TIFF application process

What it's like to apply (and get in) to TIFF

Sure, I know what the Toronto International Film Festival feels like. As a Torontonian, my home turf feels busy and glamourous, suddenly filled with famous visitors. This year, TIFF is 11 days long, showing 300 films, with 30,000 tickets up for grabs. Founded in 1976, it is one of the most recognized film festivals in the world, not to mention a huge point of Toronto pride.

As a Canadian actress who's been working for fifteen years, attending the festival with an accepted film is exciting and overwhelming, but ultimately, I'm just a supporting player. The real stars of the festival are the filmmakers. For them, it is make it or break it.

I know the TIFF application process is the same for every director. They, along with their producers, fill out the necessary forms, send along their DVDs, assemble press kits, and then, wait, with baited breath. But what's it like once your film gets accepted?

The other day I had fellow Torontonian writer and director Mike Goldbach on the phone. His directorial debut, Daydream Nation, is making it's world premiere at TIFF, opening the Canada First! section of the film festival that honours first time film makers.

Daydream Nation, both striking and slyly funny, centers around a young woman (Kat Dennings) who is uprooted to a small town where her classmates seem permanently stoned, an industrial fire burns ceaselessly in the background and a killer preys on the unsuspecting populace. The film also stars Andie MacDowell, Josh Lucas, Reece Thompson, Rachel Blanchard, and yours truly.

I am lucky to call Mike not only my boss, but my friend. He is a fixture in the Toronto film industry and always has something smart to say. Warmth and wit radiate off him. He is the perfect person to give the inside scoop on what it's like to be a chosen one.

When and how were you notified that Daydream Nation got into TIFF?

The producer Christine Haebler called me on the phone a few weeks ago and told me the news. The festival organizers had called E1, our Canadian distributor, who then called Christine, who then called me -- always the last to know. I don't know if this is true or not, but I heard that the idea is that they don't want to deal directly with the film makers because they tend to be emotional. Which is true. We're emotional. I don't blame them.

How much was riding on your acceptance? What does this mean for the film? For your career as a director?

You can't quantify the importance of something like this. Obviously it's incredibly exciting and even kind of touching. And TIFF has famously been the catalyst for many successful films, so you always secretly hope you'll be tapping into that tradition.

As a Torontonian it's particularly meaningful to me because I've been attending the festival for years and sneaking into various parties -- so it's nice to now have a legitimate reason to be there. Also, it gives me a chance to share the movie with friends and family.

But I try not to think about what it means to my career. I have lots of other projects on the go and they'll definitely be affected by how Daydream is received -- but at the same time, you can't let one festival dictate your life. Part of a writer/director's job is to figure out how to get things into the world. TIFF just makes that a great deal easier.

Can you describe how you felt upon your acceptance?

I was thrilled. Elated. And yes, relieved.

Do you know why or how your film, Daydream Nation, was chosen as the opening film of "Canada First!"?

To be honest, no.

What do you have to do now, as an accepted director, leading up to TIFF?

Basically I'll be doing interviews, and helping ensure that things go smoothly -- ie. getting cast here, organizing the party, etc.

What advice to you have for other directors hoping to have the success with their independent film that you've had with Daydream Nation?

I haven't had any success yet. Let's wait and see how it goes -- and then I'll feel more comfortable dispensing advice. Until then, I'm the one seeking it.

And he's modest, too. Daydream Nation screens on Friday September 10th and Saturday September 11th at TIFF.

Writing by Katherine Boland


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