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10 Questions

10 Questions

Interviews with leaders in the screen-based industry 

HOT DOCS PRESIDENT: CHRIS MCDONALD

The DGC sat down with Hot Docs president Chris McDonald to discuss documentary filmmaking in Canada, his career as a leader in the arts, and more.

1.What single documentary has impacted you the most and why?

I’d put Grey Gardens at the very top of my list. There’s a great film called Sergio by Greg Barker that follows a career diplomat who works for the UN, a Brazilian man named Sergio, and it’s one of these stories with an incredible narrative arc. He’s an unforgettable, heroic character. One of the reasons it succeeded for me was because this was somebody I had no familiarity with before the story and he is somebody that I cannot forget. I told the filmmaker Greg Barker how I gave a DVD copy to my 17 year old high school aged nephew and a few of his jock buddies. And my nephew said that they were all crying. It’s such a moving film. There are so many great Canadian films. Allan King’s work is so unforgettable. A Married Couple is at the top of the list as well as is Warrendale. I probably see about 300 films a year and it’s astounding the depth and breadth of the filmmaking.

 

Grey Gardens (Dir: Albert and David Maysles, 1975)Grey Gardens (Dir: Albert and David Maysles, 1975)

SERGIO (Dir: Greg Barker, 2009)SERGIO (Dir: Greg Barker, 2009)

2. Who do you think is a documentary filmmaker to watch?

I’m dying to see what Jennifer Baichwal does next. I love Charles Wilkinson’s films and those of Larry Weinstein, Sturla Gunnarsson and Shelley Saywell. Luckily we have a very deep bench of Canadian talent.

3. How is technology changing documentary filmmaking?

The impact has been enormous. It’s made film production faster, cheaper, easier and more accessible. It’s democratized the industry. It has also created so many different platforms for exhibition. It’s helped to spawn this renaissance that we’re seeing in documentary filmmaking internationally. I’m noticing personally that there are so many more documentary programs in universities that didn’t exist when I was in school. We’re going to start to see a lot of documentary-specific training that I suspect are a result of the changes in technology. Cameras are cheaper, editing is so much easier and faster and less expensive. People are making good films on a shoestring.

The downside is that there are fewer opportunities on traditional and cable television for documentary financing. It’s never been easy financing documentary films. It’s particularly difficult now. Fortunately the cross-platform world has created unique opportunities, as has the international appetite for feature-length documentaries.

For those of us who grew up in Canada and remember watching old NFB documentaries (and the NFB makes some amazing docs obviously) the joke we used to tell was: “Documentaries are like cod liver oil- they taste bad but they are good for you.” That was a notion we actively tried to dispel at Hot Docs, especially in the early years. Our advertising and our creative campaigns were all geared around fun images and surprise images that were trying to draw people in and dispel the notion that documentaries were boring and stayed or didactic and any number of negative connotations. I think that certainly worked for our audiences.

There’s such a healthy and devoted audience for documentaries both here and around the world. I went from E.P. Taylor’s old estate on Bayview Avenue at the Canadian Film Centre, where we literally had a tennis court and a swimming pool, to an empty office on Adelaide Street with no phone and no furniture, thinking “What am I doing here?”

I was so encouraged by the number of people who would sort of grab me and almost whisper conspiratorially, “I love documentaries.” And I would say, “Really? That’s great,” because I did too but I wasn’t sure. Maybe every tenth person’s eyes will sort of glaze over when I say that I run a documentary film festival – they don’t understand what that means. But the lion’s share of them have a deep respect and curiosity.

As tough as it is to get young audiences to pay to go to a cinema, they are consuming documentaries on various cross-platforms. That’s a challenge. We’re no longer just a festival; we also have a year-round cinema that was, when we opened, the only documentary-focused cinema in the world. There’s one now in London which is wonderful. We attend an annual conference for North American independent cinema operators that happens before Sundance every year. And one of the take-aways there is: “Don’t beat yourselves up if you’re not getting the youth audience.” Because they are able to either download content for free illegally or find free content. Our demographic does skew a little bit older. It’s all cinemas, not just documentaries cinemas, that have trouble attracting an audience who is adept at pirating films and content. The upside there though is that there is a legitimate appetite.

