Hollywood Heads Up North for Toronto Film Festival

Toronto was buzzing with glitz and glamour as Hollywood arrived for the 35th Toronto International Film Festival. With a never ending manifest of A-listers present, red ropes seems to emerge around every corner of downtown.

But the Toronto Film Festival, which runs Sept. 9-19, has very much a flavor of its own.

The consistent crowds of loyal Canadian fans gathered around the entrances of events and were permanently posted at the doors of hotels like the Four Seasons or the Thompson, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars like Matt Damon, Shia LaBeouf or Kevin Spacey. But with an attitude far tamer than we are used to in L.A. (and the U.S., for that matter), where even the paparazzo were polite.

Local citizens' bubbly-ness fizzed with interest to learn about the passing Hollywood folk. But unlike festivals held in smaller geographic locations, once away from the main festival area, Toronto is a vibrant city going about business as usual. Even fans and shutter-bugs were unaware at times of such high-profile industry affairs like the Soho House Club's temporary festival set up, where outside looked like a low-key club venue, and inside Hollywood's most elite league of celebrities, high-powered agents and top industry executives were packed in, letting their hair down late into the night.

If you were dropped off blindfolded in Toronto, you'd assume you were in an East Coast U.S. city that you can't recognize right away. Very much resembling a larger, more metropolitan version of, perhaps, Boston, Toronto had an exciting combination of a large bustling city and old-world charm. This was apparent in the interesting variety of locations where parties have been held such as the Toronto University, whose grounds resembled Harvard or Yale, where Mongrel Media had its Friday night event.

It was refreshing to find how much the city was being promoted in this festival. It helped in large part that L.A. companies hired local PR personnel who, while they were completely professional and efficient, did however get a little brighter to deal with "A" talent and celebrities.

And what is a film festival without gift lounges. Equally as refreshing was seeing local businesses and companies have a presence and promotion in the lounges, from designers to technology. The "Tastemakers Lounge" hosted by Canadian local Rock-it Promotions, for instance is the first Canadian-owned and operated product placement/gifting suite, which is having its sixth year running at the Toronto Yorkville Hotel, with companies such as Bamjamz, Damn Heels, Guats Active, Indeed Labs, Jessica Jamsen, Joe Fresh, etc.

Even the celebrity studded "IT Lounge" hosted by NKPR in partnership with Artists for Peace and Justice, featured Canadian designers such as RW & Co and Dagmar, beauty care companies like Moroccan Oil, Andrea and Diane Lai and the local gadget brand "kobo."

This brings about the thought that, in U.S. held festivals such as the Los Angeles Film Festival, while the larger companies that we all know have their promotion spots secured in the these gift lounges, organizers should feel inspired and motivated to give smaller companies a chance to place their products with celebs and get their name out there -- Lord knows our economy needs the help.

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