Toronto Film Festival Undergoes New Round of Staff Cuts

Antonio Banderas, Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman - TIFF Tribute Gala - Getty-H 2019
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Around 15 jobs will go as TIFF rethinks its Audience First strategic plan by holding more "transformative" events beyond film screenings.

The Toronto International Film Festival is set to lay off 15 employees as the prestigious September event rethinks its Audience First 2018 to 2022 strategic plan, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

"In recent months, TIFF undertook a comprehensive review of its Audience First strategic plan and operating model, to evaluate where we are as an organization relative to our stated goals," the fest on Wednesday told THR in a statement.

The five-year business plan for TIFF — which focuses on "transformative experiences through film," rather than just screen movies during an annual September event and at Bell Lightbox, its year-round home — was unveiled in 2017 as Piers Handling announced he was retiring as festival CEO after 36 years with the organization.

Joana Vicente, former executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project and Made in NY Media Center, was later named executive director and co-head of TIFF, alongside artistic director Cameron Bailey, also co-head of the festival.

The 2019 edition of TIFF, with Vicente and Bailey at the helm as co-chiefs, hosted the inaugural Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala, a glitzy fundraiser for TIFF that is expected to be an annual event and potentially the first major prize-giving ceremony of Hollywood's awards season.

The Tribute Gala's first honorees in September included Meryl Streep, Joaquin Phoenix and Jojo Rabbit helmer Taika Waititi.  

"As a normal course of business, we recalibrated our strategic plan to achieve optimal impact and be more efficient. The TIFF team is working over the next few months on the implementation of this refocused plan. We will have more details to share in the spring," the festival added in its statement.

The evolving Audience First strategic plan is helping TIFF adapt as theatrical movie attendance plateaus just as online movie-watching soars with Netflix and other digital alternatives.

With its five-year strategic plan, TIFF also aims to better showcase the best in Hollywood and world cinema as film directors increasingly opt for streaming platforms rather than the traditional cinema house to get their latest work viewed by worldwide audiences.