4. What’s the best piece of content of any kind you’ve watched recently?

There are two Canadian films that were nominated amongst the ten shortlisted short documentaries for last year's Academy Awards, both of which came through the Hot Docs documentary funds. Adam Benzine’s Claude Lauzmann: Spectres of the Shoah was nominated for an Oscar, and Ann Shin’s My Enemy, My Brother was shortlisted. Adam’s film came through our Corus Hot Docs fund and Ann was pitched at our dealmaker market event at the festival a couple of years ago so we’re enormously proud of our association with both of those remarkable films. I saw a great film coming to the Hot Docs Cinema called Palio about the 800-year-old horse race that takes place twice every summer in Siena in the square there.

5. What advantage does a Canadian documentary filmmaker have that no other documentary filmmaker has? 

Canada has a number of remarkable film festivals. We have one of the oldest federal film agencies in the NFB. We have an inordinate number of documentary undergraduate programs across the country. We have important communities like the DGC and DOC supporting filmmakers. We have numerous funds supporting our filmmakers including Rogers Slate of Funds. Hot Docs has raised almost 8 million dollars in funds from the private sector to provide as grants for filmmakers, through our Corus Hot Docs fund and then we have the various provincial and federal agencies. We have a very healthy support system. Some would say not healthy enough but if you compare it to the United States it’s extremely healthy. It’s not as generous as our European counterparts but in some countries it’s non-existent. And we have this great tradition and audience. Toronto is the third-largest cinema-going city in North America. Toronto has more film festivals then any city in the world. It has the two largest film festivals in North America – TIFF and Hot Docs. So there are great opportunities for audiences looking for curated international documentary content.

6. What obstacles do Canadian documentary filmmakers face?

Corporate amalgamation has resulted in fewer documentary strands for filmmakers. The growth in popularity in factual programming has caused feature-length creative docs to suffer in terms of support. Market influences and market place challenges are a factor. Factual programming is cheaper and financing for one-off docs have suffered as a result.

7. You’ve done a lot of work to create opportunities for Canadian filmmakers. What advice do you have for Canadian documentary film makers on getting their films made and out to the world?

I think that attending festivals is a great way to start. TIFF has some terrific documentary conference programming as well as remarkable slate of feature length docs every year as does Hot Docs, Vancouver, Calgary and Whistler. So there are a lot of professional development opportunities festivals provide for documentary filmmakers. The Documentary Organization of Canada is also a great resource. Not just in terms of knowledge transfer but also in terms of networking opportunities, opportunities to meet other filmmakers, share ideas, learn etc. I think you really need to understand the marketplace, which is always shifting all the time, and get a handle on what the trends are locally and internationally. Figure out what kind of film you want to make, who your audience is and understand cross-platform opportunities. The CFC has a great program as well for feature-length documentary films. But I think it’s just about doing your research. Festivals and markets are a great way to learn and then obviously watch as many films as you possibly can.

8. What’s something significant you’ve learned in your years in the screen-based industry?

One of the big awakenings for me was the importance of team-building in terms of growing an organization and the importance of hiring the best people, giving them all the resources you can, and then stepping back and letting them do their jobs. Determining the level of support you need to provide to people, providing that to them and then stepping back. Treat the talent well. It’s something I was struck by at the Film Centre and I ran a department. I was struck by how few of us running departments had any kind of management educational training. We’d all studied liberal arts as undergrads and here we were managing teams of people with very little experience. Now, 20 years later, I find that kind of shocking and I do notice the number of arts and cultural based organizations where people of my generation and older only have management training on the job and we make a lot of mistakes. It shocks me when I see the number of senior managers who micromanage and don’t understand the impact they’re having on productivity and motivation and a lot of time and energy get wasted by people who can’t figure out your team is critical and you need to support them. Pay them as decently as you can, treat them with as much respect as you can and give them all the support that you can. And hopefully create an environment that they want to thrive in.

9. What is your vision of Hot Docs and the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema 5 years from now?

The good news is that cinema has been open for three and a half years. We’re in the black – it’s actually generating profits that go back towards the organization itself and allow us to expand our various program offerings. We’re delighted with the role we played in helping to save one of the 8 remaining independent cinemas in Toronto. Our benefactor was able to purchase the cinema in 2012. He hired us to program, manage and operate the cinema. And we started generating profit immediately. We were then able to purchase the cinema back from him in June of this year and it is now the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. We have over 5,500 members, we average over 100 people per screening and run about 23-25 screenings a week. So the fact that there is an appetite and we’re able to build a community and revive the largest cinema in Toronto is enormously satisfying.

But we don’t want to be only one of a handful of documentary-focused cinemas in the world we want there to be dozens so we’re always keen to share our best practices and business plans with sister organizations in Canada and around the world. We hope that there are more cinemas because documentary cinemas create opportunities for documentary filmmakers.

