Kayla's Wild and Fun Film Festival Experience

by Kayla Perrin

Every year, I look forward to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I try to get to as many films as I can--and of course, the parties. This year was no exception.

For those who don't know, I was an actress in my former life. Not a big time actress, but I'd done enough work to get into the actors' union. I've also worked on countless sets as an extra--which was especially great when I first started writing novels. It was exactly the kind of job that gave me the time to pursue my writing in a way that a 9-5 wouldn't have. The picture of me on the right is of me in a short film called MAKING CHANGE that premiered at TIFF in 1994. Once I got a taste of what TIFF was, I was hooked. I loved meeting the celebrities at parties I normally wouldn't have been invited to. And of course, seeing wonderful films only inspires me to move forward at pursuing my dream of one day producing my own feature.

This year's TIFF has has just come to a close, and man am I exhausted! The first weekend was not only non-stop parties, it was Mission Time for me. I'll tell you about the Mission in a moment--but first, here's how everything unfolded.

On Friday, September 11, I went to the First Fridays Film Festival edition (I'm in the picture, on the left--Thaddeus from Sway magazine and my sister are in the picture with me on the right). A friend, Kirk Taylor, has just produced his first short film which is premiering today in Toronto (The Hope Dealer). It was screening at the First Fridays event. That's when I learned that Oprah was going to be at the One X One charity party the following night--hosted by Matt Damon. Tickets were $100, a little steep, but I knew I had to be there. All the money was going to charity; $100 feeds 100 children. So it was a good cause. It was also a great chance to see Oprah and get one of my books into her hands.

And for those of you who have read some of my other posts, you know how much I adore Matt Damon! Mary J. Blige was also going to be performing at this event, so it would prove to be a fabulous night, even if my Mission failed.

Saturday came, and before the charity event, I stopped at Tonya Lee Williams' ReelWorld party. She began the ReelWorld Film Festival nine years ago, and has a party and workshops at TIFF every year. I've known Tonya Lee Williams about fifteen years now, and she's an absolutely gracious and beautiful person. Her party, atop The Pilot restaurant, was another hit! I'm with her and my sister in the picture on the right.

My friend and owner of the First Fridays franchise in Toronto, Warren Salmon, arrived at the party and delivered me my tix for the One X One charity event. (Warren and I are in the picture on the left--he's a total cutie and a suave dresser!). I had my autographed copy of THE DELTA SISTERS for Oprah, and a copy of WE'LL NEVER TELL to give to Matt Damon. With my tickets in hand--one for me and one for Sharon (my sister was off to crash the Danny Glover party with another friend)--I was now ready to meet Oprah and went into Mission Mode.

If you haven't heard, Oprah was in Toronto to promote the film PRECIOUS, adapted from the novel PUSH by Sapphire. Everyone was hyped about the film. I was hyped about the chance to get one of my books into Oprah's hands. Not that I didn't want to see the film--it looks incredible--but I wasn't lucky enough to get one of the tickets. But I did have my ticket for the One X One charity event, which Oprah was supposed to attend. So off I went with my friend Sharon to the next party for that Saturday night (after a quick stop in the bathroom to change!).

Local artist, Little X, was doing the actual hosting of the event (I'm pictured with him on the right). Matt Damon was not on stage. Various musical acts performed, but I admit, I was waiting for Mary J. Blige. At one point, Sharon had the great idea to be near the doors so that when Oprah arrived I could have her almost to myself (there was a long hallway that led to the main part of the club). We periodically went back to the stage to see if Mary J was about to come on. At one point, I left Sharon at the door and went to the stage, certain Mary J was almost going to come on. Minutes later, Sharon came rushing toward me saying, "Come now. It's the Bourne Identity guy!"

Matt Damon had arrived! By the time I started to move toward the entrance, I heard the first squeal. People began to crowd around him, cameras ready. I quickly grabbed my camera but the first two shots didn't take. Finally, I got the third shot--a shot of the side of Matt Damon's face, pictured on the left. He was quickly whisked to the VIP section. If only I'd stayed with my friend--she got to walk that long, empty entrance-way with Matt Damon! She had my book in her hand to give him, but went into a state of shock and couldn't say a word! But I can't be mad at her. I give her an A for effort. She did connect with a VP from Cadbury, who also works with One X One, so I can get one of my books to Matt through him. (I did see Matt later at the Four Seasons hotel--no crowds, either!--but had no book and no camera!!)

Mary J. Blige rocked the house--she was absolutely fabulous. But unfortunately, Oprah did not show up. I'd wanted to get a book to Matt Damon, but the closest I could get to the VIP section was the Cadbury VP. The VIP tix were all sold out--and it had a nice group of celebrities within it, like Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors, who introduced Mary J. Blige. My friend, Sharon, God bless her, decided to scope out the security for Mary J. And lo and behold, she gets to talk to Mary's security guard and has my signed book in hand. She tells him that the author is in the crowd and wants to give the book to Mary. So, Mary's personal security guy took my book, WE'LL NEVER TELL, to pass on to Mary J. Blige! Mary is on the cover of the October Essence magazine, in which my novel, OBSESSION, is #2 on their bestseller list! It would have been nice to have Mary autograph that issue of the magazine, but I didn't have one on hand. (In the pic on the left: My sister met up with us after the One X One event was over, and we posed on the red carpet in the photo on the left. Sharon's blue dress is one of her creations).

My Mission failed for Saturday, and my feet were killing me from being in my gorgeous Gucci shoes all night, but my work wasn't done. Because I knew Oprah would definitely be on the red carpet for the opening of PRECIOUS (which just took top prize for best film at TIFF!). I'd also learned that Tyler Perry was also in town, as he and Oprah executive-produced the film. So, I autographed books for Tyler Perry as well and went to the red carpet with Sharon, who was dying to meet Oprah.

