Celebrity spotting tips for TIFF

Two avid celebrity watchers offer advice on how to catch a glimpse of your favourite movie stars at the Toronto International Film Festival — and maybe even talk to a few.

2 veteran celebrity watchers explain how best to catch a glimpse — or more — of stars at festival

Many movie stars will be attending the Toronto International Film Festival this month, but what are a fan's chances of getting anywhere near their favourite celebrity? We asked two avid star-spotters to weigh in.

Toronto blogger and celebrity watcher William Wong, who goes by the name Mr. Will-W. and runs the blog Mr. Will-W.: Pop Maven, says festivalgoers have plenty of opportunities to run into stars if they go about it the right way.

"The best shot is to go to premieres, to the red carpet," he said. "Show up two hours early, and you are guaranteed to see some stars."

Melissa Laszkiewicz, a veteran TIFF-goer and star-spotter, recommends getting to the premieres not two but three hours in advance.

"Get a spot at the gates, near the entrance where the [celebrities] will get on the red carpet," she says. "And pack a bag of snacks and water, so you don't lose your spot."

Mr. Will-W. and Laszkiewicz have been attending TIFF, and meeting their idols, for years. They have found ways to spot the stars and learned the etiquette for approaching them.

Perhaps the first image that leaps to mind when thinking of star-spotting is people campedutside of the Four Seasons Hotel, waiting for hours on end to catch a glimpse of a celebrity who may be staying there. But Mr. Will-W. advises against this strategy.

"It's a waste of time unless you are absolutely certain that the star is inside the hotel right [then]," he says. "Nowadays, it's easier to make guesses where the stars are. For example, you can Google 'Julianne Moore Toronto.' Somebody could have mentioned seeing her on Twitter."

Planning essential

Doing some research has become especially necessary since TIFF moved its headquarters downtown to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, its new headquarters in Toronto's theatre district, and began holding screenings there as well as at cinemas in different parts of town.

"In the past, everything used to happen in Yorkville, but now, things are more scattered," said Mr. Will-W. "They have moved to the entertainment district as well."

Nevertheless, there are still some areas where one is more likely to spot a star than others.

"There's a good chance you'll see someone at an intimate distance … a star hanging out in Yorkville or running errands on Bloor Street," says Laszkiewicz.

But no matter what your star-spotting strategy, it won't be cost that keeps you from seeing celebrities, said Mr. Will-W.

"TIFF prices are reasonable, even on gala tickets," he said. "And really, these tickets only guarantee you seeing the stars, not meeting them."

A common worry of celebrity spotters is that the celebrities will be in disguise — the usual big sunglasses and baseball caps. But for Mr. Will-W., this is rarely a challenge.

"If you are a fan of someone, there's no way you're not going to recognize them; it'll be pretty obvious," he says. "Sometimes, when I see a familiar face and I wonder, 'Is that the person?' I use my smartphone to look up pictures."

Most stars approachable

As for etiquette when meeting a star, Mr. Will-W. follows a simple mantra.

"Be nice; that is fail-proof," he said. 

Most important, he recommends fans make clear what it is they want.

"Wave, smile, have something on you for the star to sign and wave that so that they see this is what you want," says Mr. Will-W.

And if you want to take a photograph, just ask.

"Some would be very nice about it," said Laszkiewicz. "I asked Ewan McGregor for a picture at a gala premiere. Not only did he pose with me, he also asked me after if the picture was good."

Most important of all, she says, be polite.

"Stars have all sorts of personalities and characters, but they are generally nice people," Laszkiewicz said. "There's no need to scream in their face or yell at them, 'I named my baby after you.' They'll look at you weird."

Laszkiewicz says fans shouldn't be wary of braving TIFF crowds to spot celebs because chances are your effort will be worth it.

"It's an opportunity for your moment in the spotlight," she says. "We get to experience a little of Hollywood in Toronto."

And for those who fear getting nervous or anxious at the prospects of actually talking to a star, Mr. Will-W. has a piece of advice.

"Just remember that they are normal people," he says. "Most of them will come to you when they see the [item to] autograph. They want to connect with their fan base.

"Stars have this air of mystery around them, but they're just here to do a job and to have fun."