DAILY NEWS: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb: A Personal Reflection as Our Festival Comes to a Close
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
(indieWIRE/09.15.01) — At an international film festival my time is
typically spent coordinating our publications and staying in touch with
filmmakers, industry attendees and others who are seeing movies, making
deals or otherwise hyping their latest projects. The last few days,
aside from editorial duties, I have instead spent my time either glued
to the television set, reading email updates from friends back home in
New York, or hanging out at the Park Hyatt, checking in with friends and
colleagues about what is happening in New York. Amidst numerous schedule
changes and cancellations, few of the people that I have encountered are
buzzing about the movies. The standard, “What have you seen?” has been
replaced with “How are you getting home and when are you leaving?”
The fading interest in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival
among New York’s film community and industry attendees in light of the
tragic events back home has left the annual event to quietly fade away.
Decent crowds are still on hand for some public screenings, but press and
industry showings are much quieter than usual and the typically active
Rogers Industry Centre was hardly a destination yesterday as many
festival-goers began to head home via car, train or bus.
Large crowds of attendees gathered in front of televisions or in the
hallways of the Park Hyatt on Tuesday and Wednesday, but yesterday that
gave way to small groups primarily talking about their exit plans.
Daily Variety, the Hollywood bible, has not been shipped here in days,
leaving West Coast industry-types to wonder what is happening back home,
while New Yorkers ask me where they might find The Times — or they take
a few minutes to scan the daily copy I have been carrying around.
A few publicists here have continued to pitch us their projects and a
number of filmmakers have invited us to attend their screenings. Many
have admitted that they feel compelled to go through the motions but
admitted that their heart is not in the festival. In fact, as excited
as we were to see many of the films here in Toronto, not to mention the
movies from filmmakers and producers that we met recently, we have
simply lost the adrenaline that typically fuels us at such an event.
It’s a sentiment felt by many of the Americans that I have spoken with.
“Have any films been acquired today?” someone asked me yesterday afternoon
in the Rogers Centre. I politely said that I didn’t know, but honestly, I
didn’t even care. I’ve run into presidents of New York-based distribution
companies who were more concerned about what is happening back home than
buzzing about the aspects of a film festival that currently seem so trivial — movies and parties.
I have been fueled over the past few days not only by my friends here in
Toronto, especially the caring, thoughtful and sensitive indieWIRE
team, but also by the email and instant message correspondence I have
shared with friends back home and with our readers from around the world.
New Yorkers have given me a window into their experiences back home, while
our readers have offered support, warm wishes and hopes for tolerant
reactions to such tragic events.
A number of people have inquired about what is happening among the New
York filmmaking community. So, today I reached out to three women at the
heart of the film scene in the city: Elizabeth Peters at AIVF, Eileen
Newman at FVA and Michelle Byrd at IFP — organizations that readers and festival attendees have been asking me about. Each indicated that staffers
are safe. In the case of the IFP, plans continue for the upcoming IFP
Market, which is expected to go on uninterrupted, while at FVA, its
downtown location on Broadway has been unreachable since Tuesday,
according to Eileen, who was en route back to New York from Toronto by
train. Also inaccessible is the AIVF office on Hudson and Spring. Elizabeth
was able to quietly gain access to the office, which other than smelling
of smoke is free and clear.
The most striking sentiment I received by email is one that seems rather
dramatic, but echoes what a number of people have said to me. One notable
member of the indie community wrote, “Our lives are changed forever. I’m
stunned and I cannot believe it. Movies just don’t seem all that important
We are packing up here in Toronto and have made arrangements to get back
earlier than planned. Some of us are heading back today, others tomorrow.
And so, we conclude our daily reports from Toronto, with a personal report
rather than the usual biz news report. Here’s hoping for a peaceful weekend.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).