Co-festival director Mitch Davis [pictured] talks to Screen about this year’s Fantasia, which wrapped yesterday [Aug 7].

Having announced record attendance figures for its 17th edition [see separate story here], Fantasia International Film Festival co-festival director Mitch Davis has hailed this year as “exceptionally strong”.

Talking to Screen, Davis (also co-director of international programming at the festival) said that almost every film of its 130-strong lineup managed to prosper. “The commercial blockbuster titles were expectedly big but never at the expense of the left field discoveries or low budget indies, which frequently screened to capacity crowds as well.”

He continued: “Seeing good filmmaking come to life in front of audiences who truly connect with it, and love it as much as we do, is an ultimate reward for any curating team.”

Recent years at the festival have seen it expand its industry element with the introduction of its Fantasia Industry Rendez-Vous; as with its audience numbers, attendance at the Rendez-Vous was up on last year.

“Networking happened on a gigantic scale, but in a friendly way than you’ll find in many other places. People were able to enjoy themselves while still getting major work done,” commented Davis.

“One of our guests told us that he felt that Fantasia struck him as a festival built on a foundation of cinephile love, generosity and friendship, which made every one of us smile.”

Davis was also full of praise for the festival’s Frontières International Co-Production Market team, led by market director Stephanie Trepanier. “Stephanie and her team took everything to the next level and delivered a Year Two market event that eclipsed last year’s right out of the gate,” noted Davis.

Speaking to Screen, Trepanier added: “The new locations, the packed meeting and conference rooms, filled with people enthusiastically discussing future possibilities, and the great quality and diversity of the attendants gave us the assurance that we are on the right track to creating something purposeful for the genre film industry.

“I believe in the potential of the projects presented and foresee many getting on the fast track very soon.”

As for Davis’ personal highlight of Fantasia’s 2013 edition, it’s between two events. “It would be a toss-up between watching an ocean of fans fall to pieces with joy upon meeting Andrzej Zulawski and composer Simon Boswell’s mesmerizing live performance at the world premiere of Richard Stanley’s The Otherworld.”

This year saw the festival’s main screenings take place at Fantasia’s original home, the Imperial Theatre, but 2014 will see the festival back at a newly renovated and upgraded Concordia Hall Theatre.

Davis said that other possible changes include expanded cinema events and further growth of the market.