Didn't make it into this year's TIFF? Don't trash your camera yet
Here's what you should do if your film didn't get into this year's Toronto Film Festival lineup
The dog days of summer can be tense for Canadian filmmakers, at least if they're among the thousand or so that submitted their work to the Toronto International Film Festival. But that wait is now officially over: the festival announced its homegrown lineup today, and for a lucky minority — just over 60 Canadian films are set for TIFF's 41st edition — that is indeed very good news. However, if you're currently reading this article, it's unlikely that you're counting yourself among them.
Let's not sugarcoat things: not getting your work into your country's most high profile film event, simply put, sucks. But that doesn't mean you should give up. Perhaps it's even a blessing in disguise (seriously!). It might not seem like it today, but a year from now there's a solid chance you could reflect upon this day with a sigh of a relief — but only if you follow our suggested plan of action.
First things first: do not do anything with regard to your project for the next week or so. You're angry, sad, or both — so just chill out. Take a solid week off, if you can. Now is not the time to decipher Plan B; instead, let Plan A die a natural death. Then you can start figuring out what you want to do next with the film you'd spent July hoping would be having its world premiere at TIFF in September. Because that's not going to happen — and that's okay.
It might seem like it, but TIFF is not the end-all-be-all of film festival premieres. There are hundreds of films from other countries (especially America) vying for mainstream attention at TIFF, and it's easy to get drowned out. Opting for somewhere else to debut your work has a considerable set of advantages, particularly because you'll stand out as a film from Canada as opposed to being part of a crowd. So start looking into the festivals that might make that happen.
The most obvious choice in that regard is Sundance, which has its deadlines very soon. If you think your film is good enough for the most prominent film festival in the United States, why not go for it? If you get in, you've got a shot at even more attention there as a Canadian filmmaker than at TIFF — but, of course, keep in mind that those odds are just as tough. Other options include SXSW and Tribeca, both highly respectable festivals known for giving up-and-comers a chance to get their work out there. Consider those too.
And then there's the more niche route: focus on what it is about your film that separates it from the rest. It's likely Canadian, so look to the general festivals that cities like Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal and Calgary are about to have (if you've already applied, that is — most deadlines have already passed). Or maybe your film has a component that represents a specific community, making it a strong contender for the many film festivals that celebrate the racial, ethnic, religious or sexual group that your film might be a part of. Most major Canadian cities have film festivals highlighting those communities, and they can be a great way to get your work seen by the people that it was made for in the first place.
Or maybe — and this might not be something you want to hear — your film just wasn't ready. Did you rush it to have it ready for that TIFF deadline? Did you find yourself brushing off feedback because you were so attached to the work? It might have been hard to admit back then, but now may be the time to come to terms with the idea that the cut you submitted simply wasn't as good as it could have been. In that case, send it around to the people you trust the most to offer constructive criticism and consider re-cutting it based on those suggestions. There could have easily been just a few minor things that kept you from TIFF's good graces this time around, and being open to making a few changes could very well make you a part of that lucky minority a year from now.
Whatever the case may be, don't let today get you down. Rejection is, for most of us, just a part of the process. It makes us stronger people and — if we play our cards right — better filmmakers.
Toronto International Film Festival: Infinite Views. September 8-18, Toronto. See the full Canadian lineup here.