A new online audience for Short Cuts Canada

Every year, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) introduces new films from established and emerging directors and producers, attracting both local and international audiences. This year, creators of short films will get their work to shine in a different light with the introduction of the new online content that TIFF will host on their official YouTube channel, giving the festival’s student film makers a one-up in the game.

“The fact that these [short] films will be the only ones available online for about 10 days means that the audience that is not used to seeing these kinds of films will get the chance to do so,” says Magali Simard, the Short Cuts Canada programmer at TIFF. “Film makers are going to increase their audiences and I think this is definitely the quickest way to grow one.”

According to Simard, TIFF has been toying with the idea of having some of their content online for years now, and it wasn’t until this year that they struck a deal with YouTube. On August 8, Simard and fellow shorts programmer, Alex Rogalski, announced at this year’s press conference held at the Fairmont Royal York, that over 30 short films will be made available on the TIFF YouTube channel within 24 hours after their premier and will be available for viewing until September 19. TIFF is creating a stronger online presence for themselves, and in this growing digital age, so are those with aspirations of becoming successful in the film industry.

Much to YouTube’s success with other festivals like Sundance, hits on videos were high. This benefited the film maker as much as it did the festival. TIFF gave the opportunity to the film makers of this year’s shorts to opt-in or out of having their film featured. Over half opted-in.

For student film makers, being featured online means that their films will get the preparation and attention that feature films usually get, despite not having a recognizable name in the industry, nor having recognizable actors in their films. Attaching a brand like TIFF means that the first place people will check when trying to search for a short film online will be the official YouTube channel due to its curated content.

“Student films, years and years ago, had a connotation around them that they were amateurish. This has completely changed,” says Simard. “There is absolutely no way to tell that the student films in our line ups are student films. The level at which the film institution in the educational system has elevated their game in forming filmmakers and artists is astonishing. Every year, films are getting better and better.”

This year, Ryerson has several student films being featured in the Short Cuts Canada program, including Firecrackers, directed by Jasmin Mozaffari and produced by Caitlin Grabham; We Wanted More by Stephen Dunn, Noah directed and produced by Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg; and Paradise Falls by Fantavious Fritz. Each of these short films will be available online.

Part of the festival’s job, Simard would say, is to scout and recommend film makers to busy producers and producing companies in the industry. And after seeing “pretty much every single film made in the country this year”, she says that they’re in the best spot to do so.

With the new online content, sharing one’s featured TIFF film is as easy as sending a link. And because TIFF is so global, having your short film on the festival’s YouTube channel means that there will be opportunity for short filmmakers to extend their outreach internationally.

“Even young film makers from here seem to have a lot of experience going into the festival,” says Simard. “People are really savvy—they’re part artist, part self-promoter, part advertiser. It’s really helpful, especially with short films. You really have to be able to show and package it in a way that makes it interesting for an audience.”

Woodman and Cederberg, both going into their fourth year at Ryerson, created a different way of promoting their short film, Noah.

“Walter had the idea to create a Twitter for the main character who is against the movie coming out because it trivializes a difficult time in his life,” says Cederberg. “He’s constantly tweeting, telling people not to go see it. It’s a different way to market something, rather than just saying ‘Check us out at TIFF! We’re playing this night, this night, and this night’”.

Cederberg, who did not have Facebook prior to the film, has now created an account.

“I’m in the school of thought where I think that like everything, social media should be thought of and used as a tool. I think there’s people who use that tool really well, and you become interested in them because of that,” says Woodman.

Simard stresses that it’s important for young film makers to start promoting their next projects online, rather than celebrating the present’s accomplishments.

“It is your business card for the next thing you’re going to do,” says Simard.

Whether TIFF will make the short films available on YouTube every year remains to be seen, but Simard is confident that they will find success in it this year, as will the audience and film makers.

“You can fill a cinema with our programming, but it’s basically a limitless amount of audience you can get otherwise, which is pretty exciting.”