Coming off his second year as Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) co-director, Cameron Bailey wants to correct the impression that Toronto deals were thin on the ground this year – “the timing has changed,” he says. “Last year the first deals started to trickle in after the weekend. This year, they came in after the festival was finished. Not a lot of difference, unless you’re watching the clock.”
He’s referring to US deals on titles such as Creation (Newmarket), Lebanon, Get Low (SPC), I Am Love (Magnolia), which came in after mid-fest sales on titles such as Valhalla Rising (IFC) and A Single Man (TWC). Bailey does note, though, that the marketplace is cautious. “There’s no doubt we’re living in a tough economy – there isn’t the euphoria there was a few years ago.
“The distribution landscape is changing and that affects how people pick up films at a festival like ours. We noticed people were cautious this year. But they always are!”
TIFF 2009 reflected a film production landscape which “was still very healthy,” says Bailey. “Most of the films we showed were greenlit before the downturn. The effects won’t be felt until next year, when we’ll undoubtedly be looking at a shorter list of titles.”
Also, TIFF 2009 saw “many more” titles premiering at Toronto as major sales items, said Bailey. “There was huge excitement over when titles like Chloe, Creation, Mother and Child, would sell – the impatience was palpable.” More sales, he hopes, will trickle through on hot Toronto items such as The Disappearance of Alice Creed, or The Joneses (sold out internationally, but still awaiting a US buyer) or even Bruno Dumont’s challenging Hadewijch.
Otherwise, Toronto is steady as she goes, says Bailey. “Let’s face it, we’re a big festival. We’re very happy with the number of premieres we had and we’re not looking to grow in a major way. Ticket sales were steady too: we were tracking at 96 percent of last year, which, in the recession is quite a success and a vote of confidence for us.”
Toronto, Venice and Telluride worked well together this year, he noted. “We obviously want to make sure we all have our fair share of premieres,” he said, “but we worked out how we would talk to each other. The most important thing is to talk to each other, and we did that.”