TIFF 2016: Diary Of My First Film Festival Experience

Actress, author, and screenwriter Kara Holden shares her #TIFF experience with Co.Create.

With the sound of critics applauding La La Land still ringing through the province of Ontario, the Toronto International Film Festival came to a close this weekend. For actress, author and screenwriter Kara Holden, TIFF represented her first ever festival experience of any kind. In town to support the film Carrie Pilby–Holden adapted the screenplay based on the novel by Caren Lissner–the first timer shared with Co.Create a brief timeline of her experience, reactions, and meltdowns.




  • Officially start my writing career by selling a pitch to Paramount. Cry tears of relief and gratitude that my dream of making a living as a writer may actually be possible.


  • Make a pact with myself that I will not go to a film festival unless I have a movie there.


  • Write a bunch of scripts, get a couple movies made, heartbreak, triumph, failure, get married, move to Connecticut, move back to L.A., have a baby, get asked to adapt a novel I love called Carrie Pilby. Put my heart on the page. Marvel at the brilliant cast and crew assembled. Rejoice at the two most beautiful words a writer could ever hear: Green Light.


  • Carrie Pilby gets into the Toronto Film Festival. Start sobbing uncontrollably. Worry husband that something terrible happened. Discover that my “dream come true” cry looks the same as my “end of the world” cry.


  • Buy a glamorous Alexander Wang dress at the Barney’s outlet. Do a happy dance over the price.
  • Freak out that the dress is too fancy. Buy five other outfits. Hide credit card receipts from husband.
  • Hubby books “artsy boutique hotel” in Toronto for a steal. Do another happy dance.
  • Realize we have to leave our year and a half year old baby behind for the first time. Freak out over being a bad mother. Cry with worry as I write medical permission forms for the nanny. Cry with excitement over three nights alone in a hotel room with my hubby. Wonder if it’s too much to want to have it all.
Q&A after our TIFF premiere of Carrie Pilby


  • Make a list of all the things to do before I go. Have a massive melt down. Ponder buying stock in Godiva dark chocolate sea salt bars as I down three in a row.


  • Decide to wear dress to premiere and suit to do press. Realize I haven’t walked in heels for two and a half years since before the baby was born. Decide to practice. Give up after three minutes. Decide adrenaline on the day of the premiere will be enough to mask the pain.


  • Curse my nail biting habit as I get gels and the girl at the salon worries there might not be enough “canvas” to paint the goldfish I was hoping for (a nod to the film’s poster and one of my favorite plot points in the film.) Miraculously the fish turn out great. I decide they will be my good luck charms.


  • Lament that my hair is too long to do anything that would look remotely stylish on the red carpet. Make impulsive decision to get a trim. Stylist misunderstands the word “trim” cuts my hair into what is described as a “shattered bob.” It’s all the rage. But will need an expert in round brushing and curling iron technique to make it look presentable in any way. Eat more chocolate.


  • Buy a curling iron, remember why I gave up curling irons 15 years ago. Pack like a crazy woman. Kiss my baby so many times he pushes my face away. Pray to God he doesn’t think his parents have abandoned him. Say another prayer that he won’t forget who I am in three days.
  • Watch movies on the plane and feel bad for the utter bliss of a child-free flight.
  • Check into “Artsy boutique” 30 floor Vegas style hotel. Smells of stale curry and cigars with a design aesthetic of 50 Shades of Brown. Realize we have lost Hotwire roulette.
  • Eat take out pasta in bed and let the thought begin to sink in–I AM IN TORONTO ABOUT TO PREMIERE A MOVIE THAT I WROTE AND LOVE–Get 31 seconds of sleep due to heartburn and mind-numbing excitement.
Laughing with the fantastic Jason Ritter


  • Get chocolate on my pants before Los Angeles Times photo shoot. Recall the mantra my therapist gifted me with: “Oh well.” Remember I’m just the writer, I don’t have to look perfect. Breathe a sigh of relief, grateful for the life choices that have brought me here.
  • Get photos taken with the brilliant actors and amazing director of Carrie Pilby and realize that I am one of the luckiest writers in the world.
  • Get text from nanny of pictures of happy baby. Curse the fact that no one has invented a teleporter yet.
  • Decide one hour before the red carpet premiere that the pink suit I’ve been wearing all day rocks. Even with chocolate stain on the knee. Put the fancy dress back in the closet. Lace up gold oxford shoes with zeal.
  • Float down the red carpet in a haze of otherworldly happiness.
  • Hear 1,200 people laughing, crying, gasping, and cheering at words that I wrote.
  • Momentarily transcend to another dimension. Suddenly know that everything it took to get here is totally and completely worth it.
  • Do a Q&A on stage after the applause dies down. Resist the urge to kiss everyone in the audience. Listen to actors I adore and respect say they wanted to do the movie because they loved the script. Try not to spontaneously combust into a pile of joy ash on the spot.
  • Go to premiere party and then cast dinner and laugh so much my Spanx threaten to burst.
  • Make declaration to my hubby: I must do this again. He tells me even if I never make another movie, we’ll always have Toronto. I freak out that he thinks I won’t make another movie. He tells me he was just trying to say that he couldn’t possibly be prouder. I smile. I’m pretty dang proud too.


  • Go to early morning screening. Marvel at the effusiveness of the wonderful crowd. Remember how people told me TIFF audiences are the best. The genuine love of film in the theater is palpable.
  • Cry after second Q&A when a woman in the audience stops me at the door and tells me, “You’ve made a lot of people very happy today.” Imprint the moment in my heart forever.
  • Make a SNL actor laugh at a party. Pinch myself.
  • Hit my party limit. Eat pizza in bed at 11 p.m. Get shamed into going to the INSTYLE party by my sister who says: “Teenaged you would be so disappointed.” Pull fancy Alexander Wang dress and four-inch heels out of the closet. Get to the party at midnight. Feel like a celebrity. See actual celebrities. Text sister to thank her. Take off heels after 45 minutes and walk barefoot down the streets of Toronto.


  • After four-hour delay get home after baby is already sleeping. Contemplate waking him up to hug him. Actually feel grateful when he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. crying for me. Absorb his giggles of delight and surprise when I come in to comfort him. Realize I really can have it all–just maybe not all at the same time.


  • Go back to my office, break off a square of Godiva, and begin to write…