Toronto Film Festival

Toronto Film Festival unveils industry programming during Hollywood strikes

A long summer standoff between US writers and actors, studios and streamers could result in fewer US films and fewer celebrity attendances at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, long seen as a stepping stone to awards season.

But TIFF organizers are betting their September event will provide far more value to Hollywood than just glitzy A-listers on its red carpets as they unveiled their industry programming on Wednesday.

The 2023 Industry Conference, taking place September 8-12 at the Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street, will feature six programs: Visionaries informal conversation series presented by The Hollywood Reporter; the Dialogues series of conversations with film and TV creators; Perspectives, with a spotlight on Korean diaspora creators, African cinema and another on the state of international TV series; Connections, which offers networking sessions between mid-career filmmakers and industry executives; Microsessions or programming involving industry professionals and sellers of TIFF-associated brands; and Spotlights, a series of pitches, keynotes and speed meetings for industry delegates to expand their industry networks.

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With far fewer US titles expected in Toronto should Hollywood’s double strike persist, Toronto should focus on centering on international art house cinema.

“Of course, big movies with exciting stars demand a lot of attention and bring a lot of excitement to the festival. But over 70 percent of the films at the festival are actually non-American films. And these films also fill the theaters here in Toronto every year during the film festival,” said Anita Lee, head of programming at TIFF. The Hollywood Reporter.

And while American stars may be essential to the launch of studio-dealt films and TV series in Toronto, boosting sales for acquisition titles — both in the festival lineup and beyond — doesn’t require Hollywood celebrities on the red carpets for screening of US films at Roy Thomson Hall or Princess of Wales Theater.

Sales reps just need a special screening at the Scotiabank multiplex attended by select distributors and studio executives and streamers as evidenced by Alexander Payne The Remaining last year it went to Focus Features for $30 million after a private screening in Toronto.

Expect more this year, as the festival organizers are leaning on the TIFF Industry Selects program launched in 2022. The selection of films beyond the official TIFF lineup and available for acquisition worldwide will each receive an in-person screening for film buyers and industry executives.

“Those looking for distribution for their films have somewhere to take them, show those films at market screenings or Industry Select screenings to boost business at the festival, whether it’s completed films, unfinished films, those looking for some kind funding – all of those things fall within the distinction of the industry,” explained Geoff Macnaughton, senior director of industry and theater programming in Toronto.

The festival will also reintroduce pitch competitions in the 2023 edition in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and this year Bell Lightbox will open its roof to more events from industry players, including national promotional agencies, to raise their profile acquisition and launch of titles.

And on the TV side, as Toronto responds to global industry currents beyond the Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strike, the festival will expand its Primetime sidebar, aiming to bring in more international broadcasters who want the seal approval ratings when launching their small screen content to buyers and audiences.

“We looked at how we could leverage the industry and commercial side of the festival to really support and promote and facilitate more of this business to be done more efficiently. The other part is that being an international film festival, we’re not just talking about the US market, we’re talking about the international industry as well,” Macnaughton, who also schedules Primetime, the festival’s showcase for prestigious international TV series, insisted.

TIFF, already a traditional gateway to North America for global film producers eyeing US distribution, is basically looking to do the same with TV series as an audience testbed for an expanding universe on the small screen. . Here too Toronto relies in part on filmmakers with long-standing ties to the festival who bring their TV series. These include A Suitable boywhich became the first TV series to close TIFF in 2020, and that of Lars von Trier The Exodus of the Kingdom series, selected for Toronto last year after the Danish director previously screened five of his films at the Canadian festival.

Toronto, already strained by two years of online-focused pandemic programming, may not have plans to become an official market anytime soon, like Cannes or Berlin. But this year has become more formal and focused with industry get-togethers and select venues and screenings for film titles not in the festival lineup, as it seems to attract more star-led international titles that have gotten their biggest market pushes in recent years for buyers in Cannes or the American Film Market.

“Right now we’re not necessarily trying to emulate a traditional market. We know that the landscape has changed. But what has become clear is that the industry still sees the value in coming together, in person. If we deliver even more value from a scheduling perspective and from an infrastructure perspective, that’s something people are looking for,” said Lee.

On the heels of the success of the awards season for the Academy Award Parasite as well as to pain and Netflix Squid gameToronto premiered Korean action star Lee Jung-jae’s directorial debut Huntingand the director had an informal conversation with Korean star Jung Woo-sung A man of reason.

Toronto festival programmers will double Asian film stocks this year, including films from China and Japan, many of which will eventually stream on Netflix, Amazon and other streaming platforms.

“This is already in many ways the direction we were already going in, and in some ways it’s only highlighted because of the current environment. It’s not something we’re just doing now,” said Anita Lee, in response to the writers’ and actors’ strike.

And the industrial action in Hollywood has apparently not dampened industry interest in booking travel at TIFF’s industry conference, as organizers report that registration for creative and business professionals is up about 10% year-over-year. ahead of the festival from 7 to 17 September this year.