by Eric Lam and Eva Tam
We don’t know what went wrong.
There we were, only two first-year classes under our belts, standing outside a trendy downtown nightclub, trying desperately to convince the bouncers that we were legitimate members of the media.
Realistically, we were trying to convince ourselves as much as we were the imposing neck with an earpiece.
“If you were Global, or CTV, then you’d be on the media list,” shouted a shorter man with curly hair, waving his Blackberry around. “Try the regular list on the other side.”
Yes, we’d arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival.
As we cursed our misfortune, we started to think back to how we had got ourselves talked into standing outside the über-chic Ultra Supper Club at half past midnight. The rest of our fellow first-years were safely at home, worrying about their readings or how to take notes faster. Yet here we were, in the real world, and feeling the sting of rejection that undoubtedly comes with the business.
We had no clue we would end up here when we walked into the Eyeopener office to sign up as volunteer writers. It would probably be a small, easy assignment since we were both new to the team. A day later, one of the arts and entertainment editors sent off an e-mail asking someone to do some movie reviews. It sounded simple enough, so both of us chose a film, and that was that. We would get to see a free movie and get published, all in the first week of school. How could we lose?
As we arrived in our respective movie theatres, it didn’t take long to realize that every other person in the room was a professional critic or journalist. In a sense, they were what we were aspiring to be, people who actually wrote for a living.
At the press-only screening of the first film, Shopgirl, starring Claire Danes and Steve Martin, there was the initial thrill of watching something the general public had not yet seen. Before realizing it, there was the usual munching of popcorn and slurping of soda while poor little Danes mulled over two suitors.
The screening for Flightplan went similarily smoothly. One of us was lucky enough to sit next to a woman who introduced herself as “Alise,” who rattled off her credentials, which included writing for the television shows Ready or Not, Braceface and Virtual Mom. It was both impressive and intimidating at the same time. She did give us one helpful word of advice: “When you write your review, give credit to the screenwriters. They never get any and it isn’t fair.”
Leaving the theatre two hours later, it was hard to believe that half of the job was already over. But in reality, we were far from being finished.
Reviewing a movie is difficult, but watching actors on the screen while taking notes in the dark is nothing like trying to do it when you’re sitting two feet away from them.
That was the situation each of us found ourselves in the morning after the screenings, when we attended the press junkets. There was only one dilemma we both faced before entering the plush Four Seasons hotel: Both junkets fell on the same day as Ryerson’s Parade and Picnic. Should we skip the junket and enjoy the spoils of being young and carefree? After much debate, we realized there will always be a parade next year, but the chance to talk to movie stars was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for aspiring journalists such as ourselves.
Ushered into one of the ballrooms at the Four Seasons, the Flightplan junket found one of us sitting at the same table with Sean Bean, Erika Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard and Jodie Foster. The more seasoned journalists at the table, who all knew each other for years, delighted in pointing out “the new guy.”
One of the professionals even turned out to be a journalism grad from “Rye High,” and encouraged us to launch into the chorus of the school song. That was until he revealed that we didn’t have one.
And the actors? In between feeling incredibly star-struck, one of us did manage to ask a few questions. Now the world can finally know that Erika Christensen was considering marrying a Canadian to work in Canada, and Sean Bean is afraid of flying. Only Jodie Foster seemed to have any real pearls of wisdom as she patientily answered questions.
“There’s no upside to fame. It’s work for me,” Foster said. “For me, my children are my life.”
The Shopgirl junket was more of the same. Danes and Martin nodded while the press yelled questions.
“Is it harder to act in a drama?”
“Was nudity important?”
“What makes Shopgirl special?”
Everyone seemed to know each other and gossiped loudly. One was saying how actresses try too hard to feign intelligence, while another was commenting how most sports writers could write for entertainment, yet it was never the other way around.
The party that never was
We left the hotel confident we had done our job, thinking our week as big-time journalists was over. That was until our editor gave us our last event: a party for the film Slow Burn. Apparently there was supposed to be celebrities, free drinks and food. It was an opportunity not to be missed.
We decided to arrive there fashionably late, only to find ourselves in a huge crowd. We heard that only the “media press” were getting in. We confidently squeezed through the dozens of people only to realize we were not included in this exclusive, mythical list. They told us to go to the other side for the “regular list,” so we did, and we waited — for the next two-and-a-half hours.
People who waited for more than 30 minutes showed their impatience by storming off and others screamed with each other and at the bouncers. Not getting into the club was frustrating, but we realized that maybe we were small-time. In some strange way, that little man with the curly hair was right. Our adventure in Hollywood’s spotlight was a taste of what’s to come.
We’ve definitely arrived, but we haven’t even started to think about where we’re going.