Monday, October 4, 2010

Re: The Toronto International Film Festival Pt. 3

Let's see. Where did I leave off. Oh. Right. Press day. So, here's a couple videos from the Press Day - Thanks to luckyj525 for posting these.

As we completed our Press Day at the InterContinental, we noticed a group of paparazzi waiting outside the hotel. Jackson and Evan went out ahead of us. This is one of the shots:

Evan finally finished his Press commitment back at our hotel room doing a phone interview with ArtistsOnDemand. After that, we told him to get some rest. It was going to be a loooong night.

The plan was for everyone to meet up in our hotel lobby at 6:45pm before heading over to Scotiabank.

Once everyone was in the lobby (or, mostly everyone) I gathered people together for a couple photos.

In the first photo (L-R) Harrison Lees (Production Designer/Cast Member), Justin Lerner (Writer/Director/Producer), Dan Turnbull (Cast), Evan Sneider (Cast), Joe Turnbull (Cast/Production Supervisor), Me, Jeff Castelluccio (Editor/Post Producer) and Craig Wesley Divino (Mr. Sneider's Acting Coach/Cast).

In the second photo: (L-R) Cecelia Chapman (Production Assistant), June Suepunpuck (Costume Designer), Leah Cooper (Unit Photographer), Jackie Lerner (Mother of the Director) and Nicole Rivera (Production Assistant and my cousin).

And, because I know Evan will check out this blog...

And because she wasn't in the other shots...

(L-R) June Suepunpuck (Costume Designer) and Quyen Tran (Director of Photography).

Finally, the time had come. We all walked over to the Scotiabank and headed into the theater. We had sold out again (which, of course, feels really good).

For me, this was the best screening we had at the Festival. When the lights came up at the end, the audience gave us a sustained applause that continued as Justin invited the cast and key crew members up onto the stage. When Justin announced Evan, the entire audience got to their feet - and it lasted, I would guess, about two minutes.

Here is a good portion of the Q & A. (Thanks to Jaime Mosher for posting this!)

After the screening, Evan stepped out into the theatre lobby to a crowd of fans. He spent a good thirty minutes signing autographs and taking photos with people who were so happy to congratulate him on his extraordinary performance...

I think, for me personally though, the best part of the experience was that there were a number of Down Syndrome people in the audience (as well as parents of children with Down Syndrome) and Justin, Evan and I had a great opportunity to meet them and to hear their stories.

People with learning disabilities are so often undervalued in our society, or lumped together as a group that is only capable of a certain contribution to the world - Evan breaks those barriers and his performance in the film is proof positive that even those who may be viewed as "different" are capable of so much more than they are often given credit for... and it goes beyond the Special Olympics campaign.

Evan is defiant. He is strong and he is, above all, talented. An artist. So, if any of you are reading this who came out to see the film and either have Down Syndrome or any other learning disability (or maybe are a parent, relative or friend of someone like Evan), I hope that he (and the film) are able to help you in the future - to realize that anything is possible.

After the screening, we all walked back over to our hotel, where the plan was to reconvene before heading over to the after party at the Brant House.

TIFF was providing us with several Audi vehicles for the party, so I loaded Evan into one, Justin and the lovely Sarah Carter (an actress friend of ours who happened to be shooting a new Spielberg produced series in town) in another, Shannon and actor Andrew Garfield in the third and finally the members of 100 Monkeys into a stretch limo before leading the rest of our group over on foot. Funnily enough, the traffic was so thick that those of us who walked ended up getting there before the cars!

Once the cars arrived, we all made our way down the red carpet where the media had set up. Here are a couple (brief) clips I made of the interviews:

Some of you may be wondering why I am not in any interviews... or maybe not? Well. I'll explain anyway.

