Woman We Love: Jane Schoettle, TIFF International Programmer
Woman We Love: Jane Schoettle, TIFF International Programmer
Jane Schoettle is an International Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, where she is responsible for programming films from Australia, New Zealand and Israel, as well as American independent cinema. She’s also the founder and past Director of the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. - TIFF Official Bio
We sat down with this hardworking, international traveler in the calm before the TIFF of 2012 storm to talk programming, women in filmmaking – and of course, celeb gossip.
WDish: What is the best thing about being a programmer at a film festival? The worst?
Jane Schoettle: You know, once a filmmaker puts a film into cinemas, they have no interaction with the people that they made it for, so a festival is a really unique opportunity! It’s where the rubber hits the road and they have a one-time opportunity to interact with people who have just seen their film—so that part is fun.
The worst part is the sitting. I hate sitting on planes. I hate sitting in the cinema. There are days I sit in the cinema for twelve hours a day. It drives me crazy. And of course, having to say ‘no’ to people. I probably spend many more hours than I should and many more ounces of my own psyche attempting to tell people ‘no’ in a way so that they still go on to make more films.
WD: Could you explain a little about the process of programming a film?
JS: There are really two strands that you have to look at. One side is actually screening as many films as are submitted to us (or we can see) and the other side of it is how you make your decisions.
Here’s the arc of my year: it starts in January—that’s when I start going to other festivals, which includes Sundance. I usually go to Australia and SXSW in March—that might sometimes include New Zealand—and then in April, I go to Israel and then I go to Cannes in May. And sometimes I might make a couple of trips to L.A. But by the time that Cannes is finished, I am back in our Toronto offices until the end of TIFF. What I’m doing at those other festivals is not so much looking for films to bring to us, but I’m seeing what is new: what are the new films that are out there, who has a new film this year.
WD: It seems like film programming requires a very nurturing character. Can you speak to that?
JS: For emerging filmmakers, it is not a kind climate, no matter what people say. Filmmaking is the kind of thing where it is extremely difficult to succeed--even more so than, I would say, if you are a dancer or actor or novelist because those are all things where you can hone your craft—by going to a class, for example. You can also rewrite your novel four times until it is right. That doesn’t happen with film.
And there’s really no form for filmmakers to fail, repeatedly. Their work goes out there, and if your first film isn’t successful, it’s a lot harder to get your second one made. So I have an extraordinary amount of empathy for filmmakers as artists.
WD: Meeting actors and directors over the years must allow for some juicy gossip. Is there a favourite story or celebrity encounter that you care to share?
JS: I can say with great confidence that George Clooney and Edward Norton have wonderful manners. Pierce Brosnan also. Most are extremely gracious and really lovely. And their feet hurt— especially the women. Emily Blunt spent a long time on stage last year for My Sister’s Sister with the Q&A in the most extraordinary Louboutin shoes, and the minute we got offstage, she shouted: ‘I can hardly wait to take these shoes off…’ and she did, then proceeded to walk barefoot to her car.
WD: Assuming these films are like your children, and you don’t (or can’t) have any real favourites, which ones are you secretly rooting for?
JS: I get asked that every year, but I will say that every film I am showing is not the result of a casual decision. This is an extremely strong year. Every single film is there because it checks off certain boxes for me.
The first one is: Is this going to be a quality viewing experience for our audience? Check. Is it a film where the filmmaker can make the most of his/her opportunity at TIFF? Check. Does this film speak to a certain portion of our audience? I have in my program films that cost $15-20 million to make and ones that cost, I promise you, $50,000—maybe less. And within that gamut, I would not draw any comparison in the viewing experience. They are apples and oranges but they are all carefully vetted and programmed for a reason and just as satisfying.
WD: There always seems be talk about how filmmaking is—or was— a man’s world. How has the landscape of filmmaking for women changed in recent years?
JS: It is still overwhelmingly a man’s world—a white man’s world. And I will say that—still, to this day—maybe five per cent of studio executives are women. It’s the same in terms of directors. It is a little better in Canada but when you look at the United States— how many women are members of the Academy? How many women are on the Board of the Academy? In terms of decision-making positions—none at all. None at all.
I would love to see more women in the director’s chair. I think that has been slowly happening in the last five years. We are still not anywhere close to where I would like us to be, and I think that there is a ceiling of sorts, but things are slightly changing. I would like to see more women’s voices—in the world as a whole—and in the world of cinema.
WD: What types of scenes would you like to see more of in today’s films? What scenes would you never like to see again?
JS: I am absolutely sick to death of the exploitation of women—sexually, politically, and in a power sense. I am tired of seeing wonderful actresses relegated to the role of a girlfriend or a mother. If I never saw another film where nominal characters on the run from something pull up in a cheesy motel on the side of a highway in Santa Fe, I would be thrilled.
But what I would like to see are films that are not so derivative. Every time a filmmaker moves forward and pushes the envelope, or does something interesting—either formally or through content, I will inevitably see ten more films that year that are like that, but never really hit the mark.
WD: You must see hundreds of films a year. What do you do to get away from it all? Presumably, you don’t go to the movies.
JS: I actually do! I actually go see different movies. I love movies where stuff blows up! The Raid (2011) was one of my favourite films from last year. I love Asian films like Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003) and Tony Jaa, I love the Ip Man series.
I don’t travel very much because I travel so much for work. I walk my dogs on the boardwalk. I cook dinner for my friends. I read a lot. I have a place in the desert in Palm Springs that I try to go to for a couple of weeks a year. I go to the casino to play poker! Things that do not involve more sitting…
iV: Finish this sentence: ‘When the lights go down...’
JS: ‘I can hardly wait.’