Interview with Cameron Bailey
Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, you’re involved in the different activities of the Industry Days, first of all you’re a juror for First Look, Locarno’s works in progress sidebar, focusing on Poland this year.
Jury duty is going well so far - we have to watch six films. It’s a good opportunity to see films that might be coming to us in submission on a later stage. I have been in a lot of juries over the past few years, rarely in one like this where all films come from the same country. It’s actually an interesting opportunity especially from me – we have a very good Polish selection in Toronto which is handled by our CEO, Piers Handling, he travels to Warsaw every year, so I typically don’t get involved in the Polish selection. It’s great to catch up with what’s going on right now.
You also take part in the Match Me! Lunches. What goes on at the tables?
We just chitchat, really! It’s very causual, there is no formal agenda, and it’s really the best way to meet. In festivals like Locarno you get to know people and maybe later there will be something more concrete that you will do together, but right now it’s just human contact.
How important is it to have that human contact at festivals?
You think about it: why do we even have festivals – we can see films now on our computers, we can get them out to audiences at their home, or on their mobile devices – but we have festivals because human beings like to gather together, especially in very beautiful places like Locarno, and there’s something useful that comes out of that, it’s really a matter of trust. You know, so much of this business is based on trust, you have to know each other, see each other, spend time, time over lunch, dinner, drinks, karaoke… Karaoke is very popular at festivals… These things matter, because when you’re trying to make decisions, decisions which are almost always subjective later on, because we’re not dealing with just numbers here, we’re dealing with taste and opinion, you want to understand where someone else’s coming from.
Locarno and Toronto seem to share the same model of being “city festivals” where the whole community gets involved as well.
From what I have seen so far, I like the fact that you can see the Leopard print everywhere, the whole city seems very excited about the Festival. We really take advantage of this as well in Toronto – when you land at the airport the people checking your passport ask you what films you’re going to watch.
You also were a speaker for StepIn, talking about the current state of the film industry. What did you talk about?
Nothing I hope too controversial – I talked a lot about new technologies and the new ways people see movies, through streaming services, and what it does to the film induistry – people either are very optimistic or pessimistic about it – people will stop going to the movies, the industry will change fundamentally or collapse. I am an optimist instead, and I honesty think it’s a good thing. With all of these choices people have more opportunities to see and discover different things they may never have known to like. And that is not going to stop people from going to the movie theaters necessarily.
What are the most important assets a film festival should have?
Some festivals have a very big industry component, but not all need that. Some festivals have a lot of media, but they might not need that. The two main things a festival needs are a connection with its audience, you need to know people are going to be there and they want to see the films you selected, and then I think you need some kind of judgement, discernment, a sense of what you think is important in Cinema, a curation. And I think every festival has its kind of character when it comes to that. But these are the two things that define you – the connection with your audience and the principals behind your curation.
What is the best and the worst thing about being a film festival director?
I love the fact that I can see so many films – be current with what’s going on in Cinema, I love that I can travel as much as I do, because I think the contest where you see films is very important. The worst thing – but which is also sometimes the best – is just the weight, the importance that is given to one person’s taste and judgement. As a festival director there’s a lot of people looking at you after you’ve seen a film, waiting for your response. There’s a lot of responsability on the decision you make about their film, which can affect their career, their business, their life.