There are certain celebrity producers. The Wachowski's (formerly The Wachowski Brothers), Joel Silver, (the aforementioned) Harvey Weinstein, Steven Spielberg, Scott Rudin... but with the exception of Silver, Rudin and Weinstein the others were known first for their directing or writing. Rudin and Silver are known (aside from their impressive resume) for their tantrums and screaming. But you see, producing is the hidden art. Most people don't really know what it is a producer does. If you've read this site in previous posts, I tried to paint a picture of what the job is, but even in describing it, it can be... nebulous. That's partly because the dynamics of the job can change dramatically from project to project. All of this is to say that, for the most part, the only place you'll see a producer talk is on DVD Special Features. And at the Oscar podium for Best Picture, where it is the producer who accepts the statue.

Inside, the Brant House is pretty great. It's a huge venue and has an upstairs area reserved as the "VIP" section. We had an open bar all night and the staff there was great.

Couple more pics. In the first, we have (L-R) Jackson, Evan, Justin and Shannon.

In the next one (L-R) we have Jackson, June and Jason Olivier, our Executive Producer and founder of Make It So Productions.

It was such a great experience. Some of us were able to have our family there (mine, unfortunately, couldn't make it) and we even had fans there who had paid to get in (in the form of a donation to the Special Olympics).

A few of us basically closed the place out and finally, when we headed back to the hotel... well, suffice it to say that we were all extremely happy. It was a great night.

The next couple of days were all about meeting people, talking to other filmmakers and seeing movies! We did, however have one more awesome thing happen. And just in time before Evan and his mother had to leave.

During the next day, we hung out. Justin, Evan and I saw a couple of films and hung out at the TIFF Filmmaker Lounge.

That night, we figured that even though we were all wiped out, we ought to try and make an appearance at some of the parties going on around the Fest. We were going to hit The People Magazine Party, but we ended up getting lost on our way over and instead, found ourselves at the In Style party. Well. We weren't on the invite list... but as it turns out, we were supposed to be. A woman named Susie (who ran the party) was waiting outside with a group of security and staff. I didn't know her, but she was the first one to step away from the group. By this time, someone in the Press Corps had spotted Evan and so Justin and Jerad began to walk the press line with him. He signed a few more autographs and took a ton of pictures.

Meanwhile, I pounced on Susie... but in truth, I didn't have to say much. In point of fact, all I got out was "My name's Shaun O'Banion. I'm a producer on a film called 'Girlfriend,' and - " She cut me off right there. "Is he here?" she asked? For a second, I thought she might be referring to Jackson (who had caught a bad cold and wasn't with us)... "Evan?" I replied, "Yes. He's over by the media."

And that was it. She walked over with me, stamped our hands and we walked into the party past all of the security who, only moments earlier, had frozen us out.

Inside the lavishly decorated building, some of today's hottest celebs were mingling and partying. I ran into old friend (and recent Emmy winner) Aaron Paul, we saw the stunningly gorgeous Maggie Q and the cast of the new series' NIKITA. Evan talked with (and danced with) Missy Peregrym (star of the hit series ROOKIE BLUE) and we ran into Tiffany Hines (super sexy co-star on NIKITA) who also happens to be a friend of Justin's. Justin, it should be noted, knows everyone.

There were amazing deserts, jars full of candy with little bags and twisty-ties so you could take some home with you(!) and of course, all the free drinks you could handle.

Evan found some willing dance partners and the rest of us really just had fun watching Evan work the room.

Here's a shot of (L-R) Evan, Jerad, Kristina and I...

When the party was over (and believe me, we nearly closed out this one too), we all made our way back to the hotel. The next day, Evan would be leaving (which we all knew would be tough)... but we also had good news. A distributor had stepped up with an offer on the film. We were having to keep things quiet (even from the rest of the cast and crew!) but we had good reason to believe that a sale was coming.

I'll leave the closing day and post-TIFF "What's Happening Next" for another post.

Hope you enjoyed this one. Leave some comments! Ask questions! Let's get a little interaction going.

Thanks for reading.



  1. a story, absolutely, exciting and captivating!

  2. Shaun, thank you so much for taking the time to write up this fascinating insight into your 'Girlfriend' experience at TIFF. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading every installment, and hope that some day I will get the chance to see this amazing film.

    Thank You!