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TIFF explains Saturday’s Scotiabank chaos

Subtitles snafu leads to shifting of press and industry screenings.

TIFF organisers have been actively trying to repair any damage from Saturday afternoon and evening’s Saturday unexpected shuffling of screening locations and schedules. “We know this impacted a lot of people and we’re making amends,” TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey told Screen.

The drama started with the gala screening of Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies at Roy Thomson Hall, scheduled for 1:30pm. TIFF organisers discovered that a new digital cinema projector had hardware and software issues that meant subtitles could not play with the film.

There was delay in seating the audience as technicians tried to fix the issue, and then it was revealed that no subtitles would play at Thomson, so that only French-speaking members of the public would stay there, while the rest were sent to Scotiabank for a screening scheduled to start at 3pm. (About 75 people were shut out of the lower-capacity Scotiabank screening and have been offered other tickets.)

Canet tried to roll with the punches. He told Screen: “The audience was really understanding, they accepted to go to the other theater and watch the film there,” he told Screen. “I was mad but I also knew that everyone was trying their best to help.”

Of course, that had a knock-on effect for planned press & industry screenings at Scotiabank. Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours started about 70 minutes late and moved screens. And the first North American industry screening of Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood was moved back by three hours at Scotiabank and shifted to AMC at a different time that evening as well. “These were very important screenings,” Bailey lamented.

“We’re doing everything that we can so that buyers and press can see these films,” Bailey said on Sunday. The festival has, for instance, added a P&I screening for Norwegian Wood (today at 2 p.m. at Scotiabank 1) and also given Fortissimo tickets to public screenings to offer buyers.

Meanwhile, the Thomson projector still isn’t equipped to play all subtitles. “We’re still working on it now,” said Bailey, who hopes that no more screenings will be impacted.

“We take responsibility for the technical problem but we also take responsibility for the communication problem,” Bailey said. “There should have been more coordinated responses from the press, sales & industry office and operations team. The changes may not have been announced in a timely fashion.”

Fortissimo Films chairman Michael J Werner said agreed that it was not just the rescheduling that was a problem, but also the breakdown in communication (especially as many TIFF execs were over at the industry opening of Bell Lightbox that evening). “It was very chaotic, nobody at Scotiabank could speak with authority about what had happened or what buyers and press had been told,” Werner told Screen. “It was an unfortunate set of circumstance that should’ve been handled in a different way. “

Werner noted that only about 15 people saw the rescheduled film at Scotiabank’s 550-seat cinema, while about 80 attendees were at AMC. “There were a lot of frustrated buyers,” he said, also noting that those whose schedules were thrown in disarray by the changes might not have been in the best mindset to see the film.

Werner added: “Some lessons should be learned from this.” He did note that the result won’t be disastrous for Norwegian Wood  — “We’ve already had offers coming in, “ he said.

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