Film Distribs plan festival marketing strategies

Toronto hosts what is considered the second-largest film festival in the world, but for Canadian filmmakers, the paradox of the Toronto International Film Festival is the odds against homegrown talent finding and winning over buyers in what sometimes seems like a Turkish bazaar.

Toronto hosts what is considered the second-largest film festival in the world, but for Canadian filmmakers, the paradox of the Toronto International Film Festival is the odds against homegrown talent finding and winning over buyers in what sometimes seems like a Turkish bazaar.

Indigenous directors and talent attached to Canadian flicks too often go missing in action in Toronto, elbowed aside by Hollywood stars trundling down the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall or bypassed by media rushing to junket-style interviews and press conferences.

Canuck filmmakers, producers, distributors, publicists and sales agents have to work that much harder in their own backyard to ensure their movies generate buzz and media coverage at the festival, if ever their movies are to thrive on general release.

‘Our biggest concern is making sure Canadian films don’t disappear, as often they do during the festival,’ says Robin Smith of Montreal distributor Seville Pictures. ‘All you need are Hollywood stars to come here and the media rushes to them rather than the Canadian director.’

Undeterred, Canadians will pursue a number of film marketing strategies in Toronto.

Seville, bringing Soo Lyu’s Rub & Tug and Terrance Odette’s Saint Monica to this year’s fest, is championing a grassroots marketing campaign that stresses building word of mouth both before and during the festival.

Rub & Tug, a sexy comedy with a high T&A quotient starring Don McKellar, will have three teaser posters and a trailer in cinemas ahead of the festival.

Eschewing the traditional T-shirt, the distributor is preparing a daring media press kit that includes a massage oil bottle with the Rub & Tug label and a hand towel.

It also helps that McKellar’s three co-actors in this comedy about a late-night ‘full-body’ massage parlor, Lindy Booth, Kira Clavell and Tara Spencer-Nairn, are ready and willing to parade about the festival in-character and in-costume: one domineering, another naive and the third with a nipple obsession.

Fashion also figures largely in the marketing effort behind Edoardo Ponti’s Between Strangers, an Italian/ Canadian coproduction starring Sophia Loren and Mira Sorvino.

The movie’s distributor, Montreal-based Equinox Films, has arranged a retail tie-in with Holt Renfrew’s 12 stores nationwide in partnership with the Italian Film Commission.

‘Viva Italia’, a Holt Renfrew promotion of Italian fashion to kick off on Sept. 12, will be well-timed to help launch the national release of Between Strangers on Oct. 4.

The movie, coproduced by David Cronenberg collaborator Gabriella Martinelli, was shot last year in Toronto and marks the directorial debut of Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s son.

Loren and Ponti will host a gala premiere of the film in Toronto on Sept. 13 as a special presentation screening and take part in a day-long press junket.