Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #14, Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey
14 What began as a modest gathering of film nerds has, 40 years later, become the most important movie marketplace not named Cannes. As TIFF’s artistic director, Cameron Bailey is the gatekeeper: his 21 programmers pare 6,000 submissions down to some 400 feature-length films and shorts, usually containing a slew of big-time sales and a collection of Oscar contenders. This year, the sci-fi Kristen Stewart vehicle Equals sold for $16 million, and Hardcore, an obscure horror movie that screened at midnight, ignited a bidding war and sold for $10 million. Plus, films like Room and The Martian are locks for Oscar nominations come January. While Bailey’s focus is September, his counterpart CEO Piers Handling hypes TIFF the rest of the year. In 2015 he logged official visits to Iceland, France, the U.K., Italy, Poland, Germany, Belgium and Mexico, trumpeting the fest’s brand and squeezing in a few film screenings. At home, TIFF’s financial clout—it contributes $190 million to the local economy—goes a long way. After a series of sit-downs with the mayor, Handling was able to convince the city to pedestrianize five blocks on King Street for four days in order to host the TIFF street festival—no small feat in a city already paralyzed by gridlock. Handling has also co-curated some of the most successful exhibitions at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, including a David Cronenberg retrospective now on an international tour with stops in Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Handling is an active mountaineer who sits on the board of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation and trained with Peter Habeler, the first person to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen.