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Andrew

TIFF 2020

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Anybody else planning to participate?  Obviously, Jessica and I won't be crossing the border, but we plan to participate online.  In the context of a pandemic, it's first-world problems, but we've not gotten away for more than 48 hours since last year's TIFF, so we're chomping at the bit to rent a house somewhere for a week, order good takeout, and watch good films.

The planners have been understandably withholding of details thus far, though premieres of films by Vinterberg and Kawase hold some appeal, and Ammonite sounds promising.  Perhaps of greatest interest to folks here is the opening night film:  Spike Lee's filming of David Byrne's recent Broadway show, American Utopia.  (Quick tangent: a look at Lee's imdb page reveals that his next project after that is a Brooklyn hip-hop retelling of Romeo and Juliet, entitled Prince of Cats.  Count me in!)


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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If the digital/streaming films were made available in the UK, I would gladly participate in TIFF from afar. But I don't think that's happening; the digital TIFF Lightbox website says "not available in your country."

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This will be the first time since 2004 that I haven't spent at least a week at TIFF. Which will be weird. I did the math recently and discovered I've spent more than five months in Toronto over the years.

Also weird -- and a little worrying -- is that I have zero interest in online film festivals. To be honest, I've lost most of my interest in films, generally, during the quarantine. When we were all preparing for the Top 100, I binged on great movies. But over the past two months, I've only watched eight feature films, and seven of them were with my kids.

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing Chloe Zhao's new film, which is playing Venice, TIFF, and NYFF. It's sad to think I might never get a chance to see it on a big screen.

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Probably not. With the academic semester being condensed due to COVID, it is harder to schedule a block of time to "get away." 

I'll always value my years at TIFF, but the rise of Filmfest 919 locally has made it easier for me to catch many of the films I would go to Toronto for in years past. I expect I'll go back some day, maybe when I'm retired, but I've found that aging takes its toll as well...it's harder than it was 12 years ago for travel and sleep limitations to not set me back. These days, I get a much better response approaching studios directly (or publicists) that I ever did from TIFF's press accreditation. 

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6 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

If the digital/streaming films were made available in the UK, I would gladly participate in TIFF from afar. But I don't think that's happening; the digital TIFF Lightbox website says "not available in your country."

That's a concern of mine as well.  Darren, do you know if participation will be possible for those living outside of Canada?


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Well, shit...this is the email that I received from TIFF this morning:

"We have noted in The Weekly what is available only in Canada, but there will continue to be opportunities and programming which is not geo-blocked included as well.

To confirm for you, limitations to our digital systems do mean that New releases and collections are not available to rent outside of Canada. However, we are looking to have special talks and panel events as part of year-round and Festival programming added to the platform, which would be accessible to you. We are also committed to making content available on our social channels when we can, including our weekly Stay-at-Home Cinema Q&As with special guests.

Of course, we understand that both travel restrictions and system limitations mean that our International friends cannot enjoy a full TIFF experience. As an important part of our community, I want to assure you that we will do all we can to make sure you can still participate as much as possible as we look forward to re-opening our doors to you.

Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for TIFF - it goes a long way toward making us such a thriving member of the international film community."

Any recommendations for domestic festivals that will be digital this year?


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I'll probably take in a film or two if the in-person festival ends up happening, but it'll be absolutely bizarre, to say the least. I have no interest in the online stuff. TIFF's website infrastructure is so bad that I have no trust in them handling a streaming service. CBC Gem and Crave (two Canadian-only streaming services) are bad enough when it comes to quality and buffering. I don't trust a cash-strapped organization like TIFF actually handling the online portion.


"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

3brothersfilm.com

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1 hour ago, Andrew said:

 

Any recommendations for domestic festivals that will be digital this year?

I thought all the major festivals were combining this year...aren't they in coordination with Telluride and NYFF? Anyhow, Andrew, time permitting, you could reach out to the Filmfest 919 people, their selection has been great the last two years, and I would suspect they are going to go digital this year if they hold it at all.

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2 hours ago, Andrew said:

Any recommendations for domestic festivals that will be digital this year?

Of the two Virginia-based festivals I've attended, the Virginia Film Festival, October 21-25, has said it'll be virtual this year. The Middleburg Film Festival, October 15-18, hasn't yet announced a change, but I'll be surprised if the event doesn't go all-digital.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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4 hours ago, Aren Bergstrom said:

 I have no interest in the online stuff. TIFF's website infrastructure is so bad that I have no trust in them handling a streaming service. CBC Gem and Crave (two Canadian-only streaming services) are bad enough when it comes to quality and buffering. I don't trust a cash-strapped organization like TIFF actually handling the online portion.

Oh, that's something I hadn't considered, so maybe it's a silver lining that they're shutting out non-Canadian viewers.  That softens the blow of this morning's news somewhat.

