Posted by Vivek on September 9, 2013 | No Comments

What many know and are aware of is the Toronto International Film Festival, however, at the same time as TIFF, is another, more grounded, more rooted and more community oriented festival, happening, in a very historical part of a Toronto (the St Lawrence Market). Here we talk to the brains and the energy, behind Commffest, Sandie De Freitas, who passionately combines her day job as a Producer, with running and administering a festival, that has become synonymous with Community and Debate and audience interactions:

 On starting out?

Around 1991 I discovered the filmmaker in me which added to my passion for screenwriting.  A friend on seeing my organizational and entrepreneurial skills tried to persuade me to become a film and television producer. I began pursuing filmmaking and have written and directed a couple of shorts with the intention of creating more particular a TV series.

The motivation and drive behind organizing Commffest, in Toronto?

Commffest came about in the 90′s, after working for a not for profit film distribution company I was amazed at seeing many great films produced by hard working independent filmmakers whose main goal was to get their social and cultural messages to the public. However, these films sat on shelves collecting dust. At the time my knowledge of the world was influenced through mainstream media and had very little knowledge of the ‘real’ world. From that day I vowed I would find a way for the public to see those films. The opportunity presented itself in 2005 when the Artists Residence where I live asked me to come with an imitative for the building. Hence COMMFFEST was such a success that as a pilot project  people urged me to continue it. The following year we moved into the Rainbow Cinema it’s present home

How has the festival evolved, over the years?

The festival started as a 3 day event screening 20 films addressing local communities and has grown to become a global film festival screening over 60 films from around the globe over 4 days with a second location in Scarborough at The Malvern Public library. Dynamic panel discussions following selected films are fast becoming an event highlight.

In addition to student showcases and more recently senior programs we have included a children’s film festival called COMMFFEST KIDDS that began in 2009 where over 200 children from neighboring schools attend over 300 are expected this year. A youth educational program was created in 2006 assisting the neighborhood youth as well as adults to create 5 minute films that are screened a t Commffest. “We created a slogan on a pin back button aimed at youth “shoot a camera not a gun”    We now have an award presentation (Making A difference Award) that takes place after our closing night film to be held at the Rainbow.

Our popular Filmmakers Networking Buffet /Brunch is slated for Sunday 14th 10.00am. at the famous Hot House Café

What should our readers look forward to, for Commffest 2013?

After many submissions that addressed faith we put together a dynamic program called Commffest Multifaith film fest – a presentation from around the world bringing together and addressing faiths under one roof followed by a panel discussion by GTA interfaith leaders . Sunday Sept 14th – 4.30pm

On the challenges of organizing a festival of this magnitude?

There are many challenges to running a film festival. First and foremost it is a business and has to be treated as such. Secondly it is a business that is 99% marketing and 1% films. This is not to be down play the importance of the films; quite the contrary. Without a real marketing plan there is no festival and hence no films will be seen. Even with adequate funding which is another huge challenge unless one understands the marketing of a film festival money will be wasted. Every film has a different audience and that’s where the filmmaker is key. The filmmaker knows or must know his audience. For a successful film festival to occur the filmmaker must work with the festival directors to get the word out to his audience whether that be friends organizations the media or social media. After all this is the filmmaker’s career. One only has to look at Hollywood’s example of how they market their films, the millions they spend and why they only use bankable stars and yet those bankable stars are still expected to go out and promote their films to no end.  The key is promote, promote and promote again. Knowing this COMMFFEST started an online radio show at the beginning of the year to constantly keep its name in the public ear. Its called Commffest radio; as well as co producing a series of short films previously screened at COMMFFEST  on Rogers Community Channel.

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