Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day -1

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 3, 1997

The Festival no longer has a hospitality suite, and that's too bad. That used to be the one area where journalists, producers, actors, delegates, what have you, congregated for coffee, muffins, beer and booze. All free, courtesy of the Festival's sponsors. Information travelled at the speed of lightning; it was home away from home; everything that was said, done, consumed and consummated there was off the record. Believe it or not, even the fiercest paparazzo observed that unwritten rule.

The search is now for a decent gathering hall cum drinking hole (don't touch it). With the city extending their liquor licenses till 4 am, two venues become the unofficial H-suites: the Bistro 990, on Bay, and, a block away from the Sheraton, the new, hip, trendy Rosewater Supper Club, run by a former maitre d' from the Bistro.

When the Festival was young, sponsoring was close to philanthropy: ´ Brother, can you spare ten grand? ª. Now that it pumps about 30 million dollars into the local economy and has an estimated 250,000 film buffs lining up for coupons and passes, it has become intense, hard-nosed marketing. According to Canada's leading daily, The Globe and Mail, festivalgoers represent the sort of demographics advertisers go weak for : the average age is 34, 70% have a college education, the median income is 50,000 dollars. Canadian, but still.

Headed by Bell Canada, Visa, Rothmans, Air Canada, Viacom Canada and CityTV, the 130-some sponsors, encompassing everything from cellphones to Frito-Lay, now provide half the Festival's budget. A good example, no doubt, of sound cooperation between public and private sectors. That's no excuse for the government to slash arts funding the way it did. The creative community here is hurting real bad.

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