Why Did the Toronto Fest's Selection Process Take So Long This Year?

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TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and Kerri Craddock, director of programming.

Insiders say delays in finalizing the lineup may have cost the event some valuable buzz — and benefited the competition: "They lost a lot of movies."

Call it a transition year.

With Cameron Bailey getting a promotion in April to the newly created post of artistic director and co-head (with Joana Vicente) of the Toronto Film Festival, director of programming Kerri Craddock took a more active role in filling out the festival lineup.

But that has left a number of agents and producers privately grumbling about the new paradigm. The most frequent complaint concerns the time it took for TIFF to accept or decline a film.

"The problem with this year was, because they were taking so long to figure out and organize their programming, they lost a lot of movies," says one top sales agent. "People took films to other festivals like Venice. [Or] they chose Telluride. Even Sundance was looking at things early. So, Toronto lost a lot of movies because of slow timing."

Another sales agent says Sundance did, indeed, steal a film from TIFF. The idea of a finished film waiting four months for Sundance versus waiting for an answer from Toronto indicates something of a touchstone moment.

Typically, sales agents have received detailed feedback about all their submitted films and their chances of getting into the fest by the end of July.

Bailey, however, downplays the idea that 2018 is unique. "It's a process every year to watch everything, make the final decisions, make the invitations and turn down the films we have to turn down and schedule the ones we have to invite," he tells THR. "I don't think it was any different this year."

For her part, Craddock says the lag time was the result of fewer movies (in 2017, TIFF cut its slate by 20 percent compared with the previous year). "This year, like last, we're looking at a smaller festival, and that makes for some tougher decisions," she says. "In this case, you get to the point where you've made 95 percent of your decisions, and the last five percent takes a long time. At that point, you're not just inviting a film. You have to place a film at the same time."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.