Toronto Smartphone Film Festival

The 5th Annual Toronto Smartphone Film Festival

TSFF was held June 3rd & 4th, 2016, and when I first came across the announcement in NOW my initial reaction was “Whaaaat?” but admittedly I was intrigued.

Digital cameras revolutionized amateur photography, without making professional photographers obsolete.  The smartphone film certainly will not be making professional filmmakers obsolete any time soon but It does offer individuals the opportunity to experiment and exercise their creativity – encouraging them to look at the world around them through the lens of their device, rather than merely being constantly mesmerized by what appears on it.

Due to a previous obligation I was only able to attend the Friday night opening and thus viewed only 15 of the 31 films presented in this year’s competition.  They represented a very interesting cross section of visual approaches that really got my own imagination galloping in regard to the possibilities offered by this medium.  I might even enter next year!

As far as the festival itself is concerned everyone involved was warm and welcoming and an intimate and casual atmosphere pervaded.  However, at least in my opinion, the structure and organization has a lot of room to grow.

Who participates?

The scope of any festival is only as great as the quality and quantity of projects submitted, but in order to draw a lot of submissions there need to be more incentives.  This is obviously far too new to break into genre categories – however I would have liked there to be distinction between those participants who are film professionals, and those who are genuine amateurs.  Also perhaps age categories: e.g. 16-20, 21-25, 26+ so that more youth will be encouraged to participate.

Technical Specifications:

Back in the day, in order to participate in a “Film Festival”, you had to provide a projection copy of your project on film.  I am not advocating that here, as much as I cherish the heritage of film making, digital moving images are more environmentally friendly.  What I WOULD like to see though is a more purist approach in requiring the auteurs to rely entirely on the capabilities of their chosen device and their own ingenuity.  I feel it is more challenging if it is about original ideas and creative solutions rather than an entrant’s economic ability to hire a cinematographer with his own Steadicam kit or book a professional editing suite.


I was actually refreshed that cell phone manufacturers were NOT involved.  It is also great that community businesses support the festival even if just through buying advertising in the program (though I was surprised that many of the web addresses in the program didn’t work).  That said, a broader spectrum of in-kind sponsors, e.g. film schools offering courses as prizes, telecom providers and electronics retail franchises offering SD memory, external storage, accessories etc. gift certificates would be another incentive that would help generate more interest.  That could also be a great promotional tool for getting the news out there – get those sponsors to promote the festival in their smart phone departments and on the smartphone merchandising pages of their websites… at least that is what I would do.  A general corporate sponsor like TD bank is wonderful to have, of course, but it would be great to supplement that support with point of purchase advertising.

Ok, I made this film, now who is going to see it?

Film festivals are all about creative people getting exposure for their work.  Why aren’t there more broadcasters involved in the event?  Kudos to Arirang Korea for their support of this effort, but people should be able to see all these great projects after the festival at any time, somewhere OTHER THAN the festival website which, quite frankly, is not very inspiring.  All of the official entries should be available and not only the winners because that is what is going to generate maximum social media out reach.  It would be wonderful to encourage participation by more of the multicultural communities in Canada and beyond!

In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting the awards announcements to appear on the website and for this year’s winning films to be made available for viewing.  I am also waiting for submissions to open up for the 6th Annual Toronto Smartphone Film Festival.

Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.


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