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TIFF 2013: Not My Own Private Toronto

Festivals
by Sydney Levine
October 9, 2013 12:25 AM
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Scotiabank Theater, Toronto

8 Opinions About The Festival

Opinion #1

It was so crowded!!! There were so many complaints, including my own about this year’s festival screenings.

I hear that the overcrowding took place because TIFF did not play at AMC cinemas on Dundas this year moving many of the public screenings that would have had happened there to Scotiabank and hence the overcrowding of this venue. I think Scotiabank is perfect for P&I screenings and worked very well until this year's troubled lobby situations.

Even Cameron Bailey had to explain to the public, or at least to Wendy Mitchell and the readers of Screen what was going on.

See Wendy Mitchell's article Toronto, Just Too Big HERE

And TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey’s response: HERE

Some of the many, many opinions of others are expressed here:

Opinion #2

I went to my second TIFF and had a ball. I am one to thoroughly enjoy yapping with everyone around me in line.... much to the chagrin of some of them!! The main problem I saw was the exiting of films exactly when we were to enter a film, all in the same lobby. It would make sense for them to coordinate these comings and goings. Most would note we stood in line a long time, but usually all got in... when there were NOT other films loading or unloading!! I saw 25 films in my 6 days and got jammed on the Gravity screening and a couple more... August: Osage County was fun... and they didn't open the theatre till late on Tuesday morning for 12 Years A Slave and only then with two worker bees at the front door... wow! I did note last year there would be 7-9 films to choose from in the mornings...this year 15-16...I agree we need more evening times for press screenings.... but maybe that's when they do better with premieres for the public???

There was good news and bad news at TIFF13.

The good news:

Overall I had a positive fest. Was happy to see so many of you there. And I thought the films were above average as well. Chris and I posted a blog on our visit, which links HERE

The bad news:

The organization and management of the P&I screenings reached an all-time low this year. I tweeted my unhappiness and then sent a "formal" email to the Industry to the following address: regist...@tiff.net (which they suggested, although I've not yet received a response). Below is a copy of my email. I encourage you to do the same, if you agree. I think the lack of good management/organization reached a tipping point this year, which threatens to plunge Toronto into the chaos and inconvenience of Sundance and Cannes.

If you love TIFF the way I do (13x since 1999), let them hear your feedback. Share your thoughts. I know I'm not alone, since everyone seemed to be talking about this issue at the festival. This is where the combined strength of many voices can make a difference. (Feel free to use my email as a template.)

Thanks,

John Toner

Executive Director

Renew Theaters

(County Ambler Hiway Theaters)

John’s Letter:

Subject: Unhappy TIFF13 Industry Delegate feedback

Dear TIFF13 Industry Management Team:

I want to share some feedback about Industry screenings at TIFF13. Conditions were not good.

I have attended TIFF since 1999 as an Industry delegate, missing only one year in that time. I am the Executive Director of Renew Theaters, and run 3 arthouses in suburban Philadelphia, USA (the County, Ambler, and Hiway

Theaters). I spoke to many fellow theater operators while in Toronto and most complained about the organization of the P&I screenings and the treatment of the Industry delegates.

First, let me say that I am NOT talking about the TIFF volunteers - they are great. They do a fine job in a polite and dedicated way. Nor am I talking about the Industry conferences, which I do not attend.

p> What I am talking about is the organization and management of the P&I screenings.

PROBLEMS

Things have grown gradually worse over the last 4 or 5 years, but really hit a tipping point this year.

1. Things started out badly on Thursday morning when it took Industry attendees over an hour to check in, with a line of 200+ people. (Incidentally, there was no line for the Press attendees checking in.)

2. More than ever before, Industry was forced into cattle shoots and holding pens for long periods prior to screenings.

3. There was near chaos at some times due to the scheduling of many popular films at the same time and then at other times when only one film was scheduled. Additionally, there were fewer films scheduled later in the day. Some days there were barely any film screenings after 3:00. And there

seemed to be way fewer screenings the Lightbox in general, with almost no evening slots.

4. On Monday, for the first time ever, Industry people were pushed outside to stand in the hot sun with an announcement that it was "for our benefit".

5. Finally, resentment has been building, year by year, about the Press Priority screenings. More time spend in cattle shoots as every blogger and his brother walks in ahead of us.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? ( IT DIDN'T USED TO BE THIS WAY.)

I don't know exactly why things are progressively getting worse. I suspect that there are many more Industry delegates than there used to be and that we are being squeezed into the same number of screenings.

It hasn't always been like this. I used to be that Industry walked into screenings and was never made to line up. As recently as five years ago, things were much better. Since then, the Industry pass price has been raised and the conditions have gotten progressively worse.

I feel that you have us at the bottom of your list of priorities. This was a sentiment echoed by many other Industry members I have spoken with.

