Off to Toronto but Only at Swat

This September I was lucky enough to attend the Toronto International Film Festival (otherwise known as TIFF) thanks to generous funding from the Department of Film and Media Studies and the Dean’s Office Conference Grant Fund. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the world’s leading film festivals and one of three major fall film festivals that helps kick off the release of many awards contenders. TIFF has premiered critical darlings like Room (2015) and 12 Years a Slave (2013) — and the festival this year screened several awards season contenders including La La Land, Moonlight, and more.

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I began the process to get funding to attend TIFF in earnest my junior spring when I conferred with film professors to see if it would fit within the department’s budget. After speaking with them and justifying how it would fit into my larger education plan and goals, I was able to write and submit a trip budget and short proposal to both the department and the Dean’s Office. After about a week or so I heard back that my festival trip was funded and I would be off to Toronto come September!

Before I move onto what I actually did in Toronto and what an incredible opportunity it was, I want to highlight how Swarthmore really tries to make conference funding accessible to students, no matter their financial background or academic discipline. While figuring out where the money is and how to get funding takes a little bit of effort, there are always resources to help along the way (especially if you ask your department chair, adviser, or a dean). This is something I particularly appreciate about Swarthmore. Once I found out I was going to TIFF, I heard from friends at my film internship in Los Angeles this summer that they couldn’t believe my college was paying for the trip, and that they could never get the money where they went to school. What could I say? The perks of going to a small liberal arts college!

But back to TIFF—I immersed myself in the festival and saw 20 films over the course of five days. It was a whirlwind filled with lots of popcorn, tired eyes, sore butts, and incredible cinema. My favorite films include La La Land directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, as well as Jackie directed by Pablo Larrain and starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Onassis-Kennedy.

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I wrote reviews for both of the films for The Daily Gazette, which helped me view the films through a more critical lens, but the trip also helped bolster my knowledge of the independent film business. While most of Swarthmore’s film curriculum focuses on theory and production, having on-the-ground experience at film festivals and summer experiences interning in the film industry back home in Los Angeles has helped me get a truly comprehensive knowledge of the realm of film and media.

As I’m inching closer and closer towards graduation I find myself increasingly grateful for all of the opportunities Swarthmore gives its students that are so easy to take for granted. Where else would I have been able to spend four years with such incredible people while being able to study in Australia for six months, fly to Austin for SXSW, and go to Toronto for one of the biggest film festivals? Well, only at Swarthmore.

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