Locals eye piece of Toronto limelight

Canadian filmmakers on hunt for acquisitions

TORONTO -- As the dealmaking at the Toronto International Film Festival gathers pace, local filmmakers are joining the fray in pursuit of scarce acquisition dollars and audience attention.

"It feels like there's a lot of support for (our) film at the festival, we really feel wanted here by the programmers and the audiences," Terry Miles, director of the dark comedy "When Life Was Good," said Wednesday. Canadian directors, as usual, are struggling to grab the spotlight away from U.S. studio and indie movies and other international titles that dominate Toronto.

Ironically, Miles' film about quasi-bohemians struggling to find their way in big-city Canada grew out of a 2006 experience in which he rewrote a film for a major U.S. cable network.

Despite the presence of about 40 Canadian features in Toronto's lineup, only a handful each year secure North American distribution deals, with the rest tending to get lost as the international media pursues Hollywood stars on the red carpet or the press conference podium.

So Canadian directors are in a scramble this week to secure scarce distribution deals.

"We've talked to a lot of people and had good press, surprisingly," said Annie Bradley, the director of "Pudge," a film about bridging race and class differences in Toronto.

Among the rare deals for Canadian pictures so far in Toronto is Sony Pictures Classics snapping up Atom Egoyan's "Adoration" before the festival's start, and Maple Pictures pickup of Canadian rights to Bruce McDonald's zombie pic "Pontypool" late last week.

The festival ends Saturday.