At TIFF 2016, Brevity Can Net Some Genuine Results: A Few Minutes Talking with ‘Short Cuts’ programmer Jason Anderson

Posted in Festival Coverage, Interviews, TIFF 2016 by - September 07, 2016

There’s a myriad of films that come to TIFF every single year and for the average festival attendee, I am willing to bet that they barely scratch the surface of what is available to audiences out there looking to expand their cinematic palette.

In advance of the festival and as the first part of a three part series I got the chance to talk to the programmers of some of the different film programmes that don’t necessarily get the same attention that the Galas and the high profile studio releases tend to get.

First up, I got the unique pleasure to have a few words with friend, film professor and fellow critic Jason Anderson who took on the job of Short Cuts co-programmer a few years ago to talk about why short films are important in the grand scheme of a festival like TIFF, his passion for the form and his high octane sense of humour and passion in championing films that quite often tend to get overlooked when the average consumer is looking to buy tickets.


Every year the focus or at least “Sexy” attention always seems to go on to programmes like Galas, Special Presentations & Midnight Madness but what is it about something like Short Cuts  where a lot of people may not fully understand the focus that makes it such an intregral part of the entire TIFF experience?

Obviously with nearly 400 movies at TIFF, viewers are right to feel spoiled for choice but Short Cuts offers them a range and diversity of cinematic experiences that they’re not going to get — or get in such an efficient, time-conscious fashion! — anywhere else in the festival. Each of our 11 programmes is loaded up with the best and freshest shortform dramas, comedies, documentaries and animated works that we’ve been lucky to encounter both in Canada and internationally. Though Toronto’s got some great smaller showcases for shorts, moviegoers here have really lacked the opportunity to see this kind of breadth and quality of work since the end of the Worldwide Short Film Festival a few years back. We’ve noticed that the proliferation and circulation of short film online just keeps boosting the awareness and appreciation for the form, too. What’s more, it’s hard to top that special “I saw it first here!” thrill that all TIFF-goers crave when they discover a filmmaker who’s just coming out of the gate. Even the movies themselves often go on to have these amazing lives, especially when they spawn feature versions — Sleeping Giant, Whiplash, Short Term 12 and The Babadook are just a few of the coolest recent examples of shorts that made the jump. And when it comes to sexy, I have to say that we’ve got that covered, what with the threesomes (3-Way (Not Calling)), millennial lovers (The Taste of Vietnam), forbidden romances (Sevince) and all kinds of ladies and gentlemen looking for action (Anna, Mr. Sugar Daddy and more) in our line-up for 2016. It’s hot, I tell ya!


Is there a specific mandate when programming for something this or do you have a certain amount of freedom and flexibility to observe different social issues and trends that come up across the globe?

Innovation, discovery and diversity are words we use to describe the kind of selection we aim to build and what attracts us to many films but we’re really just presenting the work that most excites and compels us. Filmmakers can’t help but respond to the world they live in and the changes they see (or want to see) and we’re always amazed by the diversity of approaches to the most urgent topics out there. One huge one for us in 2016 is the experience of refugees and immigrants — concerns and anxieties around that subject are explored and represented in an astonishing variety of ways, from an intense thriller (A New Home) to several moving family stories (Import, Shahzad) to a documentary about an extraordinary humanitarian group in Syria (The White Helmets). Issues to do with sexuality and gender are always prominent (see: Transition, Sevince, Red Apples), as are the past and present struggles for indigenous peoples in Canada and internationally (e.g., Nutag – Homeland, Four Faces of the Moon, Snip, Tshiuetin). The perils of living in the digital age are another popular preoccupation, though again our films on the topic range from a hilarious satire (5 Films About Homeland) to a gloriously WTF piece of stop-motion animation (DataMine).

If you had to guess what would be the percentage of filmmakers who come from programmes like Short Cuts who eventually go on to have feature length films in the festival?

I don’t think the stat exists yet – especially since we’re only in our third year of featuring international titles along with the homegrown ones – but there’s been no shortage of big talents who first came to TIFF via Short Cuts Canada and now Short Cuts. Stephen Dunn (Closet Monster), Andrew Cividino (Sleeping Giant) and Kazik Radwanski (Tower, How Heavy the Hammer) were all shorts alum who had a big impact at TIFF last year. Chloé Robichaud (Pays), Anne Emond (Nelly) and Mathieu Denis (Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves) are three more great Canadian filmmakers who’ve had many shorts at TIFF and who present new features in 2016. We’re especially thrilled to see first features here from more alum like Ashley McIsaac (Werewolf), Kevan Funk (Hello Destroyer), Vincent Biron (Prank) and Johnny Ma (Old Stone). The international part of the programme is only three years old but already have a debut feature by an SC alum from Australia, Sotris Dounoukos (Joe Cinque’s Consolation). We also expect big things from an up-and-coming Chinese director we’re showcasing in the 2016 selection named Jia Zhang-ke (The Hedonists). Just kidding.

allriversruntothesea_01Do short filmmakers manage to monetize (ie financially profit) from their films or are they a means to end to get noticed on a grander stage like the Toronto International Film Festival?

Certainly, it can be a tough to monetize (as it is for just about everything these days) but many of our Short Cuts selections go on to sell to distributors, broadcasters and even airlines (thanks, Air Canada!) all over the world. While it’s rarer in North America than it is elsewhere, theatrical distribution is not just a dream for our European, South American and Asian selections, thankfully, and online and subscription services are creating more venues too. Of course, filmmakers always appreciate prize money and we’re thrilled that Patrice Laliberté – whose Viaduct won for the Short Cuts Awards for Best Canadian Film last year – is already back with another new film, Late Night Drama. And what with the film world descending upon Toronto all at once, we do all we can to connect Short Cuts filmmakers with whoever they need to make the next movie(s) possible and capitalize on the exposure they get here.

If you are talking to a festival goer who typically only goes to the star driven events, how do you sell them on taking a chance on a Short Cuts programme?

Not only is Short Cuts where you’ll find the freshest talents and boldest innovations, it offers the greatest bang-for-buck. This is where you get the huge diversity of voices, perspectives, countries and styles that truly make TIFF the world’s greatest cinematic smorgasbord all in one (or 11) tightly curated package. We won’t waste a second of your time, dammit.

Well I know we’re sold, but if you are well please visit to find out more details about all the great short film programmes playing in the festival this year.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');