The Review/ Short Read/

TIFF '16 #InfiniteViews Diary 8: The Editor

On her day of the Festival, Chandler Levack does karaoke with Sebastian Grainger, cries her eyes out during Blue Jay and stress eats some brownies

Sep 16, 2016


We see an extremely tired woman typing on her laptop in a room that looks like an explosion went off in a H&M. She’s doubled over with period cramps, trying to edit a roundtable on Canadian cinematographers. (Of which, the banner photo illustrates.) She drinks water from an unwashed mug, dehydrated beyond belief, debating whether or not to use a semi-colon...

Record-scratch freeze frame

(VOICE-OVER, IT SOUNDS LIKE A RESOUNDING HUSK FROM THE GRAVE) Well, I bet you’re probably wondering how I got here…

Witches’ cackle Lightning strike SFX

A portal of time opens up and our heroine is sucked through the computer into the infinite abyss of Film Twitter. All around her are swirling lights, rave reviews of Moonlight. FADE TO BLACK.

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. Let the diary begin!

12AM to 1:30: I head to the Scythia Films party, helmed by kickass Canadian producer Daniel Bekerman. It is being held at Pai Restaurant, a delicious Thai place, there is food hidden in a dark corner. It has been a long day of socializing and movies and line-ups. (The most striking image of the day was the first scene in One-Eyed Jacks in which Marlon Brando eats a banana, places the banana peel on a scale, which is then balanced by another banana peel that was already on the scale. It's truly all I can think about.) Cinematographer Jared Raab and I have a long conversation about the respective Jewishness of our hair. (And then, a way smarter conversation about the social/cultural origins of language that I can’t quite remember.)

After talking to producer Karen Harnisch about the issue of Telefilm’s stance on gender parity funding, me and my friend Max McCabe-Lokos (who I apparently run into and hang out with every day of TIFF 16, thus far) go to Bar Plus for TIFF Programmer Karaoke. I make a joke about nervously singing “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel in front of Cameron Bailey that turns out to be a near-prophecy. (Perhaps those aliens in Arrival are speaking to me through an infinite loop of interstellar language.)

1:30AM to 3:30 AM: Programmer karaoke at Bar Plus is insane. TIFF employees are going hard. Programmer Michael Lerman delivers the most powerful rendition of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” that I have ever seen. My friend Kiva Reardon headbangs her guts out to “Enter Sandman.” It’s like somehow through the collective intensity of TIFF, everyone has found their catharsis in ‘90s hard rock anthems. My friend Eva Michon, whose beautiful short film Small Fry plays at the Festival, stands on the table to sing one of my favourite songs of all time, Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do (Is Have Some Fun”). Her husband, Sebastian Grainger (of Death From Above 1979) sings “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” with such note-perfect, effortless Billy Corgan control that I basically die inside. This is the TIFF I worship.

3:30AM to 3:45AM: Eva, Seb and I try to hail a cab. While we’re waiting outside, I see Rising Star Jared Abramson (he’s the lead in Hello Destroyer) walk down the street and attempt to hail a cab in front of Zanzibar and return back, confused. It’s like something out of Goin’ Down The Road. We chat a bit and all I want to keep telling him is how cool and exciting he is in Kevan Funk’s film and how I hope he makes movies forever, but I am so tired and drunk now, having watched three films today and conducted two interviews and navigated countless social interactions that are somehow contingent on my career, that I basically feel like crumbling into a pile of ashes on Yonge Street.

3:15 AM to 4:30 AM: In the cab, Eva says, “We’re definitely not going to go to the Lakeview and eat poutine right now, right?” Another prophecy. I eat a piece of cherry pie with Eva and Seb and we talk about movies.

4:30 AM: I walk home and pass out in bed immediately. I wishfully set my alarm for 8:45 AM.

8:45 AM - I wake up and immediately double over with terrible period cramps. How fun! Volunteer/Next Wave panelist Steven Johnson (of the previous entry) texts me to say that he's still working on his piece. I try to back to bed and dream about being in an endless rush line.

10:30AM to 3 PM - Awake now and editing on my bed next to my teddy bear Lawrence like a goddamn professional. I send all the emails, edit all the content, make all the tweets about the content.


