Decisions About What To Watch Are Harder Then Ever

Decisions About What To Watch Are Harder Then Ever

Even the things that you love can come back to bite you in the ass if you’re not careful…

In case you haven’t been paying attention in the city of Toronto, the film community has been busy as all hell.  I don’t just mean from a production standpoint which is doing obvious gangbusters both independently but at the studio level as well and we live in a day and age where we are simply drowning in content to watch and it’s easier now more than ever to just let things slip and forget the love that we all have for storytelling and the moving image.

In our fair city alone on top of all the new releases hitting screens each week, on top of all the excellent retrospective programming that takes place at TIFF Bell Lightbox, The Royal & The Revue just to name a few and even on top of all the home options available at the click of a button (with even more streaming options still to come) we’re in the midst of FIVE (you heard me right) different festivals with Rendezvous With Madness, Planet In Focus, ReelWorld, Toronto After Dark and imagineNATIVE all playing at screens across the city.  It’s overwhelming to me, someone who covers all this stuff…so I can’t imagine how overwhelmed the general consumer might feel, but that’s why we’re here.

Because you’re reading this, as a loyal reader here at In The Seats that you might be a little more adventurous then most and a little more eager to jump into the deep end of the rich film community that this town (and the world) has to offer and while there’s no wrong answers depending on your tastes not everything is the right bang for your buck.

Over the next couple of weeks, keep checking in with us for coverage from festivals like imagineNATIVE and Rendezvous With Madness as they are the kind of smaller festivals that bring an incredibly wide selection of cinema for all audiences with environments that can be much more welcoming over the occasionally overwhelming throngs of people that attend the big festivals like TIFF and Hot Docs every year.  They embrace audiences looking to experience different kinds of cinema and are thriving because of it.

Planet In Focus and Reelworld are admittedly great too but also have some very niche programming, so it would depend on what you’re interested in but the quality of programming is undeniably top drawer all the way.

Ultimately, out of the entire film community, it’s the genre (horror, action, sci-fi) crowds that are usually the most inviting; not only for audiences but for visiting filmmakers as well which is why historically; Toronto After Dark was always a staple on viewing schedules.

It’s the festival that first embraced me into this cities film community and gave me the spark to accomplish what I have in this industry.  However in recent years things have not quite been the same as previous glory days.  To survive in a business that as I’ve very clearly illustrated has an overwhelming abundance of films competing for a limited numbers of eyes, you have to adapt and stay current and fresh.

Sadly Toronto After Dark has failed to do that in recent years, following similar templates of marketing, increasingly seeming unwilling to engage with not only the film industry as a whole but with the audiences that pay for the tickets and programming more and more towards ‘safe’ programming selections that are more concerned with maxing out ticket sales then challenging audiences.  Hell with a whopping SIX films screening from local filmmakers this year, you can’t help but feel like Toronto After Dark; now in it’s 14th year has turned into a festival of cast and crew screenings just so it can max out it’s ticket sales and it’s making what loyal fans it has left fit the bill while trying to stay in mindset that’s it’s still 2011-2012.

I certainly don’t doubt there are some quality films playing at Toronto After Dark this year and that you have to balance the need to crowd please and sell tickets versus challenging audiences with things that are creative and new but running the same formula into the ground and becoming predictable just doesn’t do anybody any good; filmmakers and audiences alike.

As audiences grow, exhibitors and film festivals have to as well in order to survive and you just can’t help but get the feeling that leadership at Toronto After Dark has either lost interest or lost respect for not only the art form of film, but of the people with boots on the ground who champion it 365 days a year and not just for a few nights in October as their presentation has just become so incredibly stale.

Then if you want to catch something old but on the big screen, TIFF Bell Lightbox has gone above and beyond with their cinematheque and retrospective series this fall and at least from a personal note I love being in a city that presents as many unique cinematic screening experiences as humanly possible while smaller venues like The Royal and The Revue are doing amazing work bringing some interactive and just flat out weird movie going experiences.

Then again you could always rent (or buy) something to watch at home from video stores (yes they still exist) like the amazing crew at Bay Street Video.  Or dive into some streaming content via the myriad of services out there (of which more are coming) and take a risk, buck the streaming service algorithms and find yourself something that looks cool that you may otherwise have not given a shot to.

Of course here at In The Seats we’ll cover it all, or as much as is humanly possible because quite frankly, it’s what we love to do, but we ask you to remember one single thing.

Make sure that no matter what you’re watching, where you are watching it and how you are watching that it is giving as much love back to you as you are giving it.  In a town like Toronto that is full of options, we deserve nothing less.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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