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What I saw at the Toronto Film Fest 2015

By Kristine Pregot

For the 40th year, the city of Toronto has hosted one of the world’s biggest international movie festivals. I headed up to the festival to scout and chat with directors about future collaborations with Nice Shoes artists. The streets were swarming with some of the biggest names of Hollywood, Bollywood and stars from the silver screen of China. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) truly lives up to its status as an international festival. Every continent (except for Antarctica) had films showcased.

The festival drew the biggest film enthusiasts (cough, film nerds), from around the world to screen films, meet filmmakers and attend industry panels. The two-week festival shows over 100 films per day… that’s a lot of popcorn sales.

It’s mind boggling to make selections on what to see, because there will always inevitably be FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I started the festival watching the film Brooklyn. It is a beautifully made film, capturing the mood of Brooklyn immigrants in the 1940s. The filmmaker captured the beautiful and diverse melting pot that is New York. The film’s costumes, set design and art direction alone made the film worth seeing. And more than just a few tears flowed while I watched this film on September 11.

I met Cynthia Wade, the producer of Freeheld, at a Producers Guild event, and she talked about how she directed the Oscar-winning short of the same name. She had read a New York Times article about terminally ill New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester and her legal battle to pass on her pension benefits to her domestic partner. Wade sought out the women and knew she had to make this into a film. After hearing her story, I knew I had to add that feature to my screening list. It was a deeply moving film and to hear how it came to be made was a true inspiration.

Out of all the films I watched,  I Smile Back may have been one of the most depressing (in a virtuous way). Sarah Silverman’s character was extremely persuasive and I am not sure I will ever see her in the light, ever again. After watching this film, I felt like I had to go to confession.

By far the best thriller I screened was Green Room. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier nailed it with this Midnight Madness pick. The film had a gritty tone, featuring punk rock, skinheads, killer dogs and Patrick Stewart — I can’t think of spookier combination.

Green Room's Jeremy Saulnie, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Joe Cole.

Panel: the cast of ‘Green Room’

During my time in Toronto, I was able to attend a few panels as well. One of the most educational ones detailed the Canadian tax incentives. Between the exchange rate, and the amazing cash back for post and VFX, it is no surprise so many filmmakers are turning to our friends up north for a hand.

The best tip I can provide for anyone attending next year’s festival is this: be sure to grab a drink at the Shangri-La bar. It is a very elegant hub between screenings — great drinks and fun celebrity sightings. Plus, you can eavesdrop on some of the best “for my next feature” pitching happening all around the bar.

Kristine Pregot is a senior producer at New York City-based Nice Shoes.

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