MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: Toronto 2014 – Getting Started

The time has come the Walrus said to think of many things
Of shows and slips and entertainment tax
Of Cabbagetown and King Street

Let’s just dub this ditty Blabberwocky. Somehow it felt apt as I girded myself for the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Naturally my Canadian content level has risen in recent days and came into focus last week when Telefilm Canada hosted a pre-fest event for journalists and buyers in Los Angeles.

Apart from product reels and a limited bar the ‘do also had a healthy supply of TIFF’s program book … or rather tome. To the event’s credit it’s developed a rather good system of press and industry screenings that run parallel to the public showings. The veteran TIFFer can keep to the P&I projections with a couple of regular screenings tossed in to mingle with the hoi polloi.

The daunting aspect is that there are roughly 300 features screened with the majority world or North American premieres. So I’ve become rather adept at avoiding a game strategy until the very last moment. That and thoughts of maple leafs brought back memories of (Winnipegger) Richard Condie’s brilliant animated short Getting Started. For the uninitiated the focus is on a pianist prepping for a big concert. Except he finds endless reasons not to prep from adjusting the ideal height of his piano bench to snack breaks, telephone calls and gazing out at the view outside his window. Many of us are convinced Condie is a peeping tom who found a metaphor for our lives.

Toronto it’s fair to say has the product. The list of auteur offering – domestic and foreign – runs the gamut from (Roy) Andersson to Zanussi. It would be a cake walk to see three or four films a day by filmmakers with a track record such as Godard, Cronenberg, Bennet Miller, Francois Girard, Jason Reitman, Raoul Peck, Bent Hamer, Nuri Bilge Ceylan … you get the picture. The discoveries are a little harder to unearth but circumstances this year may help out in that department; certainly the dozens of email entreaties from more publicity firms than our in the heavens only go so far to that end.

Rather dramatically in late July Toronto artistic director Cameron Bailey announced (along with the unveiling of its initial slate) that any films debuted during the Labor Day weekend Telluride Film Festival would not be screened during TIFF’s opening weekend.

It’s not revealing any secrets that Toronto has evolved into a very front-loaded festival. It also doesn’t take a brain surgeon to suss out that producers, filmmakers and studios with the greatest heft want their picture screened early for maximum attention from the international media. Toronto runs 11 days but historically around day six there’s already a palpable exodus of the mainstream industry and press contingents.

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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