Cameron Bailey, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto International Film Festival
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film The Toronto International Film Festival is back and in full force

The Toronto International Film Festival is back and in full force

Cameron Bailey, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto International Film Festival

For Cameron Bailey, CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, things are looking up. The 2023 event in person does what it does best: programming that is accessible, open, audience-facing, and audience-friendly. “Our brand is the audience and has been since the beginning,” Bailey said in a telephone interview, along with director of programming Anita Lee.

They spoke to IndieWire ahead of their first teaser programming announcement on June 28, followed by the release of the TIFF gala and special presentation selections on July 19.

Attendance for the screening last year reached 275,000, one of TIFF’s highest numbers since 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic. In 2021, the festival was still dealing with border restrictions, but in 2022, “people are back,” Bailey said. The online screenings generated by the pandemic are lagging behind. “We’ve built our reputation on first-hand experience,” said Bailey. “We have movies from big stakeholders, streamers and studios.”

TIFF Exhibition Space TIFF Bell Lightbox is doing business when it can get more commercial titles like local hero Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” and fellow Oscar contender “Triangle of Sadness.” “We’ve made some strategic changes, focusing on the younger audience,” said Lee. Celine Song’s Sundance hit “Past Lives” is also doing well with younger cinephiles.

For decades, TIFF has been known as the studio’s fall springboard. Today, Bailey said, programming has evolved. “It’s a good balance between traditional studio films and streamers,” she said. “Last year we had Paramount+ and Hulu alongside the biggest traditional streamers. Everyone is on the table now.

As the festival grew to a sprawling 260 films in the mid-2010s, Bailey said it “became unwieldy for both the press and film stakeholders.” Today, TIFF is aiming for 200 features, give or take.

Bailey, who said she is in contact with sellers on a daily basis, said Hollywood’s top agencies “are back in a major way. The company wants to go back to doing business in person.”

Industry buyers will look at acquisition prospects in Industry Selects market screenings, which are not open to the public but to select invited TIFF members. Last year, Focus Features bought Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” (November 22, 2023), a Christmas story starring Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, from Industry Selects.

Awardee Michelle Yeoh receives the Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award presented by BVLGARI at the TIFF Tribute Awards Gala during the 2022 Toronto International Film FestivalGetty Images

The festival continues to function as a stepping stone to the Oscars. Last year’s tribute awards gala went to Michelle Yeoh and Brendan Fraser, who both took home acting Oscars. And about 50 TIFF titles have been nominated for or won Academy Awards, Bailey said, including People’s Choice Award winner Steven Spielberg’s personal “The Fabelmans.”

Naturally, Toronto continues to compete for world premieres with festivals in Telluride, Venice, London and New York. “We’re all in it for the same reasons,” said Bailey, who thinks talking to each other during the pandemic has made his rivals more collegiate. “Their elbows aren’t that sharp.”

Related Post