Secrets of the Biz – Toronto International Film Festival

For this “Secrets of the Biz” article we sat down with Rachel Noonan, Director of Marketing, Strategies, and Communications at the Toronto International Film Festival aka TIFF.

Tell us about what you do for TIFF?

I lead the marketing, strategy and communications for Dept. 30, TIFF’s in-house agency — a nerve centre for marketing, communications, creative and multimedia editorial content. Inspired by the old school -30- that signifies the end of a communication and the coincidental name of our departmental photocopier, DEPT 30 is a multidisciplinary team of designers, content producers, publicists, marketing and social media experts, editors, writers, technicians, and production managers, all dedicated to celebrating and promoting both TIFF programming and film culture on an international scale.


Rachel Noonan – Director of Marketing, Strategies, and Communications at TIFF.

What’s your secret to attracting new filmmakers to submit their films?

TIFF is a global platform that celebrates and gives so many amazing voices the ability to share their stories. The diversity of the programming, the energy of the crowds, the future that many of our directors, writers, producers, and other creative cats go on to have is an on-going source of inspiration for our next generation of filmmakers to submit to TIFF. From Barry Jenkins to David Cronenberg premiering some of their most affecting, works; each year the festival evolves and inspires burgeoning and established filmmakers to premiere their films at the festival. This year we had a total of 7,299 submissions, with 6,166 of them International.


Barry Jenkins hoisting his Oscar!

You’ve been in the business of Marketing and Strategy for many years. Are there any companies out there that you feel are finding new and exciting ways to promote their films?

Studios have always put a focus on fun and engaging first weekend launches of their films and really understand how to harness either the power of mass marketing or the impact of experiential and promotional marketing. They found really cool ways to extend the narratives of their films into pop-ups, great PR stunts and other galvanizing touch points that would put a film top of mind for theatre-goers on first weekends. One of the most impressive campaigns I have seen in a long time was the Hidden Figures launch. It was long lead, brought to life by great promotions with partners like IBM that celebrated women in the world of computers through a variety of touch points (I was at CES in January and they had an amazing installation where you could learn about the characters and their impact on our history of innovation). They hit it out of the park with the soundtrack and had great anticipation building PR pushes like advance screenings of short clips of the film accompanied by a live performances with Pharrell Williams and they wrapped it up with a beautiful media tour highlighting the trailblazers who are the Hidden Figures. Lots of love to 20th Century Fox and associated teams for bringing a great campaign to life for such an important and entertaining film!


What activations are you the most stoked to see come to fruition?

Bell has put together a really immersive experience for free for anyone who hits festival street at David Pecaut Square from September 7-10. To celebrate the best of VR films and experiences, Bell is hosting the “Bell VR Theatre”, highlighting top innovation in cinematic storytelling. Academy Award winning director and Flight School Studio CCO, Brandon Oldenburg has curated an amazing line-up, that includes but not limited to: Asteroids by Asteroids by Eric Darnell from Baobab Studios • IT by Warner Bros / Sunnyboy Studios • Longing For Wilderness by Marc Zimmerman • Kinoscope by Ex Nihilo & AudioGaming Studios.

Any under the radar films we should be on the lookout for?

These are the films that deserve your attention:
The Florida Project: This film is a contender for all the awards
Seen and Unseen: It will make an impression
Call me by your name: You will thank me for this one! – TRAILER
The Number: Intense and worth every minute of it


What are the perks for the hundreds of volunteer’s we always see during TIFF?

There are some pretty amazing perks for the people who make the festival happen each year. We have 3,200 volunteers who we are lucky to count among the TIFF family. A few highlights include…

Volunteer Reward Vouchers to redeem for tickets to film screenings (at TBLB year-round and all Festivals).
Discount on merch at the TIFF shop.
Discount on TIFF memberships where you get surprise screenings, free access to some of our programming, early access to purchase tickets!
Exclusive preview screenings and a special screening of the PCA winning film at the end of Festival (this one is a volunteer favourite).
Various social events, parties, brunches…
Chance to meet new people/fellow film lovers, make new friends!
Gain new skills and experiences for those interested in a career in the art & culture/events sector.


“If you build it, they will come” – How do you continue to build such a strong community around TIFF?

That’s a great question. Making sure that storytelling is the driving force behind our programming decisions, the way we engage our audiences and how we imagine the experiences we build around the films we share with the world helps keep the community connection strong and growing. Over the last three years we have extended TIFF beyond the festival and TIFF Bell Lightbox to include amazing Podcasts, more immersive promotions, video essays and a regular cadence of film commentary with our online publication The Review where we explore film from all angles. This always-on approach has enabled us to take the stories from the screen and weave us into people’s everyday lives in an authentic way.

Besides the film festival, are there any other programs/events that are held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox?

The festival is one of many things we get audiences excited about! Right now we have a really cool VR experience called 2167 where filmmakers and artists imagine Indigenous life 150 years in the future. We have a season kicking off featuring masters of style and icons of resistance, including a groundbreaking series celebrating black stardom, resistance in Filipino cinema; retrospectives on the most stylish storytellers out there…..Andrei Tarkovsky, Denis Villeneuve and Sofia Coppola; and in-person appearances by Johnnie To and Kidlat Tahimik.

We also take a screening beyond the celluloid to connect in IRL where we live everyday with events like our yearly fundraiser BOOMBOX that raise money for film preservations, community programming and other really cool film inspired programming!

Tell us a secret. Don’t worry we won’t tell.

I thought some cool facts might be equally as interesting as a secret…

74 Countries

27 Screens used

13 Programmes

27,438 Minutes of film

197′ Longest film: Ex Libris – The New York Public Library

2′ Shortest film(s): Catastrophe and some cities

28 Canadian features, including co-productions

25 Canadian features making their World Premiere, including co-productions

29 Canadian shorts, including co-productions

8 Food trucks featured at Festival Street