Twenty-four students in Buffalo State’s television and film arts program got the experience of a lifetime on September 10-12. They attended the legendary Toronto International Film Festival, which draws actors, directors, and producers from all over the world.
“The festival is not about star-gazing, but about getting to ask people who work in the business how to break in,” said director of television and film arts Jeffrey Hirschberg, who organized and led the trip. “It’s giving the students a taste of Hollywood and a glimpse of the careers they want to pursue.”
Lou Rera, associate professor of communication; Gail Wells, director of Student Life; and Charlene Fontana, assistant to the director of Student Life, also attended the trip funded by the Student Life Office.
Along with viewing three to four movie premieres, the students participated in a private tour of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the home of the film festival. They also met one-on-one with Canadian producer Don Carmody—the “Steven Spielberg of Canada,” according to Hirschberg.
“He had a lot of great insights, and provided lots of information about the film industry I wouldn’t have thought of,” said junior Julia Squilla, who hopes to be a film producer.
The students also met members of the band Pearl Jam, along with director Cameron Crowe, whose documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, was featured at the festival. Students also got to meet famed director Francis Ford Coppola and actor Val Kilmer, who were there promoting the film Twixt.
For Squilla, the trip provided a great opportunity to learn “how the business works, how people in the business think, and where the business is heading.”
The trip also provided a good team-building experience for students who are enrolled in a small and very personalized program.
“We want to foster that camaraderie and collaboration in as many ways as possible,” Hirschberg said.
This is the second year film students have attended the Toronto festival. Hirschberg said he hopes to make it an annual event. When so many Hollywood figures descend upon a city less than two hours away, it makes sense.
“We want to continue this process and branch out to do the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City,” he said. “I’m working with Student Life on pre-planning that event right now.”
Going forward, Hirschberg said that the television and film arts program aspires to form a strategic partnership with the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which will enable students to attend seminars, view films, conduct film research, and participate in hands-on projects. He envisions taking classes to Toronto on day trips once or twice a semester.
“The TIFF Bell Lightbox hasn’t formed a formal partnership with a college before,” Hirschberg said, “so it’s very exciting.”