NEWS

TIFF turns focus eastward for Asian Film Summit

09/10/2012 06:02 EDT | Updated 11/10/2012 05:12 EST
As with other sectors, the North American film industry is increasingly turning its eye eastward in hopes of tapping into Asian markets and the area's large, movie-loving audiences.

Filmmaking has gone global, with an increasing number of co-productions that unite partners across borders. China, for instance, has been specifically courted by those in the West who are eager to work with local firms, access the country's exploding cinema market and feed Chinese audiences hungry to see more.

After noticing a shift in the way movies are being put together, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey realized that the festival could serve as a bridge for the industry.

"I saw the radical changes that are happening in the global film industry, in the sense that it is becoming more truly international," he told CBC News, pointing out that the festival's opener Looper — while appearing as a regular Hollywood title — is actually a U.S.-Chinese co-production.

"Toronto is uniquely placed to be a part of the conversation about that change because of our population, our audience here and how outward-looking we are. Being a city of immigrants, being a festival that shows films from so many different countries each year, [attracting] audiences that are familiar with movies from the West and the East, I thought this was the perfect place to do it."

What has emerged is TIFF's first-ever Asian Film Summit, an event designed for filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors, financiers and policy-makers.

Running all day on Monday at the newly opened Shangri-La Hotel Toronto (the latest outpost of the Asian luxury hotel chain), the conference encompasses industry sessions and panels matching movie experts from the East and the West. The event aims to facilitate the sharing ideas and concerns, to spark new working relationships and to determine solutions to common problems. The evening is slated to conclude with a banquet hosted by Hollywood power producer Harvey Weinstein.

The goal "is to provide a platform for people to talk about how to navigate [these new] changes, how to do business and find opportunities around the world," Bailey said.

"We have to learn how to speak each other's languages, if not literally, then at least culturally. And I think that's something this summit will help do."

Participants for the inaugural edition run the gamut, from action star Jackie Chan and filmmakers Mira Nair, Eli Roth and Stephen Fung to representatives from cinema-associated firms like Imax and Cineplex, as well as talent agents and industry leaders such as Chris Dodd, former U.S. senator and current CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

"There's an opportunity to really bring together people from all different parts of the world during the festival — who are already here doing business and showing their films and having premieres — to talk about … what are the next steps for all of us, so that we can understand how we need to grow," Bailey said.

"The film industry, like every other business, never stands still."

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 16.

MORE:cbcNews