The Toronto International Film Festival is launching a Rising Stars programme at this year’s event (September 8-18) to showcase four as-yet-unidentified up-and-coming Canadian actors to the world.
“The main thing we want to emphasise is that there’s incredible talent in Canada, as evidenced by many of the actors who have broken out, and there’s a lot more where that came from,” TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey told Screen by phone from Los Angeles.
Citing recent success stories by “everyone from Ellen Page to Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds and Jay Baruchel—there’s so many,” Bailey underlined that: “This is an opportunity to show our talent to the world and that’s what this Rising Stars programme is really all about.”
Ultimately the new programme is an attempt to plug the drain on English-speaking Canadian talent that naturally flows south to Hollywood, a phenomenon that dates back decades to Mary Pickford.
“I think we should try to identify them before they all make a leap to Hollywood because that happens to a lot of them,” Bailey said, emphasising that Rising Stars is not intended to facilitate a flood, but build a bridge.
“This is not at all about trying to find those actors and launch them in Hollywood,” he said. “It’s more about building bridges back and forth between the Canadian industry and what happens abroad.”
Bailey said the Canadian industry is also supportive of the initiative. “One of the things I know is that there are a lot of people in Canada who would like to see more of a bridge maintained between working in Canada and working outside of Canada. Often there’s really no opportunity. Once you get a considerable amount of success, it seems your only logical move is to go south.
“I think we should try to identify them before they all make a leap to Hollywood because that happens to a lot of them,” he said, later adding that neither is the programme an attempt to restrict them from global success.
“We are also aware that there are a lot of opportunities outside of Canada—whether it’s in the UK or the US or Bollywood or Hong Kong—and because the festival is such an international industry event and all those players are in town—we want to use that focus to make those connections and build those bridges, and we hope that over the years, they will be sustained,” he explained.
TIFF attracts key film players from around the globe, so “one of the things we can do at the festival is introduce [the rising stars] to some of the people in the room such as the producers, talent agents and casting directors and people who can help further their careers. We can provide them with a kind of film industry 101, a kind of boot camp about what the realities of the industry are. They’ve been so focused on their acting careers that they haven’t had much time to focus on the industry, and because the film industry is in Toronto every year for the festival, we feel like we can bring the two together.”
Cameron said details of the selection committee and application process will be unveiled “soon”.