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E-BLAST: From the Big Screen to the World Stage: TIFF 2023

In my weekly E-Blast, I like to write about what's really going on for me in the moment. This week, that means letting you all know what's happening with our very own Toronto International Film Festival, better known as TIFF. Part of my role as the Mayor's Economic Development and Culture Champion is promoting the growth of Toronto's film business. Attending the festival also helps me stay connected with the artists and organizations that help make Toronto such a vibrant global city.



City Hall and Queen's Park share a goal with Toronto's film industry. Currently, it directly employs over 35,000 people and generates $2.5 billion in direct investment into our city and province. That doesn't even factor in the ancillary economic impact the industry has on our hospitality and tourism sector. Our Premier shares our ambition to double this annual investment to $5 billion.


We're also hard at work supporting workforce development in the sector. The City of Toronto Film Office works closely with unions, guilds, and community groups to provide training that will help fill gaps in the film labour market. This work is essential to the strength of the entire sector. Without an adequate workforce to staff studios, less production will come to Toronto which will result in fewer jobs for existing workers and less investment in our city. In 2022, the Film Office's Workforce Development Program helped train up 220 participants to meet critical needs in the sector. This program also focuses on helping people who are Black, Indigenous, people of colour, and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community enter the sector. Not only does this advance our city's equity goals, it also helps give Toronto a competitive edge as major studio and streamer clients have been clear they support greater diversification of the workforce.



Now, back to TIFF. TIFF provides an opportunity to remind the world that we produce some of the finest film, television, and streamed product every year. You've probably stumbled across an on-location shoot as you've travelled around the city over the years, but Toronto is also a leader in post-production and special effects. The city also has a growing suite of state-of-the-art studio space, and we make sure that industry leaders get to see these spaces while they are attending TIFF. The festival has also built the careers of some of Canada's greatest artists, including filmmaker Atom Egoyan and filmmaker/screenwriter Sarah Polley. Polley most recently wrote and directed the 2022 film Women Talking, for which she won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Egoyan clinched two Oscar nominations for his 1997 film The Sweet Hereafter, and he recently spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about how instrumental TIFF was in launching his career.


There is one thing unusual about TIFF this year—it's missing the usual parade of Hollywood stars on the red carpet due to the American SAG-AFTRA strike. I hope and pray that this dispute can be resolved ASAP, because it's putting so many folks in the industry out of work all over the world. In the meantime, let's take a quick look at the other valuable things that TIFF does all year round once the red carpets are rolled up. Some might be of interest to you.


PARTNER FESTIVALS


Toronto has long been known for our community of many other film festivals that happen at a smaller scale. These showcase various cultural groups and bring films from around the world to Toronto's diverse audiences. What many may not know is that TIFF is often the supportive older sibling that helps these festivals along in a variety of ways. Whether it's by providing the TIFF Lightbox as a venue for special events, letting partner festival programmers know about a film that may fit their program, or just promoting the festivals through their broad social media reach, TIFF is instrumental in supporting these smaller festivals. You can check out the partner festivals here:

SHARE HER JOURNEY


There is a considerable lack of women storytellers in key creative and decision-making roles in the film industry. Here are some telling numbers:


  • Of the 51 top-grossing films of 2021, only 12.7% of the 55 directors involved in creating those films were women — only three of whom were women of colour.

  • Of the 100 top-grossing films from of 2021, only 11 had a woman or girl of colour as their protagonist.

  • In 2021, only 7% of movies featured more women than men on screen, and only 8% featured equal numbers of men and women.



This has not gone without notice by TIFF and its board of directors. In 2017, the festival launched 'Share Her Journey' with a handful of women working in film, including Toronto's brilliant Sarah Polley. The Share Her Journey promise means that ever since its launch, TIFF has had an equal gender split in all of its talent development initiatives, including TIFF Filmmaker Lab, TIFF Writer's Studio, and TIFF Rising Stars. At last year's Industry Conference, 53% of the speakers were women. 


TIFF also makes a point of regularly showcasing work by women artists at its year-round Cinematheque programmes and at the annual international festival. TIFF's programmers spend the year scouring the globe to discover and showcase more women filmmakers that might otherwise struggle for prominence against the male-dominated blockbuster culture.


FILM CIRCUIT 


Film Circuit is TIFF's film outreach program, bringing the best of Canadian and international film to communities across the country since 1989. TIFF partners with 100 cinemas across the country to make sure that these Canadian and international movies can reach communities affordably. For many Canadian filmmakers, this is their best shot at growing their audiences to make future projects possible.



Many of these cinemas are located in the GTA just outside of our Toronto borders, which may be more to a Don Valley Northerner's liking than trekking downtown to the TIFF Lightbox. I do highly recommend that you also take a look at the year-round films showing at the Lightbox—it is dedicated to showing only films of the highest quality.


SILVER SCREENINGS: A FILM COMMUNITY FOR SENIORS


Each month, Silver Screenings brings seniors together to connect with fellow film lovers and participate in a variety of events, including peer-led film discussions, interactive workshops, and classes. These activities focus on specific themes to encourage community-building around shared experiences and provide a safe and supportive environment for creative self-expression. This program can help you develop new skills, meet new people, and find your next favourite movie.


If you are a senior, or if you represent a seniors’ group, and you would like to receive email updates about this series, please contact toursandtalks@tiff.net to be added to the mailing list.



As you can see, TIFF brings a slew of benefits to our city and our communities all year round. From giving Toronto a spot on the international stage, to uplifting diverse communities across the city, to supporting our lucrative film industry, TIFF continually helps Toronto grow into the cultured, vibrant city it is meant to be. The festival is on until this Sunday, so take a look at their offerings and take part in this storied Canadian film festival if you can.


 


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