10. What do you think are the essential elements of a great documentary?

The quality of the filmmaking doesn’t seem to be as important in documentary as it is in fiction. There are very successful, fascinating non-fiction films that aren’t necessarily as well crafted as they could be but the film still works because the story is so strong and the characters are so compelling or the impact is so emotional. I see a lot of trends. I’ve always noticed that European filmmaking tends to be more cinematic whereas North American non-fiction filmmaking relies a bit more on story and character. Although I think that’s changing- I feel that North Americans are catching up with our European counterparts and I’m seeing more story-focused emphasis from Europeans. Ultimately I think the most critical element in a successful story is the emotional impact it has on the audience. It’s got to grab the audience in some way emotionally for it to succeed. You’ve got to care. You’ve got to be angry , you’ve got to be elated, you’ve got to be enlighted, you’ve got to be enraged. It can’t bore you. That can be purely aesthetic as well. It can be just a series of beautiful images that move you in some way. But story is critical, filmmaking is critical, and character.

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Chris McDonald was named Hot Docs President in 2013, having served as Executive Director since 1998. A native of Montreal, Chris holds a degree in Film Studies from McGill University. Prior to Hot Docs, Chris was Development Director for five years at the prestigious Canadian Film Centre, founded by director Norman Jewison. Prior to working at the CFC, Chris worked for two national environmental organizations. He sits on several industry advisory boards, and has served on panels and juries at leading film festivals and markets around the world. With a mandate to advance and celebrate the art of documentary and to showcase the work of documentary filmmakers, Hot Docs is now recognized as North America’s largest documentary festival. And, its flagship Hot Docs Forum, established in 2000, is North America’s largest documentary market event. The festival attracted an audience of 211,000 in 2016, along with 2,500 registered delegates. Hot Docs also administers a several production funds and provides free screenings to over 93,000 students each year. In 2012 the organization opened the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto, one of the only documentary focused cinemas in the world.

 

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10 Questions

Interviews with leaders in the screen-based industry 

STEVE GRAVESTOCK: SENIOR PROGRAMMER FOR THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Ahead of the 2017 Canada's Top Ten Festival at TIFF, Steve Gravestock talked to the DGC about the festival, his favourite Canadian films and more...

1. Can you talk about the Canada’s Top Ten Festival and the importance of the festival for Canadian filmmakers?

SG: Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival was the brainchild of CEO Piers Handling seventeen years ago, intended to help raise awareness of Canadian cinema both internationally and, especially, domestically. It’s grown from simply a list of titles to screenings and onstage talks to separate programs for features, shorts, student shorts as well as archival/open vault screenings. The films, or a selection of the films, now play in 10 locations across the country and this year, they have expanded the archival programme as part of TIFF’s Canada On Screen/Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration. I think it definitely raises awareness of Canadian titles and has certainly sparked debate about Canadian cinema. This awareness and these discussions are particularly essential given that American studios still dominate the movie-going landscape in Canada. The TIFF TOP TEN was never meant to be definitive, but rather serve as a snapshot of that particular year.

This festival has been especially helpful in highlighting emerging artists, such as Directors like Kazik Radwanski (PRINCESS MARGARET BOULEVARD), Jeff Barnaby (RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS), Ingrid Veninger (MODRA), Anne Emond (LES ETRES CHERS), Andrew Huculiak (VIOLENT), Jacob Tierney (TWIST and THE TROTSKY), Seth Scriver and Shayne Ehman (ASPHALT WATCHES). Top Ten helped propel INCENDIES and MONSIEUR LAZHAR to box office success as well.

In 2017 there’s been a real explosion with filmmakers like Ashley MacKenzie (WEREWOLF), Kevan Funk (HELLO DESTROYER), and Johnny Ma (OLD STONE). All three have had shorts on in previous years of the festival. In many ways, Top Ten is a kind of organic growth expanding on TIFF’s commitment to Canadian work, evident in initiatives like the Film Circuit, the Film Reference Library, the Cinematheque, TIFF Kids, Next Wave, and of course the Festival – and newer programmes like Talent Lab and TIFF Studio.

2. What is your process for choosing the films to be part of TIFF’s Top Ten Festival?

SG: Contrary to a widespread misconception, we don’t actually select the features or the shorts. (The exceptions are the student shorts. My colleague Lisa Haller selects those and does an awesome job, just like Magali Simard before her.) We assemble panels of filmmakers, film critics and industry people and they vote independently and anonymously on the shorts and features. We do sometimes have our programmers on the panel but much of that is work flow and expertise. (They tend to see a lot of Canadian work.) Panelist don’t actually know who the other panelists are. This confidentiality was designed to keep politics and various pressures out of the process.

Obviously there are many things to consider in constructing these types of lists. If you omit the biggest film commercially, films which often have the biggest audience impact, do you make the list less representative and therefore flirt with irrelevance? Or if you include them for representation are you doing a disservice to emerging filmmakers? We’ve been lucky in that the panelists have managed to maintain a pretty decent balance.

In the last few years we have asked them to try to consider genre, gender, diversity, region, though we do not ask for them to reflect or represent specific categories. To paraphrase the prime minister, it’s 2017 – and we need to consider these issues. I’d also like to point out that eligibility is based on commercial release and festival play. Films do not have to have play TIFF to be eligible. We consider about ten or eleven festivals across the country: for example, Hot Docs; VIFF; CIFF; Atlantic; Whistler; Montreal; Nouveau; Images etc. I’d also like to add that we have been very lucky to be enthusiastically supported by Canadian distributors across the board.

3. What tips do you give filmmakers for creating films that stand out to you and TIFF’s programming team?

SG: There’s really nothing beyond the obvious and any tips I could give would come with so many caveats I would just sound mealy-mouthed. I can tell you to send in the film early in the process when we don’t have an overwhelming amount to look at, but then I’d have to tell you not to rush things either, and to deliver the film in the most complete version possible.

One thing I can say unequivocally though is that the sooner you tell us about the film the better it is for the film’s chances.

4. Which Canadian Key Creatives’ work (Editors, Production Designers) would you consider distinctly Canadian?

SG: I think that there’s a long tradition of ironic engagement with and commentary on mainstream American culture that stretches back to SCTV and the designers of OPERATION AVALANCHE – Chris Crane, Zosia Mackenzie, John O’Reagan, Tom Erik Rossovik – did a slyly funny and magnificent job recreating the movie(s) the film references and that period.

I thought the design of Robert Boudreau’s BORN TO BE BLUE (Aidan Leroux; Joel Richardson; David Le Brun) was pretty stellar too.
Steve Cosens (MEAN DREAMS) has a great track record already.

Matt Hannam is a great Editor and has excellent taste.

5. Which one Canadian film stood out most to you in 2016 and why?

SG: It was pretty stellar that Xavier won that prize in Cannes; and MALIGLUTIT is a major piece in countless ways, with one of the best chase sequences I have ever seen. But I was pretty floored by the insane chances Denis and Lavoie took with CEUX QUI FONT LES REVOLUTIONS A MOITIE N’ONT FAIT QUE SE CREUSER UN TOMBEAU (THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTION HALFWAY ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES). It’s so off the wall and out there that it reignites your love for the art form.

I could say the same about those other two movies I mentioned, or a string of other Canadian and Quebecois movies, though not necessarily for the same reasons. I loved Falardeau’s American film THE BLEEDER. I thought he did an amazing job capturing the period.

NIRVANNA THE BAND THE SHOW kicked ass too.

6. What major trends emerged in Canadian film this year?

SG: There was some amazing stuff dealing with First Nations culture and the issues facing those communities. ANGRY INUK and MALIGLUTIT (both Top Ten films) are amazing pieces, but Alanis Obomsawin’s WE CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE is one of the most emotionally affecting pieces I have ever seen.

LIVING WITH GIANTS was beautifully made and Nettie Wild’s KONELINE is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen.
It was a stellar year for docs with great stuff like High Gibson’s documentary THE STAIRS and Jamie Kastner’s THE SKYJACKER’S TALE is whip-smart and beautifully designed.

I guess it’s kind of obvious that I thought it was a strong year for documentaries. I loved the fact that Canadian filmmakers like Deepa Mehta were dealing with social issues, tough ones too. That will only become more valuable given that our neighbours to the South have elected a snake oil salesman who thinks women are chattel.

7. What is your favourite Canadian film ever?

SG: I couldn’t narrow it down to one so I will just talk about the first one I made an effort to see which was Richard Benner’s OUTRAGEOUS, which I had read a lot about growing up in Burlington. I came in to Toronto to see it at the old Eglinton Theatre. I was planning on seeing the film then going to see Iggy Pop at the Masonic Temple but I had no idea how big Toronto was and figured I could walk from Union Station to Eglinton Avenue. (I had a pathological fear of public transportation then, which I luckily got over.) By the time I got to the theatre, I had to turn around and go back to catch the concert. I came back a week later. And the week after that, I think.

Just by empathizing with the characters, a female impersonator and a schizophrenic woman, the film made Toronto seem like a place where you could be different and still be accepted (ironically since they flee to New York at the end). Before then, I thought like the generations before me that you had to leave the country to be involved in the arts at all, or at least the art I was interested in.
Of course, the production team behind that film – Bill Marshall, Henk van der Kolk and Dusty Cohl – had a big impact on my life and the film industry in general not only because of this film but because they founded TIFF. It was really sad to hear about Bill. The guy was so vital it’s hard to imagine him gone. I remember TV news segments about him where he’s wearing a Leafs jersey making deals to bring in big talent like Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty.

For TIFF’s 25th anniversary Barry Avrich did this touching and hilarious video where the founders are reminiscing and they mention Bill’s no conditions guarantee that Beatty, or someone of that stature, would be at the Festival, and Henk or Dusty points out they did come – twenty years later, and Dusty adds “Another Bill Marshall promise kept!” You have to admire, love and now miss that kind of chutzpah.

People don’t remember or don’t know but, with the exception of Martin Knelman, George Anthony and especially Sid Adilman, the press back then were indifferent or even hostile to the Festival. One of the bigger critics made sure he took his vacation during it. They fought unbelievably hard battles which seem more unbelievable every passing year. Plus on a personal note, all of the founders were often very generous to me.

8. What is the best thing Canadian filmmakers have going for them?

SG: We have a great public funding system here which has helped nurture a phenomenally wide range of talents across the country. Admittedly, the system has a lot of kinks which sometimes arise out of changes they have no control over, but every year they work on addressing those issues and improving things.

Telefilm and the provincial film offices and the art councils have helped to put Canada on the international map in a way which was inconceivable when I was growing up. Any country that can boast filmmakers like Atom Egoyan; David Cronenberg; Patricia Rozema; Deepa Mehta; Denis Cote; Mike Dowse; Philippe Falardeau; Bruce MacDonald; Guy Maddin; Albert Shin; Richie Mehta; Kazik Radwanski; Alan Zweig; Denis Villeneuve; Igor Drljca; Ingrid Veninger; Alanis Obomsawin; Clement Virgo; Blaine Thurier; Nicholas Perreda; Sturla Gunnarsson; Chloe Robichaud; Don McKellar; Ron Mann; Marie-Helene Cousineau; Luo Li; Jennifer Baichwal; Peter Mettler; Sarah Polley; Matt Johnson ... I mean that’s just incredible. How many other countries can boast that kind of roster?

And I didn’t even mention any of the filmmakers on this year’s Top Ten which includes the most exciting young filmmaker in the world, Xavier Dolan; a pioneer like Zacharias Kunuk; and artists like Ashley McKenzie; Johnny Ma; Kevan Funk; Anne Emond; Alethea Arnaquq-Baril; Ann-Marie Fleming; Nathan Morlando; Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie.

I’m leaving out the phenomenal group of actors we have here like Tatiana Maslany or Jay Baruchel or Aaron Poole or Sarah Gadon or Mylene Mackay or Jared Abrahamson. Or the set designers; editors; cinematographers... And probably another 50 more Directors.

9. What would you like 2017 to bring to the Canadian Film industry?

SG: Better domestic box office. More arts funding in general. The return of tax credits to Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

10. What person or group comes to mind for you as an important influencer or contributor to the Canadian film scene? What are they doing and why is it working?

SG: Stella Meghie is seriously going places and I think it’s because she’s telling stories that are dear to her.

And of course Bruce MacDonald because always he picks interesting subjects and never does anything the same way.

 

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10 Questions

Interviews with leaders in the screen-based industry 

CAMERON BAILEY, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

 

1. What is the best piece of content you've seen in the last month?

Adam Leon's Tramps. It's one of the films we're premiering at the Festival and I caught up with it after it was selected by our programmer Jane Schoettle. It's a nearly perfect feature: tight script; subtle performances; suspense; romance and narrative surprises. I see dozens of low-budget indies every year but rarely do I see them executed so well. It's a model for how to get started as a filmmaker.

 

2. Who do you think is a Canadian director to watch?

I've been so impressed with the talent coming out of Canada right now. For every Denis Villeneuve and Xavier Dolan I think there are several who have the skills and the vision to get where they've gotten in a few years. Stephen Dunn and Andrew Cividino had strong feature debuts last year that I hope will launch them into even stronger work, and I'd say the same for Stella Meghie this year with Jean of the Joneses. I'd also say Tiffany Hsiung, who I think made one of the most powerful Canadian documentaries of the year with The Apology.

