Netflix, Toronto Film Fest Partner to Develop Local Movie Talent

Courtesy of Netflix
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A three-year deal will see the U.S. streamer invest in TIFF's Canadian film industry programs, despite opposition from major festival sponsors.

The Toronto Film Festival is going all in with Netflix.

Hollywood's awards season launchpad has signed a three-year deal that will see Netflix invest in TIFF's year-round film industry program, including financial support for emerging local directors and the festival's annual September forum. Terms of their pact were not disclosed, but the Netflix investment comes from a $25 million fund agreed with the Canadian government in 2017 to develop local content creators, especially from the female, indigenous, Francophone and LGBTQ+ communities.

TIFF co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente in a statement said, "Netflix’s agreement to support both the festival and TIFF’s year-round work with the Canadian film industry signals a meaningful commitment." Toronto and Netflix cementing their industry ties contrasts with Cannes, which bowed to local pressure and banned Netflix films from its competition lineup.

And Venice remains a frontline for the battle between the U.S. video streaming giant and Italian and other European theatrical exhibitors who voice opposition to its disruption of their traditional distribution models.

TIFF's Bailey in September told THR his festival embraced Netflix and the streamers more than other major festivals because it wanted to follow the best industry talent. "A film like Jojo Rabbit, or a great film like [Soderbergh's Netflix title] The Laundromat, are two examples of directors — one from a traditional distributor and the other from a streaming service — where we're interested in the film and the filmmakers. We're aware that the theatrical experience needs to be maintained. But we don't discriminate in terms of seeking films from one kind of source or another," he argued.

TIFF has faced its own local opposition to Netflix, including from major Toronto festival sponsors like exhibition giant Cineplex — which last September banished the streamer's titles from its Scotiabank Theatre, which also serves as the traditional Press & Industry screening venue each September — and Bell Media, which operates its own local streamer, Crave.

Scott Stuber, Netflix head of film, in his own statement said the U.S. streamer, which has distributed its online service in Canada since late 2010, welcomed being able to support local emerging talent. "This investment will help TIFF increase representation in the industry, and expand opportunities for these filmmakers that will allow them to deepen their craft and advance their projects," Stuber said.

Netflix in September said it had met a $400 million Canadian film and TV investment commitment also made to the federal government in 2017 three years ahead of schedule. The streamer has drawn fire from local broadcasters and cultural groups for its agreement with Ottawa, which spares the U.S. media giant fiscal and local content obligations already imposed on Canadian broadcasters and cable operators.

As part of its deal with TIFF, Netflix is backing the festival's Talent Accelerator program, where six female filmmakers receive subsidies to access the festival's industry program and events, and the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, a professional training forum held each September. Netflix will also help develop three new professional development events from TIFF to support Canadian filmmakers.

Netflix's Canadian investments include a Toronto production hub launched two years ago, and local shoots for The Umbrella Academy, V-Wars, the horror series October Faction, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Another Life. The original productions investment in Canada to be distributed across Netflix's global platform includes the streaming giant working with Canadian producers, production houses, broadcasters, creators and other local partners.

Netflix earlier this year locked up eight soundstages with long-term leases at Pinewood Toronto Studios and Cinespace Films Studios. In all, around 250,000 square feet of studio space at both sites will house Netflix series and films, including the horror anthology series Guillermo del Toro Presents Ten After Midnight and the upcoming romantic comedy Let It Snow, from Planet of the Apes franchise producer Dylan Clark.

Besides its own original productions, Netflix is co-producing Canadian series like Anne With an E, Travelers, Frontier and the limited series Alias Grace.