Toronto Film Festival Considers Digital Options in the wake of the Corona Virus Pandemic
Toronto’s Bell Lightbox cinema may be on coronavirus lockown, but the festival staff is busy planning a hybrid version of the 2020 edition.
It’s “full steam ahead” at the Toronto Film Festival, according to artistic director Cameron Bailey. However, even the organizers of North America’s largest annual film gathering can’t say with total certainty what that means, since there are so many unknowns in the fast-evolving coronavirus pandemic.
TIFF traditionally takes place in early September, boasting a lineup of nearly 300 films. Unlike other festivals that were forced to cancel or postpone due to coronavirus, the team is committed to deliver some form of the event on its original September dates — even if that means fewer venues, smaller audiences or, worst case scenario, no in-person component at all. Six months out, the team has already started developing some kind of virtual or streaming alternative, should it come to that.
“Postponing is definitely not a possibility on the table right now. [Based on] everything that we are learning, things might get worse in October or November if there is a second wave,” says TIFF executive director and co-head Joana Vicente.
By sticking to its dates and thinking about contingency plans early, TIFF has positioned itself as the year’s de facto can’t-miss festival and market. While travel restrictions have forced programmers to cancel March trips to Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong FilMart, Bailey insists that studios and filmmakers eager to premiere their work remain highly motivated for their films to be considered.