I vow to see a movie. My friend Joanna Adams of eTalk Daily emails me her Christine ticket but I can't get my life together in time to go see it. Eventually I scrounge together something resembling an outfit (Leather pants? A sweatshirt? My director's hat? Red lipstick to tie it all together? Like a sexy George Lucas? Because that could be a thing, right?) and take a cab to Scotiabank to catch the P&I of Mark Duplass' film Blue Jay.

bluejay 01

3:30 to 5 PM: Despite missing the first 10 minutes, the movie affects me very deeply as a person who is very susceptible to feelings of nostalgia and love and loss right now (i.e. period). The idea of loving someone and never being able to access that relationship again, even when you're with them... Little sensory things, like the way someone smells or whatever little in-jokes you have - all gone, over. A shared history you can only access in your memory, even if that relationship feels like the only thing that makes you you. This beautiful, devastating movie asks what could happen if you could rekindle everything; if you were open and ready to receive a past love. There's a scene where Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson dance cheek-to-cheek to an Annie Lennox song that's raw and performative and heart wrenching. I start weeping three-quarters of the way through the movie during a scene where they lie in bed and kiss and Duplass’ character says “I love you” and the other character backs away. This might be a really embarrassing/inappropriate thing to admit in a blog entry that is also promoting a film festival but - while I don't miss my ex-boyfriend, I really do miss the feeling of being in love with him. I watch Blue Jay and I feel an ache in my heart (and also in my uterus.) It unravels something deep inside me and watching it in the theatre, I really mourn something real and sad and sacred.

After I get out of the movie, I run into a friend who says she also appreciated the film: "It was the first one I've seen where someone doesn't get raped or murdered!" I then proceed to run into four more people between the walk from Scotiabank to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, despite having just cried my eyes out in the bathroom. They’re like, “'Sup Levack, what are you up to? Career-wise? Please tell me in exactly three minutes in a tangential conversation that can be held on the street.” And I’m like, “Um, I'm gonna make a short about a band in the fall.” But really, I am plotting to find an alley somewhere and process some emotions.

__5:00 to 5:30 - __My friend, Midnight Madness programme associate Peter Kuplowsky and I grab coffee at Dark Horse and hang out briefly. We talk about the importance of wearing hats (figuratively and literally).

Me and Peter

__5:30 to 8:30 - __Head back to my desk at the Lightbox where I edit down a 22 page transcript to 10 pages all about the role of Canadian actors in the local film industry. The Rising Stars are so smart and candid and I am so grateful for their honesty. I am really very honoured to have this job. During this process, I find a tray of brownies and stress eat about three of them. (This is the only thing I eat today.) Mark Duplass retweets my insanely oversensitive tweet about Blue Jay. He is such a nice man and I loved working with him on his newsletter for The Review. I really can’t say more about how much I loved this simple, devastating movie.


__8:30 to 8:45 - __ My co-worker, the lovely Hannah Martin, returns from yet another Snapchat celebrity adventure. She is like a bounty hunter for Michael Shannon profile shots. We have a conversation that is frequent during TIFF: the "what should I do now?" talk. Plans and schedules and merits of various films are discussed and debated. I ultimately give up and do the easiest thing: rush a Rob Reiner movie.

8:45 to 9:30 - Stand in line at Roy Thomson Hall in the rush line for LBJ. The woman in front of me says she's claustrophobic and requests that I stand a foot away from her. So now I leave about a foot of courtesy space while I stand awkwardly, check emails and Twitter, think about my life. I’m sort of having a weird identity complex this TIFF where I’m not a critic… not yet a filmmaker. Everything I’m thinking and feeling and experiencing this year is helping me understand more about the industry and what I want to achieve - which contrary to maybe popular belief, is both making films and writing about them, too. It worked for Eric Rohmer and I want to copy his career exactly: be an editor for 10 years, get fired, make my first feature at 40, have it be a failure, make another movie, have it be a failure, then make movies 'till I die at 89.

__9:30 to 9:45 - __Hannah returns and we get into the movie and sit close up to the front. We joke about how this is the first movie we are seeing together at Festival and it is a biopic about a much-maligned American president. A very funny Rob Reiner introduces the film and his cast of Americans and everyone is pumped. The lights go down for LBJ.

IMG 9671

9:45 to 11:30 - LBJ is a fairly wry biopic of a Lyndon Baines Johnson, who became president after the death of John F. Kennedy. Woody Harrelson offers a charismatic performance as a perpetually politicking vice-prez who makes several dick jokes in the movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as his wife, has less to do but wears a very compelling fake nose.

11:30 AM to 2 AM - My friend, the filmmaker Daniel Cockburn, is moving to London and is holding a going away party at the Embassy in Kensington market. I join him, and several of my friends, including Max (the TIFF gravitational pull again) for a beer for the end of yet another day at TIFF. Punk rock songs are played. My brother and his girlfriend joins me. We go on a fruitless search for a working ATM machine that feels a bit like Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, at which point we return, drink beers, talk about movies, repeat. I am starting to feel like I can’t quite define what’s real life and what feels like a movie anymore. As I walk home down College Street with my friend Max, having a long conversation about acting and realism and Mike Leigh movies, I lean into that surreal feeling and embrace it. Everything is cinema when you’re running on four hours of sleep and have taken five Midols. Another day at TIFF.