3 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I thought all the major festivals were combining this year...aren't they in coordination with Telluride and NYFF? 

I read and re-read those press announcements, too, but they were long on feel-good sentiment and short on specifics.  Especially with Telluride flat-out cancelling, it seems this was nothing more than kumbaya vacuity.

3 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Anyhow, Andrew, time permitting, you could reach out to the Filmfest 919 people, their selection has been great the last two years, and I would suspect they are going to go digital this year if they hold it at all.

That's a great idea; I'll PM you about the nuts and bolts of this.  If this doesn't pan out, I'll look into the Virginia options that Christian mentioned.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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6 hours ago, Christian said:

Of the two Virginia-based festivals I've attended, the Virginia Film Festival, October 21-25, has said it'll be virtual this year. The Middleburg Film Festival, October 15-18, hasn't yet announced a change, but I'll be surprised if the event doesn't go all-digital.

That's a good reminder. VFF credentialed me several years in a row back when I was writing for CT. I found their line up less attractive (little bit more retrospective and regional stuff with only 1 or 2 headliners), but if they are digital I might definitely apply. (Even pre-this election cycle, Charlottesville was not my favorite place to attend. It's a college town in a more rural out-of-the-way area which means hotels are overpriced (and run down from football weekends) and if you are not a student or personnel it isn't conducive to getting from one end of campus to the other for the alternate venues. That said, the downtown area is great and the press liason (if it's the same guy) was very responsive.

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10 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

That's a good reminder. VFF credentialed me several years in a row back when I was writing for CT. I found their line up less attractive (little bit more retrospective and regional stuff with only 1 or 2 headliners), but if they are digital I might definitely apply. (Even pre-this election cycle, Charlottesville was not my favorite place to attend. It's a college town in a more rural out-of-the-way area which means hotels are overpriced (and run down from football weekends) and if you are not a student or personnel it isn't conducive to getting from one end of campus to the other for the alternate venues. That said, the downtown area is great and the press liason (if it's the same guy) was very responsive.

I've never attended the festival as press, but I talked a couple of times in my early years of attending with festival director Jody Kielbasa, who seemed interested in my feedback on the festival.

There's a bus that goes around the campus and can get you to each venue, but that takes a good amount of coordination and planning to ensure you arrive to your screenings in time. In the past, I've parked near the downtown mall and have left my car there all day to avoid in-and-out parking fees, but last year I drove to different venues and discovered the parking garages nearby are free on the weekends. As for the selection, the festival really stepped it up last year. I think it's competing with Middleburg (also in Virginia) and therefore ended up booking several of the same big titles that festival had landed. Someone told me that had been the case for a few years, but I hadn't noticed.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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My sense of the Venice, TIFF, NYFF partnership is that they're essentially agreeing to drop (temporarily) their battles over premiere status. Not that it really matters this year. Everyone is just trying to keep people employed and their bills paid in hopes of returning to some new sense of normal in 2022. I suspect the fall festivals will function primarily this year as launch platforms for VOD releases. The festivals will take a small cut of that revenue, but whatever streaming they do will have to be locked down tight. I wonder if the virtual screenings will be like press screeners, with the user's name watermarked on the image?

As an aside, I remember attending a public screening of Jia Zhangke's 24 City at TIFF a decade ago. It was in a small room and every seat was sold. I asked a friend, who was formerly a TIFF programmer, why they would put a Jia film on such a small screen. Her answer had never occurred to me before: "This film already has Canadian distribution, and Toronto is Canada's biggest market. Every ticket TIFF sells is one less future ticket sale for Films We Like." Now imagine how a virtual premiere will undercut the market value of a film!

I have to imagine that the people behind the fall premieres are essentially writing off US box office -- as we're seeing with the shifting release strategy of films like Tenet. Their best hope is to get the films onto European and Asian screens for two or three weeks and then rent/sell the films online to as many people as possible. Actually, I guess their best hope is a deal with Netflix or Amazon.

I have a lot of dear friends who earn their meager livings as filmmakers, publicists, programmers, critics, etc. I don't know how most of them are going to make rent for the next two years.

EDIT: After looking at TIFF's lineup, I'm not sure how many of these have VOD launch potential? There are a lot of films by major directors ready for release, not to mention the acclaimed films that premiered at Sundance and Berlin. None of them are playing at TIFF. Looks like we won't be seeing any of them for quite a while.

EDIT 2: Variety just published an interesting conversation with Oren Moverman.

Quote

The idea of independent financing, putting together films that have no home, taking them to festivals, trying to sell them — they’re going to have to take on a very different model, if they get made. A lot of producers I talk to are looking to set up projects with the streamers, the studios, whoever’s going to be left standing. Whereas the sort of grungy putting together of ten dollars here, ten dollars there to make a film — it’s possible from a financial standpoint, it’s just a question of where it will ever be seen.

 

Edited by Darren H

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