Working girl

Queen’s student uses Film Festival to break into the industry

Stardom, Denys Arcand’s latest film featuring good Kingston boy Dan Aykroyd and Cornwall model Jessica Paré kicked off the twenty-fifth Toronto Film Festival last night. For Queen’s Film student Heather McDonald, the Toronto Film Festival is another step on the long, arduous and humiliating road to stardom.

McDonald is just one of an army of volunteers and interns working ungodly hours for next to no pay and the chance to make valuable contacts.

This year’s festival will be McDonald’s second time as an intern at the Film Festival. An experience that she describes as intense. “It’s a four month internship crammed into 10 days.”

On a typical day, McDonald will work from 8 in the morning until 2 at night. Her duties as a “kind of publicist and sort of helper” will include organizing cars, reservations, preparing notes for the press and picking up the “talent” at the airport and accompanying stars to their film’s galas. Despite having to accompany icons like Kevin Smith around Toronto, McDonald says, “the key is not being starstruck. You can’t sit back and watch anything.”

Schmoozing, however, helps. Last year, Heather’s visits to the suites of various film companies helped her earn three job offers.

McDonald, who is working for Vancouver-based Lion’s Gate Films, had the chance to develop that skill this summer interning at that company’s New York office. Living in Brooklyn (“right over The Bridge”) and working in SoHo (“nice spot”), McDonald earned a paltry stipend for four days a week of reading script synopses and scripts and preparing the talent for interviews.

McDonald recalled one specific indignity from her days working with the director of marketing. “RuPaul was in one of the films we were promoting and he wouldn’t drink Evian, only Poland Springs. We only had Evian, so I had to get him his water. It was all in good fun, though.” When not quenching the very particular thirst of RuPaul or ensuring that stars had the correct lighting during interviews, McDonald was able to help herself to some important addresses that she says will help her in the future.

Like most people, Heather says her work was “not fun.” Like many people’s summer jobs, “it didn’t challenge her creatively.” Yet, McDonald has no regrets. She believes the experience will help her towards her ultimate goal, the dream that has fuelled an event like the Toronto Film Festival. “I want to make films.”

Watch for more coverage of the Toronto Film Festival all next week in The Journal.

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