Lights, camera and zoom: How COVID-19 is forcing TIFF to change

The Toronto International Film Festival opened Thursday very differently. Festival participants acknowledge that the many adjustments the festival has made to the coronavirus are vital, but it remains unclear how a hypothetical event will largely affect those who depend on it for networking opportunities and starting their careers.

TIFF is the second “Big Five” film festival to be launched in the progressive reopening of public events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It took a different approach to the Venice Film Festival during its launch last week.

This festival, the oldest in the world, used to require attendees to wear masks, check their temperatures, and physically distance themselves – but it happened in person. On the other hand, TIFF has paid most of its offers online. The rest will be shows in the car or outdoors, and a few selections and physically spaced out in theaters.

The organizers have also set the number of headlines from more than 330 in 2019 to nearly 50 this year, and they have not set a date for the red carpet or personal conversations. This removes the star-watching excitement for festival-goers and means that filmmakers have less opportunity to interact directly with the festival and with each other.

“The dream is for your movie to be premiered at one of the biggest festivals in the world, and to truly immerse yourself in the experience,” said director Tracy Deer of the experience.

Biographical film bean – Inspired by her experiences as a 12-year-old who lived in Kahnawake during the Oka Crisis – her TIFF world premiere is scheduled for Saturday.

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Beans, directed by Tracy Deer, will be shown globally for the first time at TIFF this year. She says the film’s online appearance in TIFF is “disappointing”. (Carrie Haber / CBC)

It will also be her first feature film, which she finds is somewhat bittersweet.

“It’s a new format that has not been tested,” Der said. “You want to try it out as a director with a movie at the festival. So it’s definitely disappointing.”

Dickerson’s Rainbow, one of beanActors, echo those concerns. Dickerson, who was also named one of the festival’s four “rising stars”, described how now more than a year has passed since the film was shot.

The festival could have been an opportunity for her and her visitors to visit again, meet as a creative team and “party and hug, and just feel that energy of being together again.”

Instead, she filmed her clip from Rising Stars remotely in Los Angeles, where she’ll also watch the festival and share TIFF’s online resources for creators to promote their films. Both she and Deer said they were grateful to the festival for going digital rather than cancel and were excited, but they said some parts were missing.

“We lose the red carpets together, the photo opportunities, and we’re really in the same room with people,” Dickerson said. “It’s just a different energy than looking at someone on a box at a screen.”

Moving the festival from the big screen to the computer screen poses more dangers than just the audience’s energy. Drawing filmmakers and audience members from all over the world to a single event creates excitement about the best artists, and publishes word-of-mouth recommendations that help define what the industry as a whole expects.

“Toronto has a history of being a tastemaker,” said Carlos Aguilar, independent film critic for the Los Angeles Times, Variety and other outlets. “Lucky movies often get the People’s Choice award or get a lot of hype, and then we talk about them months later – sometimes at the Oscars.”

This sharing is created organically, with momentum generated by crowds in a shared space and recommendations often exchanged between strangers in the classroom. This process will largely move to social media now, Aguilar said, “strange waters that have not been tested before.”

Fall festivals

All these changes will fundamentally change the way the festival operates, said David Bolland, editor of the entertainment news site Movie City News.

He said the significant decrease in the number of films in TIFF is removing the festival as an outright flagship.

But TIFF isn’t alone. Earlier this year, the Oscars postponed their concerts again due to the pandemic, which will take place in April instead of February. Poland said this makes the award season two months longer, making September start very early.

Poland said, “Starting in Toronto and reaching the end is not easy and it is expensive.” “So, the Fall Festivals will not be participating in this year’s awards season.”

Not all of this, though, is bad. Madeline Sims-Fiore, co-director, co-writer, and star violent, Noted that the mini-festival could lead to more interest in small independent films – something that Dickerson and Dare also highlighted.

Likewise, all of them indicated that the opportunity to participate in the festival at all is great, regardless of the format.

“It is one of the most popular film festivals in the world, and it is very much highlighted,” said Sims Fiore. “Getting this on at TIFF … It’s huge. Yeah, it’s really exciting.”

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