My Experience at the TIFF – “Can a Song Save Your Life?” Premiere

I attended The Special Presentation of “Can a Song Save Your Life?” at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The film stars Keria Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It’s a drama-comedy about the music industry and chronicles the lives of an undiscovered musician and a once-relevant music producer.

This was the premiere that I was looking forward to the most. I didn’t know a lot about how TIFF premieres work, so I was excited to see how high-profile it would be and what the atmosphere would be like. Reflecting on it now, it was an amazing experience.

The film had its premiere at the Princess of Whales theater, and the street it was on was barricaded on both sides, allowing fans (many of whom were wearing Maroon 5 shirts, the band that Adam Levine fronts) to capture a glimpse of the stars of the film arriving and posing for pictures on the red carpet.

Now, I’ll admit, I am a bit of a fangirl when it comes to celebrities. Depending on the actor or musician, I do tend to get star-struck. I walked by Michael Emerson on the streets of NYC last fall. “Lost” is one of my favorite television shows and he did a great job portraying his character, Benjamin Linus, so initially I had the urge to call out his name and get his attention to say “hi” or get a picture or something. Instead, the adrenaline and excitement from seeing him up close overtook and I just ended up kind of staring at him as he walked by. I still regret not trying to talk to him.

So, I was anticipating the possibility of seeing Keira Knightley and Adam Levine-who I’ve been a long-time fan of- in person. From the day’s earlier screening of “Palo Alto”, in a much smaller venue, I was aware that film-goers were directed to a street parallel to or around the corner of the venue to line up. I wasn’t sure how it would work at a red-carpet premiere, however. I was a bit disappointed to learn that it was the same set-up, but I understand the need for it. It keeps the film-goers separate from fans at the barricade.

However, I was in for a surprise once I walked into the theater. Directly to my left, about 5 or 6 feet from me, behind hordes of cameras and press, Adam Levine was being interviewed. The lights of a camera flashed and he was lit up the moment I noticed his presence so close to me. This is where my fangirl ways kicked in. It was almost too perfect, with his face ( his very handsome face) lit up with the flash of the bulb, smiling as he was being interviewed. As if I wasn’t excited enough for simply being at the TIFF I was practically buzzing with excitement after this incident.

Audience goers were then ushered into the theater by TIFF volunteers. The theater is beautiful inside, and its capacity of 2000 seats was almost filled. The whole theater was almost bulging with the commotion of people walking around talking, anticipating the start of the film.

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I was able to get great seats, flush against the balcony, to the side. I had a clear view of the stage and no one was in front of me.

After an introduction of director, John Carney and actors Keira Knightley and Adam Levine (who garnered loud cheers and a few “I LOVE YOU ADAM” hollers from the audience), the film started.

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A couple minutes into the film, Adam Levine and Keira Knightley walked into the theater and sat down to watch the movie. From my position at the side of the balcony, they were below me, in my line of sight. That was definitely exciting. I caught myself looking over to them during the more brightly lit scenes of the film, usually catching them laughing at a particular funny line (which the film had plenty of) or looking more sentimental during the emotionally gripping song scenes.

I did not expect the stars of the film to sit in the theater and watch the film. For me, this extended the impact of the film. It really is something else to watch a world premiere of a film with the actors. I’ve read countless interviews of actors who prefer to not see the finished product, many of them saying that their job is done once they leave the set. So, it was interesting to see the actors witnessing the film along with everyone else in the theater. They were truly part of the audience, getting lost in the story of the film and reacting similarly.

From what I gathered from the people around me and the general atmosphere of the theater, the reception of the film was great. This was reflected in not only the crescendo of claps and cheers following the film’s end, but also during the Q&A.

Adam Levine was especially enthusiastic during the entirety of the Q&A and rightly so, considering it is his first feature film. He has a very charismatic presence, and it came across on screen as his role of Dave. He had the audience laughing at his responses and really seemed at ease on stage in front of the 2000 attendees. He had an almost giddy-like nature, always cracking jokes and giving humor-laced answers to every question. He easily fits into the charming, laid-back actor role.

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Keria Knightley was a bit more reserved, but to no fault, considering she doesn’t face thousands of screaming fans, much like how Levine does. She has a graceful way about her, though. She was a bit shy with the praise she received for her singing skills, which were all her own. She answered the questions about it with a humble, thankful tone. I’ve always found her acting roles to be so regal and elegant, so it was nice to see her in a more relaxed setting. She reflected the more bohemian, understated role of Greta she portrays in the film. 

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At 20 minutes in length, the Q&A was a fun and informative end to the premiere. It gave the audience a bit more insight into the personalities of the actors, as well as a peek into the workings of a film and how it comes together. 

“Can a Song Save Your Life” is a soul-stirring and lively film, with an emotionally gripping original soundtrack. The passion of the film was mirrored in the passion of its director and cast during the Q&A and the uplifting nature of the film was felt throughout the audience. Overall, the premiere was a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

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