TIFF 2014: The Death of a Laptop, or How NOT to Kick Off a Festival
by Alex Billington
September 5, 2014
This is a nightmare. And the only way to wake up and escape from the horror is to pull out that shiny piece of plastic and become a slave to capitalism once again. My apologies to anyone awaiting our coverage of the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, which kicked off on Thursday, as things have been a bit rough since I caught my 6:30AM flight up to Canada. After arriving and meeting with my flatmate Jason Whyte, the first thing I did was open up my laptop–my MacBook Air–to write some notes for a review. Only to discover that after three years of (intensive) use, its time had come. The flashing question mark of death meaning–it's a goner.
I spent part of Thursday afternoon running up to two different Apple repair stores around Toronto before realizing that it would take days for them to investigate, order parts, and fix my laptop. I couldn't wait, I had work to do! Plus, it sort of worked whenever I would show someone. But for the last few weeks things have been going awry - touching the screen causes it to become distorted and flash white before failing entirely. It would freeze up whenever I tried to access certain files, and upon rebooting give me the grey screen of death with the flashing question mark. Which indicates the harddrive is dead, the laptop can't boot and most likely all my files are lost forever. That early draft of a review I wrote for a TIFF film from a few weeks ago? Gone.
But the festival must go on. There are screenings to see, films to watch, friends to catch up with. So I plowed on hoping that, maybe by some miracle, things would work out for this weekend and I could deal with fixing the laptop when I returned home. Alas, that wasn't the case. I tried repairing the disc, only to make sure its fate was sealed – now it won't boot no matter what I try. And the more time I waste trying to get it to even boot, the more time I waste seeing films and writing about them, which is really all I care about when I'm up here. I want to share thoughts about the films I've loved so far: like Eden and Men, Women & Children.
TIFF is a non-stop festival. As soon as it starts, it gets crazy – with up to 4 or 5 films on my schedule every day until I leave. There's barely any downtime, barely a moment to eat and sleep, not to mention write any reviews. But we get around that by writing notes wherever possible: in line, in theaters with minutes before the start time, on couches, on airplanes, wherever there's wifi and somewhere safe to sit and type. Alas, without a working laptop, I've struggled to find time to even get my thoughts down for a review. I'm trying, I really am, and of course no one wants to hear this story about why I'm not able to get more posted because of a technology failure. I just want to start talking about films, so I bit the bullet and went to the Apple store.
I now have in my possession a shiny, brand new MacBook Air. And my bank account has taken a dent, but hopefully it's worth it (I needed a replacement laptop soon anyway so why not). This has allowed me to at least spend a few minutes writing about the festival, and explaining why things have been off to a slow start. Suffice it to say - coming here prepared, being ready for (almost) anything, and not stressing out too much when things go wrong are very important to keeping your sanity at the start of a film festival. That's the best advice I can give: plan ahead, focus on the films, and enjoy the festival experience - no matter what happens.
For now, that's the latest. I've already screened 9 TIFF films and I've been struggling to keep my own sanity while just barely getting onto a working laptop tonight. My favorites so far: Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, Mia Hansen-Løve's Eden and Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler. That last one is just dark, devious fun but the first two really hit me deep, connecting with me in a way that few films do. Coming across those kind of films always reminds me why I love doing this, why I always come back, and what I'm always looking for/hoping to find in memorable films. From here I'll do my best to get caught up even though it may take a few more days to get back up and running at full speed. Thanks for your patience and understanding. #TIFF