TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey Reflects On This Year’s Virtual Festival | Interviews

The hardest thing was still to deliver the range of films—to have lots of different countries represented, to have difference kinds of cinema, to have Wavelengths films and Gala style films and Midnight Madness and a great doc lineup. I’m especially proud of the doc lineup this year! So all of those things have to fit in to the limited number of slots we have. We had 50 films in the main selection, and I think another 11 special events, which were built around feature films that had other things associated. Because of the online component, we were able to do five shorts programs, which was more than if you were just in cinema. We were trying every which way to squeeze as much of what we wanted to have in the festival in, but within those limited numbers.

On a personal level, you are used to wearing your tux and bouncing from intro to intro. I saw you at the drive-in. How different was this TIFF for you? I’m thinking in terms of the amount of sleep you were getting, the amount of films that you saw, the sleepless nights about whether you would even pull this off? How did you do?

There are two things that I think were hugely different for me personally. One is, for the last 13 years, when the festival comes around, I say goodbye to my family and I move into a hotel so that I can live TIFF 24 hours a day. This year we were starting the day with our families, and doing the usual family stuff. I was getting my son breakfast and taking him to school, coming home to that. The other thing is that there were no events—no dinners, no receptions, no parties, nothing. That was weird. The festival builds on that sense of excitement and momentum, by running into people at a reception, “Did you see this?”, “Did you see that? My God!”, and vibing off of what you’re hearing back. That happens in a given normal festival day dozens and dozens of times—you’re running into sometimes hundreds of people, having quick conversations, getting a sense of just what the mood and the feel of the festival is. That just wasn’t happening. People weren’t here and we couldn’t have events, so you weren’t gathering and chatting. That was new and strange and that is something I hope we don’t have to do again. 

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“Enemies of the State”

Are you planning on taking more time off in a way that you don’t necessarily normally do? Even though you in that way had less to do, are you even more exhausted this year after this festival?

The last half a year now, since March, has been very taxing for all of us. Obviously, we’re just putting on a film festival, there are many people who’ve had much more taxing Springs and Summers than we have. But trying to figure this out and put it together has been a real challenge for everybody. Today’s Saturday—I will take Monday and Tuesday off and then we’re pretty much back into it. We’ve got a lot of assessment to do of how things went, and already planning for next year when we don’t even know exactly what’s happening. There have been changes in the COVID situation with the Province as recently as yesterday and today. We still have the year-round TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre that we’re thinking about in terms of when it will be safe to reopen. So all of that work will pick up really quickly. 

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