Inside TIFF’s new year-long Studio program


The Toronto International Film Festival in September will be launching the new, year-round Studio program, as part of an expansion of its industry-focused initiatives.

The program is open to 16 mid-level, Ontario-based content producers, and aims to help such producers reach the “next level” of their careers via creative and business skills development.

And the next level, says TIFF industry project manager Hayet Benkara, is the international marketplace.

“We have very talented professionals in Toronto who have known some success in Canada, mostly on the festival circuit, but have not broken into the global marketplace,” she says.

“More than ever, professionals need to strategize, sharpen their creative and business skills, be curious, be open and challenge their practices to offer marketable films. We want to bring the ‘international’ to our year-round industry programming,” she adds.

The Studio program, TIFF’s first year-round program, joins the organization’s professional development offerings including Jump Cuts, Talent Lab, Pitch This!, Rising Stars and the Producers Lab.

“Studio seemed to fill the gap in the landscape of professional development. Studio is about content production at large – we want to encourage cross-pollination,” Benkara explains, adding that the program is more of an academic program based on case studies.

Canadian and international guest speakers will be invited to share their expertise and give the pulse of the marketplace in their territories, she adds.

Additionally, some of the sessions will be made open to not just the 16 program participants, but the larger industry.

And the program also has an eye on developing skills and opportunities for multi-platform content creators, and for filmmakers to extend their knowledge of digital and cross-platform offerings.

“It is very important today for anyone involved in the film industry to understand the different formats and platforms available to them,” says Benkara.

“In terms of strategy, it is almost impossible not to include more than one format to raise awareness about a project and build an audience. Stories cannot and should not be limited to one format, especially if multiple formats can benefit the project commercially. Cross-pollination is key,” she adds.

The long-term program goal is for producers to learn and share business models across the global marketplace, and has the potential to lead to collaborations and co-productions through meeting with international industry professionals.

“Creative content producers play a vital role in the chain of filmmaking business. We need to invest in the next generation now to make sure their films do well in the marketplace and allow them and the industry at large to keep working,” says Benkara.

The Studio program is made possible through The Entertainment and Creative Partnerships Fund administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and programming partners are: DGC, Ubisoft, WGC, WIFT-TO, ACCT and CMPA.

The deadline to apply for the program, which will kick off during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is Aug. 10. For more information, visit the TIFF Industry site.

Photo: From TIFF Studio