For 10 days, the Toronto International Film Festival turns Canada’s largest city into the epicentre of the movie world. Hundreds of films grace the metropolis’s big screens, a who’s who of filmmakers flood the hotels and restaurants, and dozens of distributors and agents come looking to network and make deals.
You’d imagine all that talent in one place could provide a valuable chance for literary agents to seek out lucrative opportunities for their clients. Two local agents share their approach to TIFF, and what (if any) benefits the festival can yield for them and their authors.
Michael A. Levine, chairman, Westwood Creative Artists
There are several criteria for being successful in this business. One, is being talented. Two, is being focused. Three, is being well connected. TIFF affords an opportunity to increase connectiveness. It’s a marketplace, and although much of it is occupied by films being shown, and people trying to show off what they’ve already produced, because of the players who attend it’s an opportunity to get some face time. I find, more often than not, it rarely works to go TIFF and try to set up appointments, cold call, or pitch people on projects. It’s too busy a time. But the digital world has profoundly changed things, so if you have been in correspondence before the festival and you want to meet, it may escalate. Instead of a meeting being step 1, it may be step 3 or step 4.
Anne McDermid, founder, the McDermid Agency
The most useful thing is that book-to-film agents come to town from Los Angeles and New York. They don’t come to specifically find new projects, but they will always be open to meetings for us to pitch our projects. As an agent, I benefit most from meetings with those agents and indie producers. For authors, I would say it is very useful to go and see a lot of work – especially from the independents – to get a feel for the industry. Also, go the parties and chat up as many people as you can, so a film person may remember you the next time your agent pitches your novel. But don’t expect that Spielberg is going to stop and listen to you describing your new novel, and say, “My God, that is just what I was looking for!”