♦ Toronto author Lesley Livingston is the latest of many Young Adult novelists to be offered an exciting development deal for television. Following a decade-long wave of highly successful shows like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries and Riverdale — all of which were adapted for the small screen from works of fiction geared towards teens and young adults — The CW is now in talks with Livingston to develop her YA fantasy novel, The Valiant, into a primetime series. Livingston, who received a master’s degree in English from the University of Toronto, announced the good news on Twitter last week.
♦ The Toronto Shorts International Film Festival is coming soon! The 2017 programme is yet to be announced, but festival attendees can expect to see a selection of approximately 65-75 short films from all over the world in a wide variety of genres, including animations, documentaries and student films. The fifth annual TSIFF has moved to a new venue this year, with screenings scheduled to take place at Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Rules for entry state that any short submitted cannot have screened at any other Toronto film festival — so don’t go looking for any TIFF shorts you may have missed — but the TSIFF site contains plenty of helpful resources for filmmakers to have their short-form work seen by other festivals and film distributors around the world. TSIFF runs from September 21 through to the 24th.
♦ Well ahead of the curve, TIFF’s director/CEO Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey presented a five-year strategy to the TIFF board last week to address the ever-changing landscape of the industry, focusing especially on millennials and the exponential shift from traditional filmgoing to digital viewership. Although TIFF’s efforts to straddle both worlds have already been fairly seamless (thanks to the continued success of its annual festival coupled with well-received online initiatives like podcasts and video series), the world keeps turning… and so must the gears of innovation. Dubbed Audience First, the plan revolves around TIFF’s ongoing mission to create “transformative experiences” through film and will include the expansion of web-based services as well as interactive, all-ages educational programs like digiPlaySpace.
♦ Turning 65 is a big deal – senior discounts, anyone? — and this summer marked the 65th season of Ontario’s historic Stratford Festival. Determined to keep things fresh, Stratford shook things up this year with a number of fun surprises and updates to the festival’s typical fare. In July, audiences of a matinee performance of Romeo and Juliet were treated to a post-curtain reunion of almost a dozen actors who have played the star-crossed lovers on Stratford stages over the years. Meanwhile, Chris Abraham’s production of Molière’s 17th-century satirical comedy Tartuffe was brought even further into the modern age with the addition of pop-culture references like “covfefe” and “haters gonna hate” in the script, 15 years after Ranjit Bolt famously translated its verses to appeal to contemporary audiences. Later, audience members of the hit musical Guys and Dolls were invited to attend workshops to learn the choreography of the show’s final musical number. Bonnie Jordan and Reid McTavish (who both appear in this season’s production) led the dance lessons, which were well-attended by fans of all ages. Talk about a show-stopping number!
♦ In Toronto, there’s no shortage of social activities for those who love cinema! Once a month, The Royal Cinema hosts an event called Screen Queens, touted by fans and organizers as a fun-filled night of “drag queens, drunk commentary, drinking games and debauchery”. The licensed event features a screening of a different cult-favourite film each month — usually leaning toward quotable, campy classics — followed by sassy commentary by host and “drag queen extraordinaire” Allysin Chaynes, special guests, live performances and rousing games for the audience. Next month’s pick is Zoolander, the silly schlockfest starring Ben Stiller as a loveable male-model bimbo who gets tangled up in a fashion industry murder conspiracy. Tickets for the September 17 screening are available online for $12 or $15 at the doors.
By Miranda Cross