The Toronto InternationalFilm Festival Group has launched a year-round industry-oriented supportprogramme for Canadian filmmakers and their films.

Designed to further themission of the festival's OMDC Sales Office, the new department, dubbed theIndustry Initiatives Office and headed by long-time Sales Office directorKelley Alexander, will provide programmes and services in marketing, artisticdevelopment and international networking.

Foremost in the plans is theMarketing Assistance Programme, designed to improve the business side of thefilmmaking equation by providing marketing and publicity expertise and otherservices to selected Canadian filmmakers.

In this inaugural year, fourfilms - two features, two shorts - selected for TIFF will be chosen based onneeds; however the programme is expected to expand to 12 titles in subsequentyears and will not hinge solely TIFF participation. The Shadowing Programmewill also provide training to four emerging producers who will "shadow" two Canadian and two international producersthroughout the year.

In addition, the programmeincludes a Facilitation/Introduction Service, whereby Canadian filmmakerstraveling overseas will have access to established figures in the internationalfilm industry through TIFFG contacts. Down the road, TIFFG foresees a web-basedportal that will provide one-stop access to Canadian film and film talent, frommarketing materials, to producer pitch sites and educational access toTIFF-related programming.

"We've been successful indeveloping all these programmes over the past five years," Alexander toldScreendaily. "Now we're using our strengths to help develop talent and theopportunities and plug Canadianfilmmakers into an international context - because we are in that context. Wehave the network to be able to do that.' TIFF co-director Noah Cowan, citingthe metaphor of the rising tide raising all boats, said the initiative willmake Canadian filmmakers "better international citizens."

For the 2005 event, TIFFGwill expand its established filmmaker initiatives, including the Talent Lab,the Pitch This and My Next Project development sessions.

Cowan and Elizabeth Muskala,director of programme administration, will assume the OMDC Sales Officeresponsibilities on an interim basis, along with returning OMDC Sales Officemanager Hayet Benkara. Pass sales at TIFF will be handled by Customer Service.