TIFF ’12: Discussing market opps for first-time filmmakers

TIFF international programmer Jane Schoettle (pictured) says that first-time filmmakers are using inventive ways to finance their films, which lets them retain artistic control and work with leaner budgets.
September 11, 2012

During the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), realscreen’s sister publication Playback is featuring a series of Q&As with festival programmers and insiders on trends in the films they program and the buzz they’re hearing from distributors.

Here, Jane Schoettle (pictured), TIFF programmer for Australia, Israel, New Zealand and the U.S. indies, talks about funding trends and market opportunities for first-time filmmakers.

What are the market opportunities for first-time filmmakers at and beyond the festival?

They’re good – it all comes down to the content and quality of the film, and TIFF puts all of our value on that also. There are so many avenues through which to distribute a film these days that any and all acquisitions folks can find the right film for their needs at TIFF. So, as always, it’s less about being a first time filmmaker than it is about the film itself.

Regarding first-time filmmakers, what are some of the new trends you’re seeing in filmmaking?

Well, there’s just such a high volume of them that it can be difficult to make generalizations – but I do notice an increase in women filmmakers this year (always good) and more first films coming from artists aged 25 to 40. Lastly, I think there is a trend towards making films that question our current value structure, posing the question: can a person be moral in a world that far too often seems immoral? Important stuff.

And in funding?

Well, the money that dried up from 2008 to 2010 is slowly coming back, but I don’t think we will see a return to pre-2008 levels, and that’s perhaps not a bad thing. Young filmmakers are looking to private investors, crowd-funding, and other inventive ways to finance their films – and that means they retain artistic control. It also means leaner budgets, which means that you don’t need an enormous sale to recoup costs. And that’s a good response to the fact that distributors don’t really have the budgets to throw dough around indiscriminately.

What types of markets in particular tend to show interest in first-time filmmaker films?

Again, it’s down to the type of film and to the region – what works as a VOD release in one country might be a theatrical release in another country or a television purchase for another. As the expression goes, it’s ‘horses for courses.’


Want to hear more from first-time filmmakers at the festival? The Fantastic First-Time Feature Filmmakers panel, part of TIFF’s Industry Dialogues sessions, takes place Wednesday, September 12 in the Filmmakers’ Lounge at the Hyatt.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.