“I have really bad social anxiety and I don’t know where my business cards are,” Chandler Levack concedes, a few days before her short film We Forgot to Break Up is set to premiere at TIFF. She is, she insists, “not a good networker.” All the schmoozing and fawning, all those sycophantic bouts of flattery endemic to the festival experience, simply aren’t Levack’s forte. “If networking means just meeting likeminded people or talking to artists who share your passions,” she tells me, “then yes, I plan on networking. But I don’t have a good elevator pitch ready.”
Levack is approaching the end of what she describes as “a layered emotional journey through many different states of craziness” – the artistic process, in other words. It began late last year, when she was awarded a grant to make a film. “There are layers of responses to the news,” she explains. First, it’s excitement: “Oh, I got a grant to make a film! That’s never happened to me before!” Then alarm: “Oh, now I have to actually write it and direct it! While working fulltime! And skipping work to go location scouting! You start to realize just how much you have to do.”
The film was completed in the spring, and Levack learned it’d been accepted by TIFF in July. Which ushered in the next stage: “You just freak out for the next three months.” Her relationship to the film she made underwent its own radical changes in that time. “In the beginning, you love it: you made a movie and it’s incredible that you did. And then you hate it and you think it sucks. Then someone you respect watches it and likes it. Then you accept that maybe it’s actually good.” And, of course, you take some comfort in the festival’s prestige: “Having it play TIFF, in the end, is really validating.”
Levack just has to get through it — networking opportunities and all. She remembers her last attempt at the practice. “I’d taken a class in school about how to network your way through a festival,” she recalls. “The teacher said that everyone at TIFF wears black leather jackets.” So she bought a black leather jacket and went to an industry event. Of course it was the hottest day of the year, and Levack spent the day sweating through it, looking at celebrities over her shoulder. There was Jamie Pressly: was she supposed to just go and pitch her script to Jamie Pressly? She didn’t know — she still doesn’t really know — what one is meant to do.
“I’ve definitely chilled out a lot more since then,” she says with relief. “I can go to TIFF and be myself. I don’t even need my black leather jacket.”