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TIFF sixty seconds at a time.

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer

It's my Toronto International Film Festival joke.

It all starts with the publicist saying the same thing, "You have about a minute"

My reply is always the same, "I only need a sixtieth of a second"

 My filmfest was relatively tame, I covered portraits mostly.

And was almost spared the press conference room and the sardine can sized photo pits of the red carpet.

 The portrait sessions almost all work the same way, the paper is allocated 10, 15 or 20 minutes for an interview with a actor or director. The photographer will get a minute or two to shoot the portrait. The reporter will get the bulk of the time for the interview. Most of the interviews happen in the same hotel, ergo, almost the same room.

 The result or the challenge is to try to make the pictures as diverse as possible.

 The strategies for pictures vary and depend on how much time I have between assignments. If you have to do a picture at the beginning of the allotted time it is usually window light. If it is at the end of the interview there is some time to set up a light. And sometimes we have the option to shoot during the interview.

Sarah Polley was my first Toronto International Film Festival portrait. She directed Take this Waltz, I shot her in the hallway of the Sutton Place Hotel. I wish that the reporter would have clued me in that she was pregnant, but, the next couple groups of media teams were waiting so there was no opportunity. The Star had the exclusive on the story.


Being able to get the actor or director away from the interview room is a blessing. French actor André Wilms is the unlikely star of a film that got a lot of attention at TIFF. In Le Havre, André Wilms plays struggling author/shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French city of Le Havre.

The first of many portraits inside the Intercontinental Hotel on Front Street, Sam Neill is in the movie The Hunter, a movie about the search for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger.

Gerrard Butler, star of Machine Gun Preacher. Get used to seeing that wall!

Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist, a role he won best actor for at Cannes, it was a very popular silent film at TIFF. I had the opportunity to sit in the interview and shoot rather than setting up for a potrait. I had plenty of time to shoot while the translator and Peter Howell spoke.

Sean Durkin, director of Martha Marcy May Marlene. I had a little more time with him and set up two lights, to make him a little more intense looking. His film deals with a cult.

Elizabeth Olsen, star of Martha Marcy May Marlene, is the story of a woman who gets wrapped up in a cult. I had a chance to light her as well, but ended up just window lighting her amazing eyes!

Actor Seth Rogan is in a movie called 50/50, shot in the lobby bar at the Intercontinental.

Lebanese writer-director-actress Nadine Labaki whose films are often political and infused with humour and insight. Her latest is "Where Do We Go Now?"

Viggo Mortensen stars in A Dangerous Method where he plays Sigmund Freud.

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Viggo Mortensen hangs his hockey allegiance from the 18th floor balcony of the intercontinental hotel on Front Street. Viggo has it bad for the Montreal Canadiens, he showed up with a Habs jersey to the press conference and hung the team's flag from the balcony. He also carries his day to day stuff in a bag with his favourite soccer team's logo on it. 

Director Fred Schepisi of the film Eye of The Storm.

Michael Shannon stars in the movie Take Shelter.

The advantage of sitting in on an interview is that you can get some natural reactions, Star of Anonymous and Twilight: Eclipse, Xavier Samuel.

The other advantage of sitting in on the interview is you can discover just how much a person loves a favourite pair of boots!

Rhys Ifans, appears in TIFF film Anonymous.

Jamie Campbell Bower star of TIFF film Anonymous, about Shakespeare and he also plays King Arthur in new TV series Camelot.

Mike Clattenburg is the director of Afghan Luke.

Steve McQueen directed Shame at the Toronto International Film Festival. There's that wall again!

Michael Fassbender is in A Dangerous Method and Shame.

David Cronenberg, Canadian Director of  "A Dangerous Method"

Ethan Hawke stars in "The Woman in the Fifth" I try not to incorporate too much of the art in the rooms, but I couldn't resist including the City of Toronto.

Joseph Cedar directed the Isreali film Footnote.

Jonathon Demme is the director of "I'm Carolyn Parker" and the "Neil Young Journeys" at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino, in the film Union Square, was my last portrait of the festival.

A couple from the pressers

Keira Knightley at the presser for A Dangerous Method.

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Francis Ford Coppola looks beyond the lights in the press conference.

My one red carpet.

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Madonna's career inspired some fans to come dressed up for the premiere of her movie W.E. at Roy Thompson Hall.

Abbie Cornish stars in Madonna's film W.E. 

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Madonna arrives at the red carpet!

One, well, two more....

Sarah Silverman is photographed by Andrew Tolson from Maclean's Magazine. There is soooooo much waiting time sometimes that photographers chat and more importantly test run lighting set-ups and poses. I was Sarah's stand in.

Sarah Silverman stand-in Steve Russell - photo by Andrew Tolson (thanks)





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Your photo of Abbie Cornish is probably the best I've seen. It jumps off the screen...

Nice shot of David Cronenberg.

As an aspiring photographer this article was great exposure to this kind of scene and to see the different set ups, location challenges and their results.


Loved this article. Nice shots. Thank you so much for sharing the behind-the-scenes tidbits. Would love to know your cam/lens combos! :)

AMAZING photos!! Loved the article! Thanks for sharing you have such a wonderful 'eye'!

Thanks for the kind words everyone.
@James - I pretty much just work with two lenses, a 16-35 and 70-200.
But for a few of the pictures I did use a 24 f/1.4 and a 28-70.

LOVE your photos Steve..I'm a big fan of your work :-)

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