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Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: Perspectives

C’est fini le fete international de film de Toronto.

To be honest, the eleven days of the somewhat revamped Toronto International Film Festival are a blur. Three or four films a day, three or four hours of writing a night, one reception, innumerable dangling conversations and what do you get.

The best I can come up with to the rhetorical question is: An Experience. Or, to bowdlerize a movie title, My Own Private Toronto. Forget the trends, the buzz, the ups and downs, you ride the whirlwind and maybe with some distance a perspective (however skewed) emerges.

In its early days (when it was the Festival of Festivals) I used to tough out the entire event but about a decade back I started to cut out prior to the closing weekend. Like most major film showcases Toronto is bookended by two weekends. However, like comparable festivals, the high profile titles tend to be screened during the first half and the majors plan most of their activities during the opening weekend.

The experience for the press/industry contingent is markedly different from that of a townie. There are in fact two fest tracks and one can go through the entire period without ever rubbing shoulders with a paying customer (I saw two films at public screenings). The mobs at the Scotiabank Theatre _ where the brunt of press/industry screenings take place _ suddenly become a trickle of humanity on Tuesday and the atmosphere abruptly segues from boom to that of eerie ghost town.

You can’t exactly say that the move from the Bloor-Yonge corridor to the city’s Entertainment District was fraught with perils. The opening of the Bell Lightbox, the organization’s new permanent home, was more ceremonial than functional. The screening rooms that were up and running were first rate but the visually impressive venue is presently quite industrial and one expects it will become friendlier as it begins to operate on a daily basis.

One thing that the transition conveyed was a sliver of strain that manifested itself in a slightly colder, streamlined event. On the opening day I ran into John Powers of Vogue (a long-time attendee) who mentioned that he wound up contacting the press office when a fest accreditation email failed to reach him in July. The person he talked with was courteous but obviously had no idea who he was, so he mentioned that he’s been going to Toronto for years and that Piers (Handling), Michele (Maheux) or Noah (Cowan) could vouch for him. The press officer made it clear that she had no contact with the senior echelon people.

Later that same day I was sitting with Helga Stephenson — a former TIFF fest director and the architect of the event’s early success — and repeated the story. She anticipated every turn and got across that the warm, fuzzy early days were a thing of the past. Not that it’s become a cold, corporate entity but with size inevitably some of the feeling of individual attention disappears.

There will unquestionably be a lot of post mortem examination going forward by the organizers. Chiefly whether certain functions like the press and industry office will continue to be located in the adjoining Hyatt Hotel or moved into the Lightbox. With the addition of its year round screening rooms next year one can hope for more press projections; especially evening screenings. It would also be nice to have a more user friendly and dedicated press area. I enquired about printing out a two-page document one day only to discover that the offices weren’t set up for that function.

It’s not so much that Toronto 2010 is bigger than that it feels considerably more corporate. TIFF and its audience have a long tradition of warmth and receptivity and in all likelihood once it settles down those and other attributes will return more evidently in 2011.

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One Response to “Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: Perspectives”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon