Do you feel it? There’s a buzz in the air now that the Toronto International Film Festival is just around the corner. This is one of the three major independent film festivals in the world, the other two being Sundance and Cannes. Toronto is run by a non-profit organisation whose mission is to change the way people see the world. It’s also one of the oldest film festivals at age 32, and it’s a grand showcase of independent films and independent filmmakers of all shapes and sizes.
There is a lot of media coverage for this event, and many unknown independent filmmakers will show up to show their products. There will also be many big names from Hollywood showing up to try to get in touch with the independent side of the film industry. This is the side that actually allows artistic creativity to flourish, rather than stagnate, and it’s what gives Toronto its independent feel.
Right now, a lot of work and preparation is being done by advertisers, local businesses, festival organizers, film festival fans, independent filmmakers, and less independent filmmakers to ensure they get the most out of their Toronto experience. Press packages are polished, business cards are carefully placed in beautiful gold-plated card holders, clothing is carefully chosen, speeches are practised in front of mirrors, independent film blogs on the Internet are prepared for high traffic, tickets are bought online, and local hotels are filling up.
Things to do at the Toronto International Film Festival
The Toronto International Film Festival will take place September 6–15 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The list of films to be screened at the festival was announced on August 22 and includes 349 films from 55 different countries around the world. 275 of those films are full-length and medium-length and will be world premieres, international premieres, and North American premieres. The three major festivals usually like films that have not yet been shown to the public. Also, 71 of those 275 films were made with first-time feature film directors at the helm. This statistic keeps the Toronto International Film Festival fresh.
There will also be plenty of independent films screened at the Toronto International Film Festival that aren’t exactly independent in the eyes of seasoned independent filmmakers. You know the type: a film with major Hollywood actors and top film production quality, as well as a multi-million dollar budget, but it’s called an independent film because only half of the budget came from one of the six major film production studios, which are essentially independent film divisions of Warner Bros., Paramount, and the like.About 15 percent of the annual profits of the six major film studios come from their independent films, so it’s very important that they have their hands in the pie of the film festival circuit, so to speak.
Some of the not-so-independent films screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival include a Renny Harlin film called Cleaner starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and Eva Mendes; a Richard Attenborough film called Closing The Ring starring Shirley Maclaine, Christopher Plummer, Neve Campbell, and Pete Postlethwaite; a Kenneth Branagh movie called Sleuth starring Michael Caine and Jude Law; and a Paul Schrader movie called The Walker starring Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty, Willem Dafoe, and Lily Tomlin. As you can see, the Toronto International Film Festival has welcomed the Hollywood people and embraced the publicity they bring.
While commerce and politics dominate the scene at a major film festival like Toronto’s, an aura of independence still pervades this event. It’s a bit like the independent movie scene on steroids. With corporate sponsors such as Bell, VISA, Cadillac, Motorola, and NBC Universal Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival can’t help but be big. But it’s a gentle giant for independent movies, so any diehard people who carry the torch for indie movies are willing to overlook the fact that Toronto has naturally become very mainstream.
The Toronto International Film Festival returns in person this fall.
The fans in Toronto don’t mind the pomp, and the diehard indie filmmakers certainly don’t mind, as long as they leave with some publicity and good distribution deals. Toronto even provides them with a sales and industry office that facilitates distribution agreements for them. The diehard independent filmmakers can later piss off the evil business leaders when they sit around a campfire somewhere in the Moroccan desert at night after a hard day of filming their latest independent movie, which is financed by the money they earned from their latest distribution offers.
The Toronto International Film Festival will show a lot of movies with big studio backing, so 50 percent of the budget, and big Hollywood stars, but there will undoubtedly be a few smaller independent films that break out into obscurity and bathe in a shower of publicity during the ten days it takes place.It may be a controversial film, one that touches your heart, shocks, insults, enlightens, or irritates your heart, but that’s what independent films are about, and that’s the appeal of a film festival like Toronto.
Toronto is an opportunity for independent filmmakers big and small to show off their artistic achievements and for avid moviegoers to see independent films made by storytellers who don’t care about special effects. It’s a breath of fresh air for movie audiences who struggle to find movies at their local Mega Plex theatre that challenge their intellect, touch their emotions, and teach them something new.
Michael P. Connelly is an author, artist, and award-winning filmmaker who writes on a variety of topics that affect people in their everyday lives.