The advance ordering
process for TIFF has completely changed in 2012. Rather than the old system of
filling out a paper book, everything has now moved online. Since no one outside
of TIFF has actually seen the new system yet, the information here for the 2012
edition of the festival is based on analysis of what TIFF has published to
You can participate in the advance ordering process if you purchase one or more of the following My Choice packages:
- 10-Ticket Pack
- Flex Pack (anywhere from 20 to 100 tickets)
- Premium-Ticket Pack (6 or 12 tickets)
- Back Half Pack
- 20-Ticket Daytime Pack
- The Canadian
- Midnight Madness
- City to City
- Contemporary World Cinema
- Daytime Sampler
- Evening & Weekend Sampler
- Closing Night Gala + Cocktail Reception
- Premium Sampler
- June 25, 2012 if you are a TIFF Member
- July 3, 2012 if you are not a TIFF Member and want to pay by Visa
- July 9, 2012 if you are not a TIFF Member, for all payment methods (cash, debit, Visa, MasterCard, American Express)
Start times for screening selection for My Choice packages are as follows for TIFF Members, if you bought a 10-Ticket Pack, a Flex Pack, and/or a Premium-Ticket-Pack:
- TIFF Patron Circle Leadership Member: August 23, 2012 at 7:00 AM
- TIFF Patron Circle Platinum Member: August 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM
- TIFF Patron Circle Gold Member: August 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM
- TIFF Patron Circle Silver Member: August 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM
- TIFF Patron Circle Bronze Member: August 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM
- TIFF Principal Member: August 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM
- TIFF Contributor Member: August 25, 2012 at a randomized start time e-mailed to you on August 20
Regardless of whether or not you are a TIFF Member, you have until 7:00 PM on August 29, 2012 to complete your selection.
If you bought a Back Half Pack or a 20-Ticket Daytime Pack, your screening selection window for those packages will start at 10:00 AM on September 3, 2012. There is no information indicating that start times are randomized or that TIFF Members receive any advance window before non-TIFF Members. You have until 7:00 PM on September 5, 2012 to complete your selection for these packages.
If you choose to make your selections for your packages online, then you will log on to the TIFF site no earlier than the date and time provided to you by the festival. The system will not admit you before your specified time. You do not have to log on right at your specified time; you can log on anytime from then to the end of your selection window (i.e. August 29 for 10-Ticket Packs, Flex Packs, and Premium-Ticket Packs, and September 5 for Back Half and 20-Ticket Daytime Packs).
For example, if you are not a TIFF Member and you received a start time of 10:00 AM on August 27, 2012, then you can log on anytime between then and 7:00 PM on August 29, 2012.
If you buy multiple packages, each package will have its own login. But if you purchase the packages within the same transaction, you will be able to select your ticket in the same time slot, in different transactions; i.e. your start time will be the same for all packages, but you'll have to login separately for each package.
Once you log in, you have 1 hour to complete selections for all of your packages. You must complete all your selections within this hour. Once you log out, you will not be readmitted to the system even if you haven't made all your selections. Note that this means you should plan out what films you want to see before you log in; if you try to do it within your hour, you will likely run out of time. The festival schedule is released on August 21, so between then and the start of your window, figure out what you want to see and when you want to see it.
If you disconnect from the system without checking out, you will receive vouchers you can use starting September 4 to redeem films. If you do check out but don't use up all your available tickets (e.g. you only use 8 out of 10 tickets in a 10-Ticket Pack) you will also receive vouchers.
If you fail to log into the system at all during your original window (between August 23 to 29 for TIFF Members and August 26 to 29 for non-TIFF members) for the 10-Ticket Pack, a Flex Pack, and/or a Premium-Ticket-Pack, apparently you will be able to log in when the next window opens at 10:00 AM on September 3 for Back Half and 20-Ticket Daytime Packs. However, since single tickets will have gone on sale prior to that, inventory will likely be less than ideal.
Available inventory for films is shown in real-time. That is, when you are on the website, you will be able to see what films currently have tickets available and what films are sold out. When you successfully select a screening, you will know that you will have an actual ticket for that film. Because of this, you should log in to the system as soon as your start time comes up. If you wait a few hours, even more people will have had their start times come up and gone into the system and snapped up tickets.
It would appear that start times could come up at anytime, even during the middle of the day, so if you work a 9 to 5 job, then you'll have to make a decision whether to make your selections at work, take the day off, or wait until you get home. Best guess would suggest that many people will probably not have the luxury of logging in right at their start time, so expect that the system will probably be busier in the evenings. The system is also down between 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM each night for maintenance, so keep that in mind if you want to log in late at night.
