Can I have your autograph?

Star-spotting at TIFF is fleeting but rewarding. ROMINA JULIAN

Romina Julian

More than just a film festival, TIFF provides a favourite hobby for locals: star-spotting. Torontonians were inclined to tell their friends about their celebrity sightings last week and post pictures on Facebook of stars walking down the red carpet. As a first-time star-spotter, here’s what I learned this year.

Star-spotting at TIFF is fleeting but rewarding. ROMINA JULIAN

When TIFF released their list of celebrities stopping by for the Gala presentations, I immediately formed my schedule. Celebrities on the list that caught my attention included George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Gerard Butler.

When star-spotting, your three essential tools are a camera, a notepad, and a Sharpie. For an inexperienced photographer like myself, the best choice is a point and shoot—much easier to use than a DSLR, which is crucial when the crowd goes wild as a celebrity walks down the red carpet. Blurry or not, my picture of Brad Pitt on the red carpet was recognizable.

If photography isn’t your thing, opt for getting an autograph. A standard notepad can be used as an autograph book. While some will use a picture of the celebrity in question or a DVD cover, one fan I encountered used a real estate flyer when she received her autograph from George Clooney. Naturally, you cannot expect the celebrities to bring their own writing utensils, so bring a black felt marker.

Arriving early is crucial. When arriving to the Roy Thompson Hall for The Ides of March premiere, a line-up was growing outside the red carpet, seven hours before the film premiered. Many locals and photographers want to get the best spot in hopes of increasing their chances of seeing a celebrity up close. Bring a folding chair for downtime, and keep your eye on your spot, because if you leave for a second, other photographers are likely to swoop in and claim that spot.

It’s useful to engage a conversation with the people waiting in line. Mainly, it passes the time, but also, you find out about star-spotting opportunities. I discovered which celebrities were approachable, such as George Clooney, Gerard Butler, and Jessica Chastain, and were willing to engage in small talk with fans on the red carpet.

Be acutely aware of aggressive autograph seekers; they are more experienced than anyone. Most of them will arrive with a folder full of 8” X 10” glossy pictures in one hand and a black felt marker in the other. Some of them will aggressively bodycheck you in a crowd as they vie for an autograph, which will end up on eBay just hours later. Despite the claustrophobia, patience and passivity pay off.

Another thing to know is to never be disappointed. There will be some stars that will sign autographs for a limited number of people, and some that won’t say hello to all of the fans, but opportunities will always come around. A group of girls who wanted to see Ryan Gosling were disappointed when he didn’t come to their area in line, but were satisfied when George Clooney appeared to sign autographs instead.

The final thing I learned from star-spotting at TIFF was to have fun. I had a wonderful time seeing many of the actors in person, and in retrospect, I came surprisingly close to certain actors—most of whom are alarmingly short in person—as they walked the red carpet. Even if I was unable to see one of my favourite actors or get an autograph, I would not fret about it; I would hold my head up high and remember that there’s always next year.


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