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Hollywood Strikes Shift Spotlight to Local Filmmakers at TIFF

Navigating the U.S. actors and writers strikes is producing a host of winners and losers during a period of peak disruption for the film industry. Count as clear victors local Canadian filmmakers as their homegrown films and TV series grab the spotlight at the Toronto Film Festival.

“It’s a tough time in the industry. It’s unfortunate timing for the Toronto Film Festival. But with challenge, comes opportunity. We’re always looking for that extra bit of attention we can get,” says Mark Montefiore, CEO of New Metric Media, which will present director Sasha Leigh Henry’s Bria Mack Gets a Life series as part of TIFF’s Primetime sidebar.

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“It’s a bittersweet opportunity presented to not only Canadian filmmakers, but any international filmmakers or film this year,” adds Toronto filmmaker M.H. Murray, whose debut feature, I Don’t Know Who You Are, will have its world premiere at TIFF. “So I hope instead of not covering my film or others, people will be curious and discover and give extra exposure to all the cool talent already out there.”

A shifting Toronto film market with few American celebrities in town has local artists zigging as an entertainment industry in crisis zags.

Jen Markowitz, director of Summer Qamp, a film about a camp in rural Alberta for queer and trans kids that will receive a world premiere in Toronto, says the lack of a Hollywood presence offers festgoers the chance to show support for movies that focus on the marginalized.

“It’s an important time in the world right now for that community to feel affirmed in the way they see themselves represented onscreen,” Markowitz says.

Other local filmmakers will look to aggressively promote their premieres in Toronto to buyers and distributors looking for hidden gems.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for Canadian films to be showcased, to take advantage of the quietness from the other side of the border and the fact we have a great lineup,” Francesca Accinelli, vp promotion, communications and international relations at Telefilm Canada, the country’s biggest indie film financier, tells THR.

She also welcomes TIFF’S biggest stages — Roy Thomson Hall and the Royal Alexandra Theatre — allowing such Canadian titles as Sophie Dupuis’ Solo and Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk’s horror comedy Hell of a Summer to premiere on Toronto’s first weekend.

“Any opportunity we can have to amplify this great Canadian talent we have, we’ll take it,” she says. “The world is here during this time — it means industry screenings. I hope the world press comes and reviews our Canadian content.”

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