Remembering TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall

The Canadian film and television industry leader died on Jan. 1 at age 77.

Bill MarshallToronto International Film Festival co-founder Bill Marshall died of cardiac arrest on Jan. 1 in Toronto, according to a statement released by his family. He was 77.

Marshall, who immigrated to Canada in 1955 from Glasgow, founded TIFF (then known as the Festival of Festivals) in 1976, alongside Henk Van der Kolk and Dusty Cohl. From the beginning, the goal was to create a major public festival that would bring the world to Toronto. While it took a few years to really get off the ground, TIFF, which wrapped its 41st edition in Sept. 2016, has grown to be one of the largest film festivals in the world (nearly 400 films screened last year). The festival is now also seen as a launchpad for Academy Award hopefuls, with several of its People’s Choice Award winners taking home the Best Picture Oscar over the years, including 12 Years a Slave and American Beauty. 

Marshall served as the festival’s director for its first three years and remained its chair emeritus until his death.

TIFF was not the only film festival Marshall was involved with. In 2014, he launched the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF), which offers audiences “summer movies from around the world.”

Over the course of his career, Marshall produced 13 feature films, including Outrageous!, and hundreds of documentaries. He also produced live theatre, including the Toronto production of Hair.

Behind the scenes, the Canadian film and television industry leader helped to establish several organizations, including the Academy of Cinema and Television, the Toronto Film and Television Office and served as a past president of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers. In 2002, he was awarded the Order of Canada for his contributions to the arts.

Marshall is survived by his wife Sari Ruda, children Lee, Stephen and Shelagh, and six grandchildren.

Photo courtesy of Paul Alexander