TIFF Rising Stars ready to shine

It was a packed house at the Fairmont Royal York Wednesday, as TIFF unveiled a stacked lineup of Canadian features and shorts, as well as the key talent participating in its programs, to media.

On-hand for the press conference were budding actors, Tatiana Maslany, who will appear at the festival in Kate Melville’s debut feature, Picture Day, and Connor Jessup, star of Jason Buxton’s Blackbird.

Charlotte Sullivan, Charlie Carrick

Both films were selected for the festival’s Discovery Program, and Maslany and Jessup will join fellow actors Charlie Carrick and Charlotte Sullivan in the second Rising Stars Program.

For Maslany, the opportunity is in many ways a surprising one.

“I had no idea what to expect really,” she tells Playback.

“There are so many talented Canadian actors. I just [applied] because I felt like this was maybe the year for me to step up and get out there,” she adds.

With appearances in both the Canadian and American markets, and a role in The Vow which saw her buddy up with Channing Tatum, the 26-year-old says she still feels safest on home soil in intimate indie films, like Picture Day.

Despite this, she adds, having a film at TIFF is still unexpected.

“You never expect [your film is] going to go to TIFF, or it’s going to be seen by a million people… when you’re doing something so intimate and small,” she says of her experience with Picture Day.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Jessup says being a Rising Star and appearing in a film at TIFF is in many ways a homecoming.

Blackbird is Jessup’s second TIFF film.

Amy George, which he exec produced, screened at the festival last year.

“I’ve been going to TIFF as a fan and viewer since I was eight or nine, so TIFF has always been a big part of my life and cinematic development,” he tells Playback.

“Now that I’m actually taking part in it actively and a little bit behind the scenes, it feels even more like home. It’s very exciting,” he continues.

He adds that he doesn’t know what to expect from the program, but that the talent in it makes him optimistic for the future of the Canadian industry, and he’s ready to be surprised.

“Hopefully I get to meet a lot of people I’ve admired for a long time, and get a lot of training and help from people who know what they’re doing to push me in the right direction,” he says.

“I’m falling into their hands and I trust them immensely,” he adds.

Up next for Maslany is an appearance in Jason Priestley’s Cas & Dylan, which is slated for completion in 2013.

Meanwhile Jessup will be shooting season three of Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies.

For the full line-up of films and program talent announced Wednesday, click here and here.