The place was PACKED. Seriously. There was no way I could get to the front of the crowd to be right at the edge of the barricade to scream, "OPRAH, I HAVE A BOOK FOR YOU!!" So, Sharon and I regrouped to come up with a Plan B. I walked waaaay down past the red carpet--an area that was still barricaded--and realized that that was where the vehicles taking the celebs were entering. There were a handful of people there with the novel Push in their hands. I realized that this was the spot I needed to be to meet Oprah. All vehicles entering had to stop to pass security.

Before Tyler Perry rolled down his window, I realized he was in the vehicle. And when he rolled the window down, the handful of us started to talk/scream. And then I realized that Oprah was sitting beside him!! I held my gift bags over the barricade and started to say, "I've got books for you! Tyler! Oprah! I want to give you some books."

But the window rolled up, and the vehicle forged ahead. I gave chase. And it STOPPED for me. Again, Tyler Perry put down his window--and seriously, he has an amazing smile--and I began my spiel again. I told him that I had books for him and Oprah. I was so intent on my mission that I missed a prime photo-taking opportunity. Tyler was about ten feet away from me in his vehicle and I didn't snap a shot! (A friend is a photographer and got great shots on the red carpet, thank God--the pics of Oprah and Tyler are by him, Isaiah Trickey, Trickey Photography). They let me talk for about a minute, and I told them I had a book that was #2 on the Essence list right now. Then their "people" in the front shook their heads. They weren't going to take the book. I now took the books out of the bag and held them up (duh, should have done this first thing!) and still I got a no. But, I had about a minute or longer where Oprah and Tyler saw MY face. They saw ME. They listened to ME.

I then ran to the main part of the red carpet and joined the crowd. Mary J. Blige also arrived and walked almost the entire barricade to shake hands and greet her fans. Kudos to her! Mariah Carey also arrived (she's in the film), Robin Thicke, Sherri Shepherd from The View, the star of the film, Gabourey Sidibe (whom I met later and spoke with at the Four Seasons--but you can't take pics there in the lobby!), and even Robert De Niro showed up! It was a star-studded red carpet, the one to be at, and loads of fun to be among the screaming crowd. Security had to hold back the barricades to make sure there wasn't a rush of fans on the red carpet. It was a blast. I got some great video of the general pandemonium and of the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" to Tyler Perry, who turned 40 on Monday.

I can't tell you all of the story here without writing a novel, but in the end, misinformation prevented me from getting to the after party where Oprah was. I am kicking myself. I was so close. But life goes on. I did get to autograph a book for Chris Rock at the Four Seasons hotel and chat with him a bit. So, the night wasn't a total bust. And I had a great time at the launch party for the Canadian Black Film Festival, where Oprah and Tyler were supposed to make an appearance. In the picture on the left, I'm with Lyriq Bent at the party, one of the stars of GUNS, a 2-part mini-series that aired on CBC at the beginning of September. He's a cutie!

After three days of steady parties and the quest to get to Oprah (which kept me up until 6 a.m. on Sunday), I was wiped. I spent much of the week recovering. But on Friday, I decided to do one last film festival event--a party Vivica A. Fox was hosting. I got dressed up again, wore shoes that wouldn't kill me, and hit the town with Sharon. Vivica's party was awesome, and I had a chance to party with her in the VIP lounge--as well as give her a book, of course. My photographer friend has yet to send me the pics of me and Vivica together, so I'll post one I took of him and Vivica.

I'm wiped, but it's been a whirlwind 10 days or so of action-packed fun. Did I accomplish my Mission? No. But I did get books into the hands of Chris Rock, Mary J. Blige, and Vivica A. Fox. On a scale of 1 to 10, this year's festival experience for me was an 11.

For an account of someone who was also trying to connect with Oprah and did, please read trey anthony's piece (click her name, it's linked). She produced the television show Da Kink in My Hair for Global Television. Yay for Trey getting to connect with Oprah!

As for me, there's always next time.

P.S.--Oprah or Tyler, if you're reading this, get in touch with me! I have a book for you! :-)


  1. Wow! Who knew you were so connected? Is this celeb -stalking akin to jock-sniffing LOL. That's awesome and sounds like a fabulous time. And BTW before I even knew about your shoes I took one look at them in the picture and thought 'damn, those are some awesome shoes.'
    You fit right in with all of that star power!

  2. *falling over thud*

    Kayla - you ROCK.

    What a film festival experience. I'm tired just reading it. But exhilarated and covered in goosebumps!

  3. Jock-sniffing? LOL, Jenny! You're too crazy. :-) Having worked on tons of film sets and having met tons of celebs, I'm not really a stalker. I don't "freak out" when I meet them and know not to harass. But Oprah...dang, I really wanted to get my book into her hands! Oh well. :-)

  4. Julia, it was awesome! Even though my feet hurt for days, LOL.

  5. Wow Kayla! This rocked, and it sounds like you were in a movie or something! The pace, wowzers!

    Now, the shoes, to die for darling! I bet it's worth some hurtin! Lol



  6. Adorable Kayla!

    Thanks so much for sharing this. You have such candor and enthusiasm, all rolled into one gorgeous woman package! And reading this was really eye-opening. Sometimes we don't do enough to get what we want, but you can never be accused of that!

    And yes, when there's a will, there's a way... Your books will soon be in Tyler's and Oprah's hands, I am sure of that!

    Hugs, Nina

  7. Wowee!! I was squealing along with you on this rollicking adventure. Woman, you have Oomph! No one can hold YOU back. Write ON! I'm glad you managed to get some books in the right hands. You never know where it will lead.

    Wow again. I just loved this fun peek into the world of celebs. What a fun time!!

    --Chiron O'Keefe The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

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