A meeting of the film industry minds occurred in the boutique Windsor Arms hotel during the last leg of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Aptly named Converge TIFF 3.0, Director Tommy Oliver, Executive Producer Nicholas Tabarrok (Darius Films), as well as Dani Weinstein (President of Publicity) and Stephen Bruno (Director of Marketing)– both from the Weinstein Company –comprised the panel of speakers who shared their thoughts about the film industry, TIFF’s performance and reputation on the world stage, and why our homegrown festival continues to be a powerhouse for international brands and companies to debut their films in.
The event was hosted by Omega and Madflower Creative Groups; the panel was moderated by The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business Editor, Sean Stanleigh. The panel shared their insights into what makes TIFF so distinct, alluring, and an ideal launch pad for creative films to show in our city. Reasons cited included Toronto and the general populace’s multicultural composition, its warmth and receptivity to the festival, as well as embracing it with pride and support.
Other issues and insights shared by the panel included their stance on piracy and the surge in social media. With regards to the former, Oliver fielded the question first. Being a forward thinker, he said that he embraced piracy; rather than combat the problem and create ‘enemies’ or ostracize certain types of people, his hope was that bootlegged films watched by these individuals would impress them enough to motivate them to purchase the real thing. And this indeed, does happen. Much of his reaction and beliefs are fueled by the job he holds and the nature of the industry. He’s resilient and able find find hidden opportunities. Like the other panelists, his response is a testament to the continuing successes they’ve all achieved at festivals like TIFF. Dani Weinstein said that the larger issue was that a pirated film would not do justice to how Harvey Weinstein and his company envisioned the film to be viewed as. A shoddy version of a film seen on a computer screen for instance, would be more devastating to Weinstein; these individuals would be cheating themselves out of a true film-going experience.The panel shared positive sentiments towards social media. Not only does it connect individuals and creates a community full of sharing and dialogue, but that audiences supply valuable real-time feedback and critique about the film they’ve just seen. As mentioned by Stephen and Dani, movie companies greatly value this information; it is a resource useful for marketing and business purposes.
A question of demographics was brought up. The boomers are getting older and being retired, they have more time for leisurely pursuits– those of which include going to the movie theatre and watching films. An audience member wondered where these targeted demographic films that contain mature actors and themes were. Dani and Stephen half-jokingly said to look no further than their company. They argued that films they carried such as The Artist (previous years), as well as The Butler, and August: Osage, for this year were geared towards an aging populace.
It was also interesting to hear about what we deem as ‘successes’ today and awareness of marketing capabilities– or lack thereof. Dani mentioned that everyone now is familiar with Silver Linings Playbook but the campaign was an arduous undertaking. It was a challenge to build up excitement for a film that was difficult to create a riveting ad campaign for. Even with all the talented and well-known actors in the film, it was a challenge to get people into the movie theatres. Chalk it up to good ol’ fashioned word of mouth (“it’s gold”)– the verbal buzz was actually the reason for the movie’s successes. It spent a long time in the box office before anyone took notice of it.
Stephen used the documentary ‘Bully’ as another strong arguing point. It is also difficult to market films that are ‘good for you’. Despite the heartfelt message, again, it was difficult to get audiences into the theatre doors. It just so happened that they were graced with a bit of luck when armies of American youths rallied against the R rating the film received. As vocal advocates– again, word of mouth spread the message about the film and its importance to be seen by a broad audience.
The question of celebrity vs. film was raised. We are increasingly becoming a society obsessed with ‘stars’. Does this necessarily mean that the movies in which these celebrities are featured in become hidden in the shadows? Not so, says our panel. Stephen mentioned that many foreign films or one that are relative ‘unknowns’ are gaining traction simply because they have a riveting plot-line or a talented director behind the lens. As questions were opened to the floor, I had an opportunity to ask the panel which film they thought was the media darling this year regardless if stars were featured or not. Oliver jokingly advocated for his film. Dani Weinstein said that she did not have time to see many films at TIFF this time but used examples from the previous year; she cited successful films like Argo and Silver Linings Playbook. Bruno vouched for Tracks and Tabarrock gave his vote of support to Gravity.
TIFF is broadening its reach more than ever before. Soon, we may even see apps to help us all navigate the festival and manage our time so we can catch more films.
One thing is certain: The Toronto International Film Festival is a 10-12 day affair riddled with excitement, film buffs, celebrity watchers, and those just looking for fun and parties. This intimate panel discussion was a fantastic experience where our love of film and the movies afforded us an opportunity to speak with some industry heavy hitters.
Thanks to the Omega Group for the invitation to cover this event!
p.s. I didn’t forget– for your viewing pleasure– some more TIFF related fun in the city and some stars I was able to snap pictures of: