♦ Amidst all the celebrity hoopla and red carpet hype of TIFF, with just a few sleeps to go before opening night, Piers Handling announced his decision to retire from his post as director and chief executive officer. He will officially step down after the 2018 festival wraps up, marking the end of a 23-year reign and leaving behind a legacy of inspiring innovation. A statement released by TIFF did not reveal a successor, but Mr. Handling himself seems confident that the future looks bright for the globally esteemed organization. “I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to accomplish” he said, adding “I think the festival and the organization is in good hands”. Some of Handling’s most notable feats at the helm include the funding, planning and construction of the TIFF Bell Lightbox as well as the transformation of TIFF from a short annual event to a year-round cultural hotspot that attracts both Toronto locals and tourists from all over the world.
♦ The Breadwinner, a feature-length animated film based on the international bestseller by Ontario author Deborah Ellis, tells the powerful story of a young girl living in Afghanistan who disguises herself as a boy in order to find work to support her family. What most people don’t realize is that the film’s title carries a double meaning — at least, it does for the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), the government agency responsible for economic growth in the province’s creative sector. The fledgling film first found its footing at From Page to Screen, an annual event hosted by the OMDC where publishers meet one-on-one with film and TV producers to turn great ideas into great content. The OMDC helped finance several stages of the film’s production, including Aircraft Pictures’ trip to Cannes to pitch the project to Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon, who were quick to get on board along with Luxembourg’s Melusine Productions (and later, Toronto’s own Guru Studio). After reading the script, celebrity powerhouse and UN Ambassador Angelina Jolie eagerly signed on as an executive producer shortly after, which helped garner mainstream marketability and a coveted spot in TIFF’s 2017 lineup. Thanks to Jolie’s star power and a little help from the OMDC, the film has generated so much interest that Groundwood is already preparing for the release of a movie tie-in version of the book as well as a graphic novel that uses animated stills from the film. This success story is just one example of how creative industries are Ontario’s bread and butter!
♦ Groundbreaking news (literally): Two brand new studio buildings are slated for construction at Cinespace Film Studio’s flagship Kipling Studio campus in Etobicoke. Mayor John Tory joined Cinespace execs in the west end for the groundbreaking ceremony of Titan Studios on September 7, the same day the downtown core of Toronto was humming with TIFF’s opening night festivities. The expected completion date for the two new 20,000-square-foot studios has not yet been announced, but Cinespace President and CEO Steve Mirkopoulos did share some details that hint at what’s in store — namely, some unique infrastructure that does not yet exist in Toronto, including a massive, permanent underwater filming tank. The multi-million dollar expansion is expected to help alleviate some of the studio shortage issues reported by many of the city’s major production companies, many of whom were forced to turn away projects in 2017 due to lack of availability.
♦ Veteran Canadian actor Donald Sutherland will be one of four recipients of an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar at the Governors Awards in November, an accolade well-earned for his sixty years of hard work and dedication to the film industry. Born in New Brunswick and raised in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Sutherland shot to fame in the 60s and 70s thanks to roles in hit films like The Dirty Dozen, MASH and Invasion of the Body Snatchers — and he hasn’t slowed down since! Also a part of his entertainment industry legacy is his son, A-list actor Kiefer Sutherland, who currently stars in the Toronto-shot political drama, Designated Survivor. Both father and son have been nominated for and received countless prestigious awards throughout their respective careers, but this will be the first-ever golden statuette awarded to a Sutherland.
♦ Now that TIFF is coming to an end, it seems that the days of films, festivals and fun in the sun may soon be carried away with the summer wind… but Toronto still offers up plenty of entertainment options to get you through the seasonal switchover! Here are a few film-focused events for Torontonians to enjoy as September nears its sunset phase:
(FREE) Best of Family/Animation Short Films (September 18, Imagine Cinemas Carlton)
(FREE) Best of ACTION/THRILLER Short Films (September 28, Imagine Cinemas Carlton)
By Miranda Cross