Toronto is a world-class film city. We have so much going on in the film department all the time, but not every awesome film event, screening or even theatre is readily accessible (or affordable) to everyone in the city. If you live outside the downtown core it can be difficult to find quality film events in your area.
Enter Emily Reid, a local cultural programmer and Torontonian who created the Christie Pits Film Festival. Now in its third year, the festival — a free series of films that screen in beautiful Christie Pits Park — has screened eight films to over 3,000 people.
This year’s festival runs from July 14 to August 4, with films like The Last Waltz (July 28) and That Thing You Do! (August 4) yet to screen.
Reid took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to chat to us about the Festival.
Describe the event in 10 words or less.
A free, curated film program in Christie Pits Park.
What is the Christie Pits Film Festival?
CPFF is a free film festival that occurs weekly on Sundays during the summer in the natural amphitheatre of Christie Pits Park. The festival features a handful of curated screenings around an annual theme. This year, the program is titled “Hits in the Pits: outdoor movies about the rise and fall of great bands”. New this year, we are screening local shorts and music videos by Toronto musicians and filmmakers before the feature films.
How did this summer film series come to be?
When I moved to Toronto four years ago, I fell in love with Christie Pits Park. Having always been a fan of outdoor films – a fantastic way of getting cinephiles together while taking advantage of our few warm summer nights – I knew immediately that Christie Pits was a perfect location for an outdoor screening series.
Also, at the time I had recently completed my MA in Cinema Studies, and I was a budding film programmer so this was a fantastic project for me professionally.
I started the festival from the ground up, learning the steps along the way and securing funding simultaneously. In 2011, the festival’s first year, we had two screenings. It has grown ever since.
What makes the Christie Pits Film Festival stand out from other film events in Toronto?
There’s something very magical and nostalgic about seeing movies in a beautiful park. We capitalize just a bit on the nostalgia factor in our programming choices, bridging the gap between popular cult films and critical favourites.
Though there are several outdoor festivals in the city, few are in parks and none are in the Bloor west neighborhood. I wanted to create accessible outdoor programming for people in this neighborhood, on weekends.
What can we look forward to in the remaining events?
Our first few screenings have had fantastic crowds! Our second-last screening, The Last Waltz this Sunday evening, promises to bring a great crowd for this gem by Martin Scorsese. Because our opening night screening of That Thing You Do! was unfortunately rained out on July 7, we have rescheduled it as our closing night screening on August 4!
What does your role as Festival Director entail and why do you enjoy it?
My role as Festival Director means that I oversee everything. Because we don’t have the funding for salaries – yet – I used to run every aspect of the festival by myself, with the exception of the fantastic graphic design that my friend Nikin Nagewadia has done since the beginning. This year, though, I’ve been very lucky to have the help of two more people who have helped me put the festival together. It’s becoming too big for just one person!
What can we look forward to at the next Christie Pits Film Festival?
We’ve already begun programming next summer’s festival! I can’t share our secrets yet, but I can say that we hope to incorporate the park setting in the program in an even more significant way next year.
What’s your hope for the future of the festival?
I hope we can keep growing! Our audience has proven to us that they’ll come out in large numbers for our screenings, so we’re doing something right! Next year’s challenge, though: figure out how to pay our staff so we can be a more sustainable festival.
The Christie Pits Film Festival runs from July 14 to August 4, 2013. Check their website for more details about this fun (and free) event.
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