I'm starting to get the hang of this whole 'Ebertfest' thing.
The first house rule I had to learn was the 'saving your seat' protocol. People will grab the best seat they can find as soon as they get into the theatre, and will mark their territory for the rest of the day by leaving a coat or bag or, most commonly, their program lying across the seat.
I made the mistake of getting up for a washroom break during a Q&A session yesterday without marking my turf. I didn't have my coat with me and I'd left my program in the motel room, but I figured I'd only be gone a minute or two.
I came back to find my seat taken.
When I politely pointed this out, the woman occupying it agreed to move, but she seemed rather put out.
The down side of this system is the 'phantom butt' who leaves a program on a seat in the morning but doesn't actually turn up until the last film of the day. I had one of these invisible friends next to me all day today. I let it slide while there were other seats open, but when they announced at 8:31 that they were letting the rush lines in for 'A Separation' I made an executive decision and removed the placeholder. Plus the two next to it. So there.
The food thing is working out better. There are a lot of great restaurants nearby, plus they actually have food tents in front of the theatre which are a great inexpensive option. And if you go to the far booth you get to be entertained by the comedy stylings of the lovely Charity. Although I think that was only a distraction while I waited twenty minutes for her to serve me my steak burger.
I'm still waiting for my Steak 'n Shake. Incredibly, there isn't one walking distance from the theatre, but I'm determined to go there for lunch tomorrow.
Being here on my own, I had been a little uncomfortable starting conversations with total strangers at first. But then I brought out my secret weapon: a Canadian flag patch which I clipped to my pass lanyard. It's a brilliant ice breaker. People see it and ask me where in Canada I'm from, what the weather's like up there (it was snowing two days before I left, in the 80s a week before that), whether I've been to TIFF. I had a fascinating conversation the other day about tuition costs (they're worse than I ever imagined here). And they're all astonished that I drove ten hours to be here. I thought Americans were big on driving?
Socialization was also made easier once I changed my seating choice. I watched my first movie on Wednesday from a back row on the main floor, but since then I've been up in the balcony. The screen is huge so the view is just fine, and it turns out this is where all the hardcore EbertFest veterans congregate. Folks are much more affable and willing to chat up here, and I even ran across a couple of VIP pass holders who have chosen to sit up top rather than in their designated section down below.
Also we have knitters.
One last bit of trivia: the washrooms here are gorgeous. Or at least the Ladies' are. Spotless, roomy, gleaming vintage black & white tile. I'd take a picture if I wasn't certain to be thrown out. You almost expect an attendant to greet you with a warm towel and a spritz of cologne as you walk in.
Surely this is what it was like during the Golden Age of Cinema.