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During TIFF is an awesome time to be in Toronto. The city is buzzing, the bars are open until 4am (that should be standard), and everybody is talking about films. I used to go to a lot more movies when I was younger, but that’s sort of fallen off in recent years. Thankfully, my good friend Meg was kind enough to invite me out last night. We saw Blood Ties, which I really enjoyed. It’s about a good cop and a bad brother.

Before the movie started we started talking about the history of TIFF and it’s impact on Toronto’s economy. Curious, I looked it up today and the estimated annual contribution in 2011 was approximately $170M (which appears to be comparable to Cannes). That’s pretty impressive given that, even though there’s technically programming all throughout the year, it’s really only an 11 day festival.

I was also reminded of Roger Martin’s book the Opposable Mind, where he talks about the founding of the festival and the dichotomy the founders were faced with. He argues that, at the time (1970s), there were 2 predominate film festival models in place: the elitist jury driven Cannes model and the sort of grassroots model. The problem with the former was that it didn’t feel inclusive for festival goers and the problem with the latter was that it didn’t attract the buzz of say a Cannes.


The solution was to do both – basically make the audience the jury. The solution was a People’s Choice Award. This made festival goers feel like they had a say and were a part of the process, and it served as an effective buzz machine. There were also a bunch of other benefits, including the fact that the industry could now get a clear sense of a movie’s commercial appeal prior to going to market. More insular festivals couldn’t do this as well.

Here’s how Roger Martin put it:

“The People’s Choice Award put the Toronto International Film Festival on the map. By 1999, Roger Ebert, America’s most influential film critic, was telling one reporter that “although Cannes is still larger, Toronto is more useful and more important.” By 2005, TIFF had booked the largest volume of sales in film festival history, and film critic Liam Lacey named it “the most important film festival in the world – the largest, the most influential, the most inclusive.””

This is an incredible achievement and we’re lucky to have it in our city. Now let’s get out and create some more of the world’s best.

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