MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady


There are some festivals that pivot abruptly from being a film geek favorite to an industry whistle stop. Historians cite the 1989 screening of sex, lies, and videotape as just such a turning point for Sundance. It wasn’t simply a rabid audience response (it was crowned their favorite but failed to nab the jury award) that made film folk pay attention. The then proactive Miramax Films scooped up the film, Cannes came knocking and the film wound up with a worldwide box office of more than $100 million.

And Sundance was happy to claim bragging rights as “the place where it all began.”

I’m stumped when it comes to finding an analogous situation for the looming Toronto International Film Festival. My gut feeling is that nothing so simple or exact exists. As I like to point out, one of the things that separate the Toronto event from countless other venerated or aspiring film smorgasbords is that it was immediately embraced by locals. And its organizers were sufficiently savvy to invite some key film pundits to early editions, lavish them with hospitality and send them off to extol its virtues.

Oh, yes, it should be noted that the programming was first rate or the entire house of cards would have come tumbling down.

TIFF didn’t grow like Topsy; it evolved rapidly but not crazily into a slate of 300 plus new features, a scrum of international sales agents and acquisitors, top critics and home grown avids. It became a reasonably well oiled machine; a film festival with the soul of Metropolis’s Moloch.

In its own way, Toronto’s life story reflects the arc of so many who emerged from the 1960s and ‘70s. The rebel firebrands that thumbed their noses at the establishment married, had children and buckled down and got serious jobs and became the establishment.

The Canadian renegade film lollapalooza found that as it grew it had to have such things as corporate underwriters and year round programs that generated revenues to fuel the beast and pay the staff. The picture was completed when it was decided to build a permanent home (showcase is perhaps a better term) and to raise 10s of millions for the Bell Lightbox which opened last year. So, the organization lives not simply to entertain and enlighten but to pay off a sizeable debt.

Now on its face this is neither good nor bad. It’s just the way it is.

I could say that TIFF used to be more fun. But there’s an argument to be made that I used to be more fun. My tolerance for work and play was considerably more vigorous 20 years ago and I wasn’t quite as conscious about deadlines and deliveries though I can’t site a single missed review or article from my ingénue period.

I’m also prone to think that unearthing a discovery has become a more daunting challenge but that’s hardly the fault of the festival even if it has a specific section titled: DISCOVERY. The business itself has changed and the internet age has knocked down bygone barriers. It would be nice to walk into a screening of some unheralded movie and encounter a masterpiece, even a mini-masterpiece. But small surprises will suffice.

All that said, I’m truly looking forward to this year’s TIFF. There are movies to see, people to meet and lots of things to do. Oh yes, and bags to pack. Gotta go!

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  1. I am a film festival fanatic, live in Toronto (hail from Montreal, though) and have been going to TIFF for the better part of 20 years. But I guess living here for 26 years makes me a “home grown avid”. For what it’s worth, I think TIFF used to be more fun, too — and, like you, so was I. But I have gone to “unheralded” movies — in fact, for the most part, that’s all I go to — and I have been lucky enough to see what turns out to be a “masterpiece” — many times over the years. And I hope to do the same thing this year. I am seeing 47 movies —
    what about you? I hope I see you in a line somewhere — it would be fun to talk ‘movies’ with you. Have a great festival.


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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