Piers Handling has headed the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival since 1994 and in that time has made the non-competitive event a must attend for the world's celebrity class. Packing the downtown core with celebrities every September, the festival has become the city's international calling card and never fails to give Toronto a cultural adrenalin shot.
The bespectacled organizer, who looks like he was born in a tux, served as a juror for the Cannes Film Festival last year and is also a noted author and historian in his chosen field with books published on the works of David Cronenberg and Don Shebib.
While he travels the globe to make sure the next edition of TIFF is more vibrant and relevant than the last, he's never really far away from the city he proudly calls home.
What's your day job?
I'm the Director and CEO of TIFF - The Toronto International Film Festival.
What project are you working on right now?
I am working on completing our $196 million capital campaign, planning the opening of our new building TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 12th, and organizing and programming the festival in September. We are also into serious planning for the first two years of programming TIFF Bell Lightbox so I am involved in that process as well.
What neighbourhood do you live in?
What do you like most about that area?
I love the Danforth - Carrot Common, Book City, Alex Farm Cheese Shop, Pan restaurant.
How often does your job take you out of the city?
I'm often travelling, just about every month.
Where have you been recently and what were you doing there?
I was in London and Cannes. I was in London for three days where I visited the British Film Institute's South Bank complex. I also saw a play, an opera and a football match. I then went straight to Cannes where I attended the film festival for two weeks and saw about 30 films, hosted a group of our Board members and donors. I went to multiple events, dinners and cocktails on behalf of our festival. I also saw the Monaco Grand Prix for a day with a group of friends which is an annual ritual. I have been attending Formula 1 races for many, many years.
Aisle or Window?
I prefer the aisle for long trips as I have long legs and the window for short trips of an hour or so, so I can see the view.
Do you have any favourite travel tips?
I always have magazines and a book with me to make the time pass faster - and if there are travel delays I have something to do. I have an inflatable pillow to save my neck when I sleep or doze, and a mask for my eyes so there is no daylight penetration. I often take a chocolate bar as a snack. On certain trips, even two weeks long, I will only take hand luggage so I can move quickly, never worry about lost luggage or waiting for my bag to come off the plane.
Aside from friends and family, what do you miss about Toronto when you're away?
My house and my garden and the daily rhythm of routine.
What ideas have you seen in another city that you think someone should start or create in Toronto?
The public bike-sharing programme - but I think it is finally coming to Toronto this summer, although I have not seen any in use yet. It's a terrific idea. Bike stations where you rent a bike for a period of time, and then drop it off at the other bike stations around the city.
Where are you off to next and why?
I go to London, Paris, Rome and Warsaw on a two week screening trip where we see the new films being offered to us. We sit in private screenings rooms all day, and often well into the night, watching about 80 to 90 films in total. Having drinks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners with sales agents, producers, filmmakers virtually every day; it's an exhausting, but stimulating trip. I'll also travel to Bologna for a day to see an exhibition focusing on Federico Fellini.