Previously: #2. (tie) IDFA and Toronto
#4. Hot Docs
Our take: The biggest doc-only fest in North America draws buyers, industry and doc community from all over the world. Even if you premiered at Sundance this may be the first time European buyers take a good look at your film. The fest takes advantage of its rich history and Toronto's notorious love of documentaries as screenings are usually packed - even a late night series instituted by the fest last year. Over the past couple years, the fest has sought to revitalize and re-think the panel format, leading to a feeling that the fest is on the cusp of doing something really different. Programmer Sean Farnel is a stalwart on the international documentary circuit and often is the first to shine a light on new and important international filmmakers and trends.
The downside: Like many fests, there's a big divide between the festival and the Forum, the latter of which probably needs the same re-imagining that's going on with the panels. The Canadian slate can be seriously uneven - approach at your own risk. Toronto is a great city, but it can take some time to get a handle on, which can be a challenge for a festival that is as spread out as this one.
Important recent premieres: ACT OF GOD, THE RED CHAPEL
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: BIG RIVER MAN, OBJECTIFIED, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, OUTRAGE, THE WAY WE GET BY, TYSON, 21 BELOW, FIXER: THE TAKING OF AJMAL NAQSHBANDI, BEST WORST MOVIE, SERGIO, WHICH WAY HOME
Our coverage of Hot Docs here.
Filmmaker: "Still my favorite. Somehow Sean and co put soul into a cuty which is otherwise pretty bland Sean and Chris somehow manage to bring some life to those soulless Toronto streets, and that in itself is a great feat. Very well run and organized I feel, and a very healthy dose of high end seminars and talks alongside some great films… Also very good hosts."
Filmmaker: "Been there three times: once to pitch and twice with completed films. I love the festival, especially the staff, who have always been extraordinarily kind to me. Great programming and good theaters (The Royal has the best projection I've ever had - no wonder, it's used as a mixing theater during the day). They paid my flights from Europe both times I had a film in the festival, and paid for four nights at the festival hotel. Was happy that they put me on panels this year, which I enjoyed immensely. They also got me some press coverage, but nothing beyond the local stuff. Toronto is a terrific, and the festival is a great opportunity to hang out with fellow filmmakers and industry folks and see lots of terrific films. But as much as I love Hot Docs, I've always been disappointed at how little importance it seems to have in the US indy film scene. It's never led to any sales or broadcasts for me. Next time around, I might try my luck at TIFF instead, depending on when my film nears completion."
Filmmaker: "Ridiculously good doc audiences. Had 1200 seat Bloor sold out and on it's feet. Best screenings hands down. Sean Farnel has a poster of Gummo over his bed, say no more."
Filmmaker: "great audience, great industry presence, also a sense of community/place but hindered somewhat by the forum, which (like at IDFA) creates this 2-tiered system where all the important industry people are off in the pitching area which is off-limits to filmmakers who haven't coughed up money for a forum pass, it's a silly two-tiered system i think & also diminishes audiences (no chance of getting commissioners/potential buyers to see your film in the cinema if they're at pitches all day & dinners/parties all night). But the audiences are amazing & the staff are nice & they are very nice to filmmakers."
Filmmaker: "loved it, thought the programming was very good and also the pairing of films. Great screenings, although some of the Q&A's weren't in particular well moderated (actually not really moderated at all, which doesn't really work when you have two or more filmmakers up there). Forum seemed to have a nice atmosphere, compared to IDFA. As IDFA, the market takes over from the festival though, and it feels the films are almost an afterthought for some of the week (at least for the attending industry, the general audience turn-out is great). Great for meetings, pitching, networking and meeting people. They paid for 3 nights hotel, no flights for short filmmakers. Good hospitality overall and some great parties. They also organised a dinner for filmmakers. Great experience, exceeded my expectations. Would definitely come back."
Filmmaker: "too spread out. can never find the "center". can never find other filmmakers. i just wander around this one mostly. good press though. good mixed selection of films."
Filmmaker: "Love that fest - probably cause I like toronto as a city a lot though. Although sometimes I'm not convinced about their programming. Can be a mixed bag."
Filmmaker: "Audiences fantastic. Paid for all expenses."
Filmmaker: "really one
of my absolute favorites. I wish I could go every year. I've gone for the TDF
but also stayed the whole time and always seen a ton of films- unlike at IDFA.
I think the festival does a fabulous job of taking care of people and having
nice parties and making it easy for people to find each other. I have also made
lasting friends here as well. I think it one of the top notch doc fests there
are. I'll be applying this year! I also highly recommend the TDF for meeting
broadcasters- although it seems in 09 they made it infinitely more expensive?"
Filmmaker: "It's perhaps a little big and can feel impersonal at times but they have some smart programmers and show good films."
Filmmaker: "Great for seeing lots of films, but line-up is often uneven. Also, venues tend to be quite sprawled around the city (or at least it used to be) which makes transportation annoying at times. The forum is a great way to formally eavesdrop on how filmmakers interact with industry in pitching their projects. If you have the enthusiasm, this is a great place to approach doc-industry from around the world."
Filmmaker: "a great festival. Amazing audiences, well organized."
Industry: "Hot Docs is our bread and butter. The timing of the fest is weird for us to play films there somehow, we often premiere at a film in the fall, and it's usually played cinemas before hot docs starts so we can't play there. But of the films I've played they treat us well. The TDF is fantastic, the panels quite good. However I find the market overwhelms the "artistic" side of the festival."
Industry: "One of the big beasts, and a festival everyone knows they should attend. The film selection is normally pretty good, though the canadian element whilst understandable is often unwelcome. The forum is slowly moving towards a new model that works well in the marketplace, and Elisabeth is doing a good job in terms of form. The selection for the forum, though, is sometimes lacklustre and backwards looking."
Industry: "I don’t like the programming. They finally got away from such an emphasis on Canadian programming, which is good. I can’t stand that facility. I can’t believe that they expect us to do work there and there’s no place to get a cup of coffee. So now I go to the Forum and I spend all my time at the Forum. I don’t go to see films at the festival. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film at the festival. Buyers are there. But there’s the split because all the buyers are over with the commissioning editors at the Forum. It’s a good place to have your film, but it’s not a good place to have your premiere without just about starting your run."
Industry: "As an industry professional one of the two must attend fests of the year because of the TDF Forum where all comm eds, producers and directors gather. Its format has been traditional and moribund but Elizabeth Radshaw looks set to give proceedings a much needed shake up. Lovely to be in a sizeable city where the local population get into and go to the cinema to see documentary Well organised, laid back, very enjoyable fest. The parties are a little boring and as such people tend to break into groups for private gatherings which can be a shame."
Industry: "essential for doc
programmers - .
-great, varied programming, sufficient repeat screenings. the online video library was a great resource
.i'd expect more parties, but those attended were fairly on the quiet side. some venues are very far apart from each other, but that's not a huge deal"
Industry: "GREAT FESTIVAL"
Industry: "We go for the pitching not the festival and we often find interesting projects there. We always foot the bill."
Industry: "Extremely helpful to journalists with just about any request. Partly through the folk from the pr... Viriginia Kelly, I think? And the fact some of the faces familiar for a second and third year. And being allowed access to the Doc Forum was very nice of them."