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culture

TIFF Short Films Get Longer Exposure on YouTube

For the first time, TIFF is putting some of its short-film selections on YouTube.

The most popular film so far at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival didn’t open with a red carpet and has no Oscar buzz. Noah is the debut short from recent Ryerson grads Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, and it’s been seen by over 220,000 people in the past three days. This is thanks to a new initiative allowing even laziest of do-nothings to watch TIFF movies without ever actually leaving their houses and going to TIFF.

This year, for the first time, TIFF offered each of its shorts directors the chance to have their film posted on the festival’s YouTube channel approximately 24 hours after the in-theatre premiere. The idea is to give greater visibility to emerging talent—though not all of the directors have chosen to screen their work online. Of the 39 films in this year’s shorts lineup, just over half of the filmmakers have taken TIFF up on the offer.

“It really depends on the filmmaker, and what they want to do with the film,” says Short Cuts Canada programmer Alex Rogalski, “For a number of them, this is exactly what they were looking to do with their film after the festival: get it online, get more people seeing it. They’re very excited about their films, so having them available online—especially hosted through the TIFF channel—is great exposure.”

Noah almost seems custom-made for the TIFF-meets-YouTube model. The film traces a teenage breakup told entirely through the various devices and websites the characters use to communicate. Toggling back and forth between porn, Facebook, Skype, iMessenger, and Chatroulette, it’s like a 17-minute moving screengrab of adolescent alienation and distraction. Its message may not be the most subtle, but it crafts a disturbing portrait of digital immersion that has resonated with online audiences.

“I know the filmmakers, and there’s no major team behind it. That’s purely just word of mouth. It’s taken off because it’s one of the most unique films we have this year. And it just fits with the online community that’s watching it,” says Rogalski. Getting picked up by Gawker definitely helped speed things along.

Noah isn’t the only short that’s found a wider audience on TIFF’s YouTube channel. James Wilkes’ Young Wonder, about two brothers playing make-believe (and swearing at each other) in the woods, has surpassed 150,000 views, while Jeremy LaLonde’s Out and Gregory Smith’s Method have gained modest-but-solid followings in the low four digits.

Short films from two more programmes will be posted on the channel throughout the next few days, and all the shorts will remain online until September 19. Check ‘em before they’re gone.

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