TIFF: Invoking the Creative Spirit of Toronto
Written by Tami Jones and Kristin Craik
Every September, the Stars and Starlets of Hollywood descend upon the streets of Toronto to torture the locals with massive traffic jams, longer lines, and limited parking. But aggravation isn’t all they bring