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TIFF 2019: Student by day, tired by night

U of T undergrad on her time starring in a TIFF film

TIFF 2019: Student by day, tired by night

Dear Readers,

My name is Mick Robertson. I am a fourth-year student, a writer, and an actress. Most recently, I played the lead in Sofia Banzhaf’s short film, I am in the World as Free and Slender as a Deer on a Plain. Luckily for me, this sweet short just had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And so, for my Varsity friends, I kept a little log. Here are some selections that I would like to share, from the first six days of the festival.

Day one, Thursday, September 5:

I wish I could start this series by saying, ‘I went to a party where I was the lamest person, which I was cool with, because the room was filled with STARS!’ But that would be a lie, and unfortunately my editor is holding me to ‘journalistic standards,’ despite my being a dramatist.

Day two, Friday, September 6:

I watch Black Conflux by Nicole Dorsey, which the director of my film, Sofia Banzhaf, is in. As I step onto the escalator at the Scotiabank Theatre, the woman behind me is stopped by a volunteer and asked to show her ticket. Nobody has asked me for a ticket yet. Either I’m too quick for the volunteers to catch me or this pass around my neck is working its magic. After the film, I run uptown to see a comedic magic show, but that’s a story for another time.

Day three, Saturday, September 7:

Today is the day that my film premieres. I spend my morning buying boob tape. I spend my afternoon doing overdue work on my computer as my sister curls my hair. A good sister, my Martha.

At the cinema, I swap giddy smiles with my friends and family as I am welcomed to the front of the auditorium. The show is sold out and the theatre is so much larger than I had anticipated. The lights dim and my movie is up first. I count the minutes as my dad and I are in the same room watching my character watch anime porn. When the credits roll, a loved one leans over our shared armrest and whispers to me in the dark, “Congratulations! I am so proud of you!” Ahh, warmth.

Outside of the theatre, and we’re all gabbing. “I like it when you’re huge,” my boyfriend says. My mom and dad approach. Uh-oh. A shiver goes down my spine as I think about them watching me ‘try to S-E-X’ with so many men. My big, tough, vegan dad shakes his head, and then says with a sigh, “You know, you told me about the sex and the drugs but you did not tell me about the stirloin.” He laughs and so do I. “You look like Scarlett Johansson on the big screen!” says my overly-generous Mom.

Day four, Sunday, September 8:

I spend the morning workshopping a script with friends and spend the evening watching There’s Something In the Water by my lonesome. This makes me cry — not my being alone, but the documentary. Directed by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, There’s Something In the Water examines environmental racism in Nova Scotia. After the film, the cast and crew take the stage to answer questions. The room rises to its feet. The passion is palpable.

Day five, Monday, September 9:

I miss my morning class to watch Marriage Story by Noah Bombach. And so, I cry both Sunday night and Monday morning. I have a soft spot for sad love stories. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

Day six, Tuesday, September 10:

Log written at 12:30 pm:

I’m on a mission to get free stuff today! I had to skip another morning class for a last minute photoshoot — whoops, oh well! Afterward, I took a gander around the TIFF village. I got free coffee and free hair conditioner! I realized that there’s free coffee all over TIFF, you just have to know where to find it. I take a professional air when ordering my espresso, hoping to mask the stench of a scavenging student. But alas, I realize that the stench is not metaphorical but that this morning while getting dressed up, I forgot to wear deodorant.

After a quick run to Shoppers Drug Mart, I sit and people watch in the industry centre. I watch as industry folk bump into each other. ‘I wish my friends were here,’ I think.

Additional log at 3:45 pm, typed exactly as written in my notebook:

“Drank too much free beer coffee + then I had a beer at a meeting. Now I have to go to my classics class. Hopefully we grow older as we grow wiser.”*

*I would like to note that at this point I absolutely went home and ate sweet potatoes until I felt better before heading to class. Take care of yourself, folks!

Current place, current time:

As I sit here and write in Robarts — relatable content — the festival is creeping closer and closer to its conclusion on Sunday. That said, there are still many movies to see and plenty of studying to fall behind on.

I would like to thank The Varsity for inviting me to write this piece, and in doing so providing me with a reason to sit down in this whirlwind time and reflect on all of the things I am learning and loving about being around movies. If anyone is reading this and wants to make films, well, I want to make them too! Please feel free to reach out to me. Who knows? Maybe a bunch of us could be back here with a film next fall.

If you would like to see some of Roberston’s work, she invites you to attend a reading of Lone Island Lovers at the Luella Massey Studio Theatre on September 21 at 2:00 pm.

Undergrad is the time to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do

Take advantage of all U of T’s resources and try something new

Undergrad is the time to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do

While at U of T, I always felt like I was running out of time.

This first week of school turned into fourth year, and then in between, there were months of pure agony when my mental health went down the drain. But before I knew it, I made it to the other side, and it was all just over.

In hindsight, you too will likely feel as if you have missed so many opportunities and lost so much time. Don’t stress. Instead, get to know all the incredibly talented students here: both your peers and yourself. Embrace all that this school has to offer.

If you’re not sure where to begin, ask someone. It’s unlikely that you will have a chance like undergrad at U of T ever again, where you can walk in with zero experience, gain access to hundreds of resources and opportunities, and then take risks with minimal consequences.

Write that play, and submit it to the U of T Drama Festival. Form a makeshift band, perform at empty open mics, and audition for the Winterfest Battle of the Bands. Write some dramatic poetry, and submit it to a college review. Heck, pitch a podcast to The Varsity and see what happens. Even if you’re rejected, you’ll have written a play, you’ll have experience performing live, and you’ll have a creative portfolio to edit and pull from for next time.

If you’re a commuter, don’t just go home after class. If you live on res, don’t spend your whole life at Robarts Library. Talk to the people in your tutorial and form a study group together. They might just become your good friends. Look for hidden study spots throughout the rest of campus, and then get off campus and explore the actual city.

I spent much of this last summer saying goodbye to people and deliberating whether or not I should move to Vancouver for grad school. “I feel like I wasted so much time not knowing you guys,” one of my best friends said before moving to England.

“But I feel like we’ve known you forever,” I responded.  

Sure, we weren’t able to do everything we had hoped to during undergrad. Realistically, there just wasn’t enough time between all the extracurriculars, academics, and friends. Yet, as it all came to a close, I’m grateful we all did so much while we could, or saying goodbye wouldn’t have been nearly so difficult.