TORONTO INTERNATIONAL MUSIC VIDEO FESTIVAL
@ FOX THEATRE, TORONTO
NOVEMBER 12, 2023
Years in the making, the Toronto International Music Video Festival had its first annual run on November 12, 2023, bringing together people from all over the world to celebrate a film medium that has never quite gotten the recognition it deserves. The festival was created by Mac Downey, Ryan Cowan, and Jacob Sero, who got their start in the music video industry and wanted to do something to give back. “We’ve been talking about this idea for a while now,” Downey says. “We always found that with the amount of work that goes into music videos, the amount of artistic vision, and so on, there’s really not a lot of award-based representation out there, at least not on the scale we’re looking for.”
You could feel the excitement in the air as you walked into the Fox Theatre. It was a very friendly environment as fellow filmmakers, and enthusiasts mingled amongst each other before being seated to listen to the first educational panel. “We didn’t realize we connected with this many people in the city, but we did, and it actually sold out the day of which is insane. We spent years planning this and to see those first few people walk in the door, excited to see their names on the attendance list and get their general admission pass. . . I don’t know, it was just one of those moments where it hits you that the idea we’ve spent so long planning is happening. It’s a great feeling.” Downey says.
Host Akil McKenzie warmed up the crowd and had everyone laughing at his wisecracks right off the bat. McKenzie is also known for being a hip-hop artist by the name of Unsighted Poet and for running a production company called Falling Motion, so he fit the bill perfectly for the newly-minted music video festival.
With everyone settled in, industry panelists Mikayla Fasullo and LeSean Harris of Fela took to the stage for an in-depth discussion on what it is like to produce music videos for some of the biggest names in music. Fela is one of Toronto’s leading production companies, founded by Director X and Taj Critchlow. They create everything from music videos to narrative films. The level of detail Harris and Fasullo went in to give the listeners an understanding of the industry was impressive. The audience got a kick out of hearing stories about working on productions for artists like Drake and Usher.
After a smooth transition by McKenzie, it was time for the roundtable discussion. This consisted of Alex Rozanec of TrePalm, director and photographer The 97, freelance director and editor Brendan Barnard, and Fasullo from Fela. It was fun hearing how these individuals got their start in the industry and the personal motives to keep the creative juices flowing. The Q&A section was especially informative, and a lot of the audience members were excited to be talking to people they look up to and are fans of.
Following a brief intermission, it was time to dim the lights and watch the official selection screening of the 2023 Toronto International Music Video Festival, and it did not disappoint. Every screening was so distinct that it was hard for anyone to take their eyes off of the screen, with videos from all different parts of the globe, of all different languages and styles.
“We really tried to message every blog in existence worldwide about the festival.” Downey mentions “And that gave us some traction. We got submissions from Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, Brazil. And again, for a first-year festival, that’s pretty amazing. The average person may think that the majority will be from Toronto, Canada but it really was a mixed bag of everything around the planet. I can’t stress enough that we really did get a lot of fantastic submissions and it was insanely difficult to break down what’s going to get shown and what’s going to win.”
Some of the standouts included Best Editing winner Deja Vu-Noa Kirel by Roman Buchatsky, Best Music Video winner Josephine-Tya by Miranda MacDougall, and Audience Favourite All Out-Doflame directed by Noah Douglas, which charmed everybody with its fast-paced style and comedic timing.
The crowd then headed over to the after-mixer hosted at Outrigger to get friendly with each other and talk passion projects. As everybody looked back on all the great work they saw that day, it was tough not to look forward to next year’s event which will build on everything that went down this year, with a major focus on informational panels.
“Our goal next year is to expand” Downey explains “I can’t confirm how many days, but we want to do around three. We wanted to keep it contained for our first year and not bite off more than we could chew. But next year, we’d like to have more showcases. Growing up working on music videos, it’s a lot of ‘learn as you go’. There aren’t really any guidebooks, so we really want to have even more panels and discussions with students so they can ask any questions they like because there’s a lot of gatekeeping in this industry. It’s hard to break those barriers and we really want to open that up. That’s kind of our big goal.”
All-in-all this event seems destined to become a Toronto staple for years to come.