- Avoid major releases - I've probably said this a billion times on this blog, but I mean it--major releases are fine for limited festival incursions, but those seeing 20+ films should avoid them completely. Here's an analogy to illustrate: Let's say you're visiting Paris. Would you go to a McDonald's? A Burger King? Hell no. You'd find some cafe along the Seine and wait 45 minutes for an overpriced meal while chatting about some movie made just around the corner. There are exceptions, but they're fairly limited. Avoid the blockbusters and seek out the strange Mongolian film that you'll never see back home.
- Try something new - It's fun to see something familiar at a festival, but don't neglect films that don't, on the surface, appear appealing. I suggest stepping outside your boundaries and trying something very different. Granted, this can backfire. At last year's TIFF, about half of my big chances were fairly...underwhelming. Regardless, try something new with at least one of your free slots. It's well worth the risk.
- Include something light - The vast majority of films at TIFF are serious, thought-provoking, and somber, which is wonderful until about Tuesday or Wednesday. By that point, you're likely to be so overwhelmed by pain and misery that your spirit could very well be crushed. This is why I suggest finding at least one film on the list that has no potential for suicides, dying animals, or dying animals committing suicide. Of course, it's often difficult to tell from the vague program descriptions, but it's worth it. Last year, I saw a work print of Dave Chappelle's Block Party and it was one of the highlights of the festival.
- Try Some Midnight Madness - Midnight Madness is, without a doubt, some of the most fun you can have at TIFF. The films are usually entertaining and the crowds are a blast. I still feel this year's crop is slightly thin, but I'll try to take in two or three before the festival's over. The other perk: the theater's big and the lottery process rarely sells these out, so you're practically guaranteed entry.
For the record, my (very tenuous) choices for the second tier this year are: Big Bang Love: Juvenile A, Invisible Waves, Election/Election 2 (if it's a one-ticket/two movies deal), Woman on the Beach, The Fall, Syndromes and a Century, This Filthy World, When the Levees Broke, Khadak, The Last Winter, Waiter, Hana, Offside, Red Road, Manufactured Landscapes and Black Sheep. This will, of course, change radically between now and Tuesday, but that's how it is temporarily.
My final bit of (unnecessary) advice coming soon...