By KARISSA DONKIN
Special to SAF
In the shadow of TIFF, there’s stiff competition.
The Toronto International Film Festival is merely the largest and most prestigious of Toronto’s 75-plus film festivals, a list that is constantly growing. So how to draw attention to all the smaller film events on the festival calendar, those representing everything from comedy shorts to silent film to Macedonian movies?
Step one: get organized.
The Toronto Film Festival Association has officially been dusted off and relaunched recently, along with a revamped website (at torontofilmfestivals.com) to make it easier for moviegoers to find information about the city’s many festivals.
“I haven’t heard of any city that has more (film festivals) than we do. We’re so multicultural and we just have all these interest groups that have started their own film festivals,” said Steve Veale, the deputy director of the three-year-old Toronto Indie Film Festival.
The website will have a searchable calendar with festival dates and times, a place to share photos and videos from events, and an exclusive area for organizers to answer questions and share resources.
Organizers also hope it could eventually host many of the small movies that play at these festivals, says Veale, who sits on the association’s board of directors.
“Many of these movies cannot find a distributor and the only place to see them — especially foreign or independent features and shorts — is only on the festival circuit,” Veale wrote in an email.
The Toronto Film Festival Association officially launched last year, but the seeds were planted in 2007.
Back then, Tonya Lee Williams, an actress and the founder of the just-wrapped ReelWorld Film Festival, was serving on the Toronto Film Board, a project former mayor David Miller initiated to make Toronto a friendlier place for filmmaking.
She had watched the city’s film festival circuit grow from about 40 or 45 festivals in 2000, when she started ReelWorld. She credits technology for the jump, making it easier for anyone to become a filmmaker.
“You don’t need to have $50 million anymore to go out and tell your story,” she said.
With more festivals vying for an audience, Williams realized everyone was struggling with the same problems, like finding manpower or software to sell tickets. Something was missing — a union of sorts to represent the various film festivals in the city.
“There are too many festivals. We’re all struggling for money. There are resources that we could be sharing,” Williams said.
In her “film festival utopia”, ticket sales would be centralized and organizers would share the one thing almost all festivals don’t have enough of: dollars.
“It might just be easier to give a large piece of funding to film festivals as one and use it in collective ways,” Williams said.
For now, the city’s film festival circuit is sorting out its growing pains by sharing information online and at organized meetings. Growth, after all, is not a bad thing, and it’s something Veale credits TIFF for creating.
“TIFF really has put this city on the map for world cinema,” he said. “I’ve seen it grow. It’s just been fabulous. It’s the biggest cultural thing for Toronto.”
— Torstar News Service
By KARISSA DONKIN