Industry delegates pay, on average, $650 a person to attend the fest. I estimate that the Fest is grossing close to a million dollars on Industry passes. We deserve better treatment.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

I urge you to take these complaints seriously and to make changes. If there are more people attending, there need to be more screenings. If there isn't enough room at the Scotiabank and Lighthouse, then you need to add other venues. There used to be way more screenings in the evening as well. Those

screening times need to return.

And, please, do not make us line up outside. If you do, you will lose a lot of professionals.

I am encouraging everyone I know in the biz to give you feedback. I'm circulating this email to my movie theater association group.

Thank you for hearing my feedback. I love TIFF and have had many great experiences in the 13 years that I've come. Everyone I know in the biz loves Toronto. I frequently hear something like: "Toronto is the best film

festival. It's not like Sundance or Cannes, which are chaotic and poorly run - Toronto is relaxed and friendly and the place to go."

Please don't throw away that good will.

Sincerely,

John Toner

Executive Director

Renew Theaters

(County, Ambler & Hiway Theaters)

http://countytheater.org

http://www.amblertheater.org

http://www.hiwaytheater.net

Opinion #3 (My own opinion)

My greatest pleasure in Toronto, taking precedence over my second greatest pleasure of seeing my dear festival and international film business friend, is seeing films which I cannot otherwise see. When I was buying I judged films differently. When I ran FilmFinders and was at IMDbPro, I tried to follow the industry. This time, I follow my own private instinct. After marking all the films I wanted to see, I realized they all conflicted with one another and so I let it go and followed a certain instinct about what I would see. I was so happy to see so many good films, with not a single difficult line to have to queue up for. True I missed 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. But I saw a fascinating international mix of films!

See my blog My Own Private Toronto List of Films and My Own Private Opinions HERE 

Meanwhile, here are more opinions on the subject.

Opinion #4

Dear Arthouse Convergers,

Since I know many of you went to TIFF and many others follow it, I thought I'd signal this if you hadn't already seen it:

See it HERE

It covers a lot of bases, but it calls attention to lots of films plowed under by Oscaritis. It also shows how un-Establishment and open to fresh things these young, smart critics are. I hope they survive in VARIETY's new incarnation.

________________________________

Opinion #5 Size matters

Reading all this stuff, the Screen Daily, Variety, Indiewire etc. -- which is undoubtedly essential for us to follow -- leaves me routinely underwhelmed. These guys are always saying valid things and their observations are valid. But it is just leaving me wanting for some more depth. It is all extremely superficial -- perhaps the format does not allow for anything else?

The Archival Film Festivals book which we recently released has a great interview with Tom Luddy -- check it out. I think it says more about Telluride's special position on the calendar than many other texts I have seen.

Prof. Dina Iordanova FRSA

Chair in Film Studies

Director, Centre for Film Studies

Publisher, St. Andrews Film Studies

University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Opinion #6

Another’s Opinion of the Press (not mine!) from the FilmFestivalResearch (Academic) Crowd:

It depends where you look. Not all of it is superficial. Maybe Screen Daily can be at times, ditto for Variety - butVariety is the classic model for superficial entertainment journalism. It's more about trade news and insider speak than anything else. Indiewire is a different story. They have a lot of great content and great writers, and many affiliated with the academic world are peppered throughout the various pages. Then you can take a publication likeMUBI Notebook as another example. They publish a lot of hardcore theory-cognizant film criticism, also mixed with academic writers, and their festival coverage is excellent if a bit in a poetic and crusading journalistic style. Film Comment publishes a lot of great online festival coverage from many of the usual suspects, as does Cineaste. Ditto for Artforum, but they tend to play the snooty/sarcastic role a bit too heavily.

There is a new online journal called The Dissolve that has a lot of detailed and smart writing, with some in-depth festival coverage. The only academically-inclined resource I will mention is NECSUS, which has a dedicated festival review section edited by our very own Skadi Loist and Marijke de Valck. (Sydney: Hooray for them!!) Of course there are more. For example, Senses of Cinema flirts with both sides of the boundary, and they have great festival coverage. And forget about mentioning the various blogs run by both professional journalists and academics alike.

It's a golden age. Whatever (and whoever) you want is out there for the finding.

Best,

Greg de Cuir, Jr

Opinion #7

And here was another one chipping in on the Telluride positioning...

How the Telluride Film Festival Cheats the System, by Eric Kohn HERE

Opinion #8 By the Co-Founder of Film Festival Research Network (FFRN), Skadi Loist

Very interesting. This one caught my eye earlier "Can Telluride Continue to Steal Venice and Toronto¹s Thunder?" by Peter Debruge. HERE

All kinds of issues and claims going on.

These are all excerpts from either Art House Convergence people or Film Festival Research Academicians.

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