 

3. Who are some other talented people in the Canadian film community who are on your radar?

In Howard Shore, Mychael Danna and Lesley Barber we've produced some of the best film composers in the world. Now what I want to see is some of those brilliant young people making music on their laptops in Brampton, Ontario and Richmond, BC get a chance to score more Canadian films.

 

4. Where do you hope to see TIFF in the next 5-10 years?

I hope we find more ways to engage with our audience. I'd like to see TIFF introducing kids to moving images that spark rather than numb their minds, as so much media can. I'd like to see us stay engaged with people as they grow and evolve through their whole lives. Moving image media, whether it's films, TV shows or games, defines more and more of how we understand our world, and our world is getting more complex. I'd like to see TIFF offer people in Toronto, across Canada and all over the world more ways to enrich their lives and connect with each other through the moving image. I don't believe in unicorns and fairies but I do believe in the infinite abilities of human eyes, ears and hearts.

 

5. How do you think the Canadian film industry needs to change to stay competitive?

By global standards Canada's an enormously fortunate country: rich, diverse and with developed media institutions. I still think we could use stronger, more adventurous script development. We see too many films that rely on formula. And I definitely think we need to dig deeper for stories with higher stakes. For a country with as much human drama as anywhere else -- deceit! betrayal! conflict! shocks! -- we make an awful lot of low-stakes movies. Even our recent history includes murder, conspiracy and attempts at genocide, as well as unimaginable feats of heroism. Can we see more of that in our films, please? Sorry.

 

6. What kinds of programmes does TIFF offer to support Canadian filmmakers?

The biggest impact TIFF offers to Canadian filmmakers is probably still presenting their work at our Festival and in year-round theatrical release. We get Canadian cinema in front of audiences. Beyond that, I hope our awards for Canadian films at the Festival and our Canada's Top Ten selections also help. Some of them even come with cash. 

And then there are our talent development programmes: TIFF Studio for producers, directors and writers; our Len Blum residency, which turns the TIFF Bell Lightbox into a live-work studio for a lucky filmmaker; our Rising Stars programme for actors and Talent Lab for filmmakers. In addition, I'm a big believer in filmmakers talking with and learning from each other. Our Breakfast at TIFF events and our Industry sessions at the September Festival as well as at Canada's Top Ten and TIFF Kids have brought people together who end up sharing ideas and collaborating on projects.

 

7. You started your career in film criticism. Based on that experience, what are the elements of a good film that you always look for?

Intensity and grace. If a film manages to achieve grace and intensity on both formal and emotional levels, it's pretty much guaranteed to work for me. Our responses to art are always personal, and grace and intensity won't matter as much to everyone as they do to me, or be defined in similar ways. But...I know it when I feel it. 

 

8. What advice do you have for directors trying to get the attention of TIFF programmers?

Watch more of the best films. It's amazing how many films programmers see that follow overfamiliar narratives or use overfamiliar dialogue and even shots. As a baseline, make sure to see the films that win the big prizes at Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and Toronto every year. Even better, see them with friends and colleagues and pick apart why they won. The more you're familiar with the state of the art of cinema, the more you can contribute something original.

 

9. What actions can we take to create more diversity in our film production, festivals and awards shows?

Think about the diversity you see all around you. Notice the people you pass on the sidewalks of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg. Do you see the stories behind those faces as often as you see that mix of faces? When you leave the sidewalk and enter the place where you work, do those faces suddenly look different? What about your film sets? If your workplace or your work reflects a narrower slice of Canada than what you see walking down the sidewalk -- more male, more straight, more white, for instance -- ask yourself what you've been doing to narrow your vision. The more you ask, the more you change. And the more you ask out loud, in public, the faster change comes.

 

10. How is technology changing filmmaking and festivals?

When I first joined the team selecting Canadian films for TIFF in 1990, we watched about 75 feature films every year to make our selection. Now our Canadian programmers Steve Gravestock and Magali Simard see about 275. That's the effect of technology. There are tens of thousands of films made every year around the world, and each of us can access thousands more on our phones. With that tsunami of choice, curation becomes more important. The biggest shift of all may be from top-down curation by critics and festivals to a kind of distributed curation where what our social circle recommends becomes the biggest influence. Our friends and family now bombard us with their taste every day on Facebook and other social media. That's also an effect of technology, and it's changing how we choose what to watch.

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