An Afternoon At The TIFF 2019 Canadian Press Conference

Photos & Post: Natalie Kulezsa

I was thrilled to be asked to attend the press conference announcing the Canadian Film slate for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival on behalf of The Harlton Empire. I woke up, made my usual cup of coffee, did some yoga and then hit my phone googling “what to wear to a press conference”. Being my first time at an actual press conference, I actually did wonder this. (How would an actual journalist dress? Do I have an outfit that isn’t just jeans and a tank top that still looks like jeans and tank top but more expensive? Will it be overly air conditioned? Do I need to bring an extra layer? How quickly can I get a t-shirt made that says “ACTOR FOR HIRE”?…) Coffee done and I decided on wearing all black and my comfortable black flats. I took note to leave some time to actually do my hair and then just try to blend in. (I googled “Is it actually cool if I wear my sunglasses inside?” with my second cup of coffee.)

Upon arrival at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel through the underground PATH, I found myself wandering through a cool and nicely carpeted corridor with many doors, looking for anything that said TIFF. “Are you looking for the TIFF event?” a lovely woman asked. I noticed she was wearing a TIFF lanyard and was probably one of their lovely volunteers (and seriously – TIFF volunteers are truly the best!). I answered “Yes” and she directed me up the escalator. Success! I looked like I should be at a press conference! (or wildly lost or lonely… All of the above?) I finally found the Media check in table, once again being supervised by lovely people. I got my name crossed off a long list and headed in. (I was briefly disappointed not to have received some sort of lanyard or cool name tag, but then checked myself as this was a more environmentally sound choice, obvi.)

Prosecco for lunch? Don’t mind if I do. I stood there and took it all in. Definitive sections for business and pleasure were in full swing. I grabbed a few snacks, scanned the room and soon swung by the red carpet and began taking in the excitement. And wow – excitement there was. You could feel the energy of the room ramping up as more and more people arrived. It was a beautiful sea of “Suits” and artists and journalists and TIFF staff and everyone in between, involved in this dance while juggling conversations, tweets and very full glasses of pinot grigio. After the red carpet and media interviews concluded, the official announcements got on their way lead by Cameron Bailey, TIFF Artistic Director and Co-Head and Joana Vincete, Executive Director & Co-Head. There were many aspects covered so I will include a few favourite highlights and allow you to Google the rest at your leisure.

Brought to light was the Gender Parity Pledge that TIFF signed around this time last year. We were reminded of TIFF’s ongoing efforts to gender equality through their #ShareHerJourney campaign (, which launched with a widely covered rally in downtown Toronto last year. For the 2019 festival, TIFF has shown their commitment to the 5050×2020 movement, most notably through the announcement of their 2019 Programming team, half of which are now women.

Also noted is the fact that almost 50% of the total number of all Canadian films slated for TIFF 2019 are directed by women. This is up 40% from last year. With many more programing announcements to come, it will be interesting to see the final numbers of women filmmakers on a whole for this year’s festival.

The Canadian Film feature length programming is breaking ground this year with five titles by Indigenous filmmakers and teams (click through to take in previews and soon to be come screening times for all films):

As TIFF approaches it is easy to get excited about the international films and artists that will be showcased throughout the 10 day festival. Our city will host some of the biggest names not only from Hollywood but the International stage. However, let’s not forget to celebrate and support the Canadian filmmakers that put not only our country on the map as leaders in film, but are willing to shine a light on the unique and diverse stories we have to offer. TIFF offers an extraordinary opportunity to take in these stories on the “big screen” and allows us, the audience, to celebrate right along side with the filmmakers themselves. Sometimes these will be the only opportunities we may have to take in these films in a larger format, or at all. Choosing to invest your time and show your support to Canadian content is essential and vital.

Now to spend the rest of my summer continuing to have prosecco for – errrr – with lunch and plan my festival schedule… Happy TIFFing!

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