The organisers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF|) are working with festivals and organisations around the world to support the industry through a “united platform” as it continues with plans for the festival in September.
The development comes after it emerged that San Sebastian and Zurich film festivals will launch industry markets for the first time to accommodate films that had been scheduled to screen at the cancelled SXSW and postponed Tribeca festivals.
In a video statement recorded from their home offices, TIFF co-heads Joana Vicente (executive director) and Cameron Bailey (artistic director) said in light of the outbreak they were also looking at on-site and digital innovations around the festival. The event is set to run from September 10-21.
The co-heads also announced the closure of TIFF Bell Lightbox and suspension of year-round programming was being extended through July 1. The venue closed on March 13.
“We are moving ahead and programming September Toronto International Film Festival,” said Vicente. “We’ve been collaborating closely with other organisations and festivals around the world that have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. In the hopes of supporting them and our film industry at TIFF 2020 our goal is to offer a united platform to share celebrate film together. Effectively we’re returning to our roots as a festival of festivals, which is how we started off nearly 45 years ago.”
Bailey said, “Of course we recognise that in planning for the festival now there is still some uncertainty in what people coming together will look like come September. That’s why we’re looking at both on-site and digital innovations that will give us options that will deliver for our audiences, support filmmakers and our partners, and bolster the industry.”
Bailey continued that TIFF staff working remotely from home were looking to engage audiences with existing content while creating “a new means of programming through virtual TIFF Bell Lightbox experiences”.
Vicente added that TIFF was creating a platform to champion diverse artists and promote the Canadian and international film community. Last week TIFF launched Stay-At-Home Cinema, which streams on Crave and kicked off last Friday with a screening of The Princess Bride and a virtual chat between Bailey and Mandy Patinkin. TIFF is looking for potential partners in all its endeavours during the crisis.
“In time like these we’re reminded that community matters, art matters, film matters,” Bailey said. “Community, art and film have the ability to give us hope and to highlight the similarities of our global experience as human beings. Know that we are all in this together, and only together can we bring about positive change. Thank you for your tireless work, strength, and love.”
“Our doors will open again and we look forward to welcoming you back,” Vicente said. “Until then, stay safe and take care.”
Earlier in the week Vicente and Bailey took time to speak to Screen about current circumstances:
In these unprecedented times what TIFF projects are actively moving ahead?
Right now, our focus is to stay in touch with our festival partners and stakeholders, keep our teams at TIFF informed and inspired and our audiences engaged with our mission, which remains to transform the way people see the world through film. We are working on a number of digital programming activities and are focused on developing different scenarios for the festival in the fall. With our new project, the Stay-at-Home Cinema series, with Bell Media’s Crave, we’re inviting audiences all over Canada to share a movie and a virtual Q&A together. We are all looking to connect with each other, and what better way to do this than through cinema.
What are your thoughts on the possible timing of Cannes?
The situation is serious around the globe and it continues to evolve on a daily basis, so we remain hopeful for the best. If Cannes could happen in late June then it would be so wonderful – what a wonderful thing to hope for! And we really commend Cannes for working to support organisations on a digital market for industry stakeholders.
What positive change might the effects of the pandemic bring to the industry?
We are always hopeful of course that the change will be positive. We can see it already – festival partners, stakeholders and industry colleagues alike – working together to support each other. Moments of crisis present moments of opportunity as well. We’re experiencing more sophisticated and flexible use of technology. We have had to sweep away artificial barriers and move more of our lives online. It’s helping us continue to contribute and keep our part of the industry going. Not everything can be virtual of course, and when this global pandemic recedes and we slowly settle back into a new but familiar world, we hope we will all continue to be collaborative, kind, generous and supportive.
How is the TIFF team of 194 full-time staff adapting to working from home?
We had to move quickly to get our staff set up for working from their homes and we’re navigating this new working remotely world together. We have a great IT team and they got everyone sorted. We know it’s difficult for staff who are now juggling work and family responsibilities in different ways and are also conscious of the stress the pandemic has had on everyone’s mental health and well-being, so we are working with our employees and their needs.
TIFF staff has moved to working remotely so quickly and has shown such passion, innovation and hard work – all while also being worried about what’s happening globally and what it means to them and their families. It’s been difficult for sure, but it’s also been really emotional to witness our staff all coming together to continue our mission and our shared love of film.
How are you and your team keeping up morale?
We are so fortunate to have TIFF’s People & Culture team that provides staff with opportunities for wellness breaks during the day, including links to virtual tours of national and international museums, for example. They also provide links to virtual work-out groups which are quite popular. We also make a point to meet on a regular basis even just to talk about what’s going on in the world and check in on each other’s emotional state. We lean on each other for a laugh, movie suggestions, new ways to engage with our friends and family.
Replies have been repurposed from a longer interview.