Once you have made your selections, you can pickup your tickets starting at 10:00 AM on September 4 at the Festival Box Office at 225 King St W (not at the Bell Lightbox).
For historical purposes, below is the original advance ordering process, which is longer relevant for 2012. I leave it here for those that are interested in how things used to work.
You can participate in the Advance Order Procedure if you buy one of the following "My Choice" ticket packages:
- 50-Film Pack
- 30-Film Pack
- 25-Film Daytime Pack
- 15-Film Daytime Pack
- 10-Ticket Flex Pack
A picture of previous Programme Books is below:
And here's what the book looks like inside:
Starting at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2010, you can go to the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) to pick up your order form. Note that on the first day there will be a line, and it can take over 45 minutes to get through it, especially if you show up first thing in the morning, so plan your day accordingly. Note you don't actually have to line up first thing on the 24th, as you can pick up your order form at any time after that as long as the completed form is returned before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010.
If you don't live in Toronto and bought the Courier Film Selection Service, the festival will send everything to you via FedEx; note you must return your completed order by FedEx by August 27, 2010, 5:00 PM local time.
If you go to the box office in person to pick up your order, before getting in any line, track down the festival volunteer usually at the head of the line, and verify that the line is the correct one for you to be in (you can identify the volunteers by their headsets or festival t-shirts). The festival doesn't always have someone at the end of the line telling people what the line is for. There will likely be at least two lines; one for order form pickup, and one for people to buy ticket packages or get their vouchers if they didn't receive them in the mail.
Make sure you have your Envelope voucher (and optionally your Programme Book voucher) with you when you go to pick up the order form. You will not be able to get anything without the vouchers. When you get to the front of the line, turn in those vouchers and make sure you receive an order envelope, the Advance Order Book, and a copy of the Official Film Schedule, as you will need all three to complete your order.
It used to be that if you bought a programme book, then while supplies lasted, you would get a tote bag filled with a number of promotional items and the programme book. This year they were not giving out tote bags, but apparently you get something later in the process (e.g. maybe on ticket pickup), but that's not entirely clear yet. Check this post (http://tifftalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/2009-programme-book-gift-bag.html) for details on what was in the 2009 tote bag.
So, the next step is to fill out the order. Make sure you have the following:
1. The Official Film Schedule.
2. The Advance Order Book:
3. A highlighter; this is optional, but does help to make your choices more visible to the ticket processors.
Let's consider an example where you want to see the film Windfall on one of the days of the festival, with a couple of friends of yours. The Advance Order Book looks as follows:
First, write the number of tickets you want in the box labeled "Qty" next to the name of the film. In this example, we want 3 tickets (because it will be yourself plus two friends). This will represent your first choice for this timeslot.
Next, highlight the name and time of the film with a highlighter, or circle them (either is fine). Do NOT highlight or obscure the barcode.
Next, find a film around the same time that will be your backup choice if your first choice is already full when they get around to processing your order form. Note this step is optional. If you do not specify a backup film and your first choice is full, you will receive a ticket voucher which you can redeem at a later date for another film at the festival. There is no fee to exchange tickets, provided you are participating in the Advance Order Procedure.
In this example, Poetry will be the backup choice. Below the entry for Windfall, in the 8 boxes next to the "2nd", write the 8-character event code for the 2nd choice film. In this case, the event code for Poetry is is 091018F2 (it's the code next to the film's title). Also write in the name of the backup movie in the "Title" box below the "2nd" boxes. Note that you cannot specify a different number of tickets for the backup; the festival will in this example assume you still want 3 tickets for the 2nd choice. Do not highlight the backup choice or fill in anything in that film's entry.
Your form should look as follows:
Repeat this process until you run out of coupons or choices. For example, if you ordered a 10-ticket Package, and you wanted 2 tickets for each film, you would select 5 1st choice films and optionally, 5 2nd choice backups.
Note the restrictions on your particular package when selecting films, to ensure your order is processed correctly:
- 50-Film and 30-Film Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening.
- 25-Film and 15-Film Daytime Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening beginning before 5:01 PM.
- 10-Ticket Flex Pack: maximum of 4 tickets per screening, per account.
In the example below, there are six Premium screenings shown. For old-timers, it is important to note that Premium screenings can now occur in theatres other than Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room. In this example, there are Premium screenings at Ryerson and at Isabel Bader.
The Advance Order Book should not contain any listings for Premium screenings, but it's worthwhile double checking as you fill your schedule out.
