turn your back for a second and trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not.
And the parties themselves? Sure, the drinks and food do floweth but I couldn’t get too drunk because I was working. And I didn’t want to get too fat because the camera adds at least 30 lb. And the PR people: one minute they’re emailing you asking, “Why aren’t you here yet!?!?” and when you show up, you’re name isn’t on the list that the 20 year-old girl in platform heels is holding and you feel like a loser.
Wait. I sound like a real asshole, complaining about an extraordinary opportunity that I was afforded. How lucky am I that I got to do this? Extremely lucky. And don’t get me wrong–there was great stuff, too, like seeing so many movies for free! I never took that for granted for a second. And it’s all so exciting! And sometimes those same PR girls make you feel like a million bucks because they don’t even ask for your name–they just know who you are (or maybe I was just the last one to arrive and it was a process of elimination.) And then there are the movie stars–they were all primped and pretty, they all smelled like angels and they all smiled at me when I smiled at them. But they’re not at parties to make friends with you. And I wasn’t there to try and make love them (yes I was). My job was simply to observe and eavesdrop.
Basically, I got home most nights, with my heart beating a mile a minute, on the verge of a panic-attack because it felt like as soon as I left a place, a gazillion A-listers showed up. And I just felt terrible about what I was doing–I felt dirty.
Do you know what the best part of TIFF was though? And I’m not joking here. It was getting home one night at a reasonable hour, say 10 pm (This was after a four day stretch of waking at 7 am and getting home by 3 am–early, by real party reporter standards.) And the Beast–that sweet animal who’s obsessed with dressing himself in tweed and houndstooth blazers right now–he was just coming upstairs with a load of laundry. It was the third he’d done that night. And he waited to have dinner with me, which he prepared. When I got upstairs, there were two Dr. Oetker pizzas, a spinaci and a tomato and mozzarella, on two plates–the varieties already split so we both had three slices of each. Plus he’d already poured me a glass of white wine. The last episode of Madmen, season four, was queued and ready to go. I think I started to cry.
But that’s not it. You know how he sometimes brings home presents for me from work? Well, he’d picked up a beautiful
broach brooch (thanks Susie!)…
…and a long strand of pale pink fresh water pearls and had those displayed on the coffee table along with dinner. It was too much kindness: it was more good will and generosity, without any expectations of getting something in return, than I’d seen in days, days spent chasing famous people and dealing with sometimes not-so-nice people, all of which just left me so empty.
I ate the pizza too fast and drank the wine with such ferosity that I was going in and out of consciousness on the couch. And here comes the best part. Are you ready for it?Through the tears, the anxiety about not doing a good job, the worry about what peers might think and wanting to please just everybody, I saw the Beast with the pearls and he was trying to explain to me all the different ways I could wear them. But he wasn’t joking–he was doing it earnestly. “You could just double them up like this,” he demonstrated, “or, even triple them. Oh look how nice that is! But wait–if you wanted to, you could sort of tie it up in a knot, too.”
I couldn’t believe what I thought I was seeing. It was like a mirage of pureness–no PR person trying to get you to write about something or getting mad at you when you did mention something but you mentioned it in the wrong way. It was just a man-child showing his lady friend how to wear a pearl necklace.
What could be more unsullied?
If you’re worried, like my mom is, that you’ve missed any of this Maclean’s TIFF coverage, you can find it all here.