Canadian Film Centre

Author:Guy Cunningham

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2489 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M2L 1A8


Telephone: (416) 445-1446

Fax: (416) 445-9481


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The 2004 Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival was the tenth in this series of prestigious events. The festival was sponsored by the Canadian Film Centre, a nonprofit organization based in Toronto that was dedicated to preparing future generations of filmmakers. Because the festival relied on government and corporate funding for its survival, growth from year to year was important. It was also important that the festival develop and maintain an identity separate from that of the noted Toronto International Film Festival, which was dedicated to feature-length films. Although they shared a home city, the two festivals were not connected.

The Canadian Film Centre worked with Taxi, a Toronto-based agency, to develop a campaign promoting the 2004 festival. Taxi did the work pro bono, continuing a relationship between the festival and the agency that dated to 2000. The campaign was built around a series of humorous television spots, broadcast on Canadian cable stations, that were designed to draw in a wide audience of moviegoers. Because the spots were done on behalf of a nonprofit center, they were considered public-service announcements, and the airtime, estimated to be worth about $3 million, was donated by the stations. One group of commercials featured a character named Ian Heidegger, a pretentious acting-teacher who demonstrated various techniques, which were invariably absurd, for performing in short films. One spot, titled "Special FX," featured Heidegger walking around with a cigarette stuck to his pants as a "special effect" for generating smoke. Taxi also created spots that underscored the fact that the festival was devoted to short films. At the same time, the spots cited aspects in common between short films and full-length features, such as special effects, to emphasize the similarity between the two mediums.

Like previous campaigns created by Taxi on the behalf of the festival, the 2004 spots were considered to be a success. Attendance continued to climb at a consistent pace—it had risen about 25 percent every year since Taxi began working with the festival—and submissions continued to come in from around the world. The campaign was also a hit with critics, and the "Special FX" spot won a 2005 Gold Clio Award. This was, however, the last campaign created by Taxi for the festival. In 2005, citing other commitments, the agency declined an offer to continue the relationship.

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A scene from an Ian Heidegger commercial for the 2004 Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival. Photo Courtesy of Taxi Canada.

The Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival was sponsored by the Canadian Film Centre, based in Toronto. The center was founded in 1988 by Norman Jewison, a Canadian native who had achieved success in Hollywood. It offered hands-on instruction to young Canadians who wanted to make a career in the film industry. The center typically took about 85 residents per year, all of whom received training from veterans of the film industry. The center's residents also collaborated on short film projects.

The center's 2004 festival was held from May 11 through May 16. It was the tenth year for the festival, and it featured entrants from around the world. As with past festivals, the entrants were grouped in two separate competitions, one for Canadian filmmakers and another for international...

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