Toronto: IFP's Joana Vicente Hired as Festival Co-Head

Joana Vicente

The veteran indie film producer also becomes executive director as she and Cameron Bailey replace outgoing CEO Piers Handling.

Joana Vicente, executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project and Made in NY Media Center, was named executive director and co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday.

She will join TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey as co-head of the festival on Nov. 1 and run its business end as the Toronto-based organization sees longtime CEO Piers Handling and executive director and COO Michele Maheux step down after the upcoming 43rd edition in September.

"I’ve always looked to TIFF as a prominent international platform for world cinema, with an impact that is both local and global,” Vicente said in a statement. As she moves to a larger platform than the New York City-based IFP, Vicente will help shore up Toronto's reputation as an Oscar launchpad for Hollywood after the rival Venice International Film Festival in recent years has discovered a host of awards-season winners, including Gravity, Spotlight, Birdman, La La Land and The Shape of Water.

As part of its executive shuffle, TIFF earlier unveiled a splitting of power at the top of the festival as Handling exits. "The board is confident that Joana and Cameron are the perfect duo to take TIFF into the future," TIFF board member Jennifer Tory said in a statement.

Vicente will now use her extensive contacts with 
the Hollywood studios, leading indie producers in North America and Europe, and emerging filmmakers in Asia and elsewhere to yield more world premieres for Toronto that could go on to Oscar success.

TIFF, with its new five-year strategic plan, is also tackling how it will showcase the best in Hollywood and world cinema as younger talent increasingly opts for streaming platforms rather than the traditional cinema house to get their latest work viewed by worldwide audiences. 

Toronto has eight movies from Netflix screening at its upcoming 43rd edition, including the opening-night pick Outlaw King.

"While we will miss her immensely, we acknowledge the opportunity to find a dynamic new leader, and we are excited to open the search and start a new chapter for the organization as it celebrates its 40th anniversary," IFP said Tuesday in its own statement as it launches a search for Vicente's successor.

Vicente joined IFP in December 2009 as executive director of the nonprofit representing U.S. indie filmmakers. Along with her partner Jason Kliot, she has produced over 40 films, mostly low-budget art house fare by indie directors like Jim Jarmusch, Miguel Arteta, Brian De Palma, Hal Hartley, Steven Soderbergh, Nicole Holofcener and Todd Solondz.

Vicente also founded three production companies: Blow Up Pictures, the digital production arm of Open City Films and HDNet Films with Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner. She and Kliot got their start as associate producers on Welcome to the Dollhouse in 1995.

Vicente will attend the upcoming Toronto fest, which is set to run Sept. 6-16, before returning to New York to oversee the IFP Gotham Awards show on Nov. 26.