You can place all your choices in a single Advance Order Book, regardless of how many passes or packages you bought. If you bought 3 10-ticket Packages, then all 30 1st choices and all 30 2nd choices can go in the same book.
For any tickets that you choose not to use in the Advance Order Procedure, or any choices that can't be filled because the film is sold out, you will receive vouchers that you can use towards other films with availability. You can do this alternate selection on September 2 when you pick up your completed order, or during the festival itself.
When selecting films, don't forget to account for the following:
- Films may not start or end on time.
- Times in the schedule do not include time for Q&A sessions after the film if the director or actors are present.
- You should account for travel time between theatres, as some are far apart from one another.
Once you have filled out that information, place the completed Advance Order Book in the envelope you received when you picked up your form:
Fill out the "Total Number of Tickets Requested in this Order" box at the top right of the envelope. If you have 3 10-film packages, then you would write 30 in this box.
Fill out the contact information on the envelope. If you include an e-mail address, then the festival should notify you by e-mail which of your choices were filled and which were not when they have finished processing your order. If you bought the package for someone else, ensure their name is also included on the form in the spot provided.
Take the Drop Off Voucher that you should have received in the mail a while ago and place it in the envelope window. Do NOT include the Pick Up Voucher; you need to keep that to pick up your completed order starting September 2, 2010 at 7:00 AM at the festival box office.
Do NOT seal the envelope; leave the flap open or tuck it in, but do not seal it.
Drop off the envelope at the Festival Box Office before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010. If you do not turn in your envelope by 1:00 PM, then you will miss the lottery, and your form will be processed after everyone else's.
The festival staff then spends the time from the 30th to the 1st processing orders. You can then line up at the festival box office any time from September 2 at 7:00 AM onwards to pick up your completed forms and see what movies you received. Take your Pick Up vouchers with you to exchange them for your processed orders. If you receive an e-mail from the festival saying you got all your choices, then I would recommend that you do NOT show up first thing in the morning, as there will be long wait (Shannon the Movie Moxie spent 6-1/2 hours in line in 2007 to get her orders and make alternate selections). If you didn't receive all of your picks, then you should line up in the morning, as you will receive ticket vouchers in place of your missed picks. You can then move to another line to immediately use those vouchers to pick other films that are still available; alternatively, you can wait to use those vouchers during the festival.
Now, why don't you need to speed through getting your Advance Order Book completed as soon as possible? Because the festival has a lottery system to determine from what point they start processing orders. Therefore, there is no inherent benefit to getting your order forms returned early. Here's how the system works:
1. The festival starts with a whole bunch of empty boxes, numbered sequentially.
2. As people turn in their order forms, the forms are placed in the lowest numbered box that has room:
Here we can see completed forms being placed in box #1.
3. Once a box is full, forms are placed in the next available box, in this case box #2:
4. And once that box is full, they move to the next one, in this case box #3:
5. Once all forms have been received by the deadline, the festival has a bunch of filled, numbered boxes:
6. They then randomly draw a number from 1 to whatever the highest number box they have, in this example, 80. The number drawn represents the box number from which the festival starts processing orders. Assume for this example that 33 was the number drawn:
The festival starts processing the forms in box #33. Once they have processed all the forms in the box, they move to the next one in numerical order, in this case #34. They continue until they reach the highest numbered box, here #80. Once they finish with that box, they loop back around to box #1 and start moving upwards, until they reach the box one number before the one drawn (#32). The festival usually sends e-mails out letting you know which of your choices you have gotten.
At this point, all advanced orders have been processed and will be ready for pickup. In this example, if you were lucky enough to be in box #33, you would've gotten all your picks. But if you were in box #32, you probably won't get a lot of your picks. In that case, for each pick that wasn't fulfilled you typically receive a voucher which you can use to select a film from whatever still has tickets available. You can use vouchers coupons any time during the duration of the festival.
Festival patrons that donated at least $300 to the festival get processed before the other boxes mentioned above. And even amongst donors, the ones who contributed more money get priority over other donors.
Just for interest, the graph below gives you an idea of when people submitted their order forms in 2006:
The bulk seemed to drop their forms off in the final three hours or so before the deadline. In 2007, box 66 out of 75 was randomly drawn as the starting point. My friend and I had forms in boxes 21 and 49, and we didn't get only 3 out of the 60 films we selected (but then we didn't pick many big name films).
The next post in this series will talk about some of the different ways people pick the films they want to see, and some considerations around scheduling. The post after that will discuss what you actually do during the festival when you get to your screening, along with options if you couldn't get tickets in advance.