More and more, film festivals are relying on more than film programming to lure audiences. The expansive Toronto International Film Festival (latest additions to program here) is no exception. This year's Mavericks lineup of nine speakers in a Q & A format is high profile indeed. Jon Stewart will talk his directorial debut about journalism, "Rosewater," and Robert Duvall will converse on his entire stellar career up to TIFF opener "The Judge." Perhaps to make up for world premiering "Wild" at Telluride, producer-star Reese Witherspoon will do a conversation about that film as well as her supporting role in "The Good Lie." Another producer-star on display is Richard Gere, who worked closely with writer-director Oren Moverman on homeless drama "Time Out of Mind." "It's the continuation of a career that's been fascinating to watch," says TIFF programmer Thom Powers. "He's equally at home with big box office hits and more challenging roles."
Perhaps the most potentially entertaining evening will be with documentarian David Thorpe and sex advice columnist Dan Savage, who will talk about "Do I Sound Gay," Thorpe's TIFF world premiere acquisition title (repped by Cinetic).
I look forward to grilling a true maverick, Julie Taymor, who accompanies her film of her 2013 Brooklyn staging of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream. "This is more than a camera in the back of the room," says Powers. "The cameras are on stage, the cinematography team is superb. The film showcases her greatest inventive talent for visual conjuring. The real revelation is actress Kathryn Hunter as Puck --better known on the London stage."
Powers is crossing his fingers that Martin Scorsese will come with co-director David Tedeschi and editor Bob Silver to talk about their doc "The 50 Year Argument," about the New York Review of Books, which premiered as a work in progress at Sheffield.
Powers is also excited about the two-day Doc Conference at the Glenn Gould auditorium (September 9 and 10) that has expanded since it was launched six years ago. About 200-300 documentarians attend every year to hear such keynote speakers as agent Liesl Copland last year and this year's Michael Moore, who is always guaranteed to provoke and inform. "Act of Killing" director Joshua Oppenheimer, back with "The Look of Silence," will also speak.
A new entrant into the world of documentary film production is Conde Nast, which is now producing digital shorts. "We try to look at new trends on the artistic and business side of documentaries," says Powers. "One thing we noticed is the rise in short film doc content. And one of the surprising names is Conde Nast, the media company behind Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, which is pushing more into short form doc programming for its digital platform. We have a presentation with their head of production on how they work with filmmakers and what they look for."
Of the 23 new docs announced for the TIFF program Tuesday, Powers especially notes music doc "Roger Waters: The Wall" about Pink Floyd, which Cinetic is selling, as well as Mami Sunada's behind-the-scenes look at the output of animation giant Studio Ghibli, "The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness," which is "a beautiful tribute to their work," says Powers.