The pre-screenings are part of TIFF co-director Noah Cowan's effort to boost the profile of films that might get lost in the shuffle once TIFF is underway. Cowan will select between seven and 10 films, all most likely world premieres.
The festival is keen to balance what many observers see as Toronto's celebrity-biased profile. The reality of that perception is nowhere more apparent than in the media coverage of the event, where a handful of star-studded films preoccupy the media to the exclusion of films that have everything going for them except profile. Grau calls these films 'the other 300', referring to the large number of films outside the Gala and Special Presentation slots.
Grau told Screendaily 'These are films that may not have anyone pushing them at TIFF. They may not have press representation, they may not have a distributor or sales. This way they may be able to get some representation.'
Grau said post-festival surveys indicate journalists feel they are missing opportunities due to pressure from assignment editors to see high-profile titles. By screening in the two major centres - last year Toronto had 93 journalists from New York and 62 from LA - Cowan will hope to sow interest so that the journalists in those cities will mention a title or two in a curtain-raiser feature or follow up with an interview while in Toronto.
Grau sees the pilot project as an adjunct to the pre-festival press screenings that begin in Toronto in August. 'We're servicing the media and the filmmaker.'
TIFF is also working with national film promotion agencies such as the UK's Film Council and Korea's KOFIC to boost attendance of international journalists and encourage them to cover the films of their own nations and other titles off the celebrity radar. Grau says TIFF upped its international press contigent from 17% in 2005 to 22% in 2006.