I guess depending on your level of experience in film festivals and your degree of success within the film industry, you view festivals quite differently. I, Christa Boarini, am a New York based filmmaker, working on my first feature length doc. Needless to say I am more of a buzz-following festival goer than one who is buzzed about. At least for now.
It is day 3 at Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival, here in Toronto. True, the real heavy industry stuff begins tomorrow, Monday, but even in these past three days there has been a lot of mingling, theatre-going, crying, laughing and badge-reading. Things may have been a bit slow here in the Filmmaker Internet Lounge/Sales Desk (the first couple of days offered only complementary water, while now there are tables decked out with coffee and gourmet local teas). But now fellow Industry Pass holders wander in an out, having meetings, checking their email, having some coffee or trying to sort through the three or four thick textbooks of information that came in the goodie bags they give us at registration. We get a Program Guide, an Industry Guide, a guide of attending commissioning editors, etc etc etc. All great and useful information, but it takes a while to sort it all out.
Oh, and if you are coming to Hot Docs later next week, be sure to ask for a flexible badge holder. The others break.
In any case the festival so far is has proven to have nicely balanced programing, combining the heavier humanity-is-awful features with equally as compelling docs that leave you feeling happy to be human. For example, yesterday I watched Talhotblond, a cautionary film where a cyber love triangle of people who have never met ends in a 23 year old man's death. The young man's parents were there, they cried, we cried, it was wonderfully heartbreaking. I then walked over to the screening of Wasteland and my broken heart mended and soared to see a mixture of art and opportunity and good things happening for good people. You simply must see Wasteland and you will instantly understand why it has won the Audience Awards of basically all the film festivals it has been at.
Another great thing to take advantage of is a new program added to Hot Docs this year called "Ripping Reality: Essentials from Documentary's New Wave". This compilation of great documentaries made in recent years gives us the opportunity to see these wonderful films on the big screen. Whether you've seen the film a million times and it is the reason you decided to quit your job and go into documentary filmmaking, or if it is a movie you've heard of but never got around to seeing, Ripping Reality has so far been a great success.
So, between the regular film screenings, the Industry Only events, the parties, the Rendezvous meetings, the Documentary Forum, the International Co-Production day etc, I have had to make out meticulous schedules for every day, reminding me of what I am going to see, what meetings I have and what are the must-attend events of the day. So far it has been a great experience and I plan to take full advantage of it. By the time I get back to New York on May 10th I plan to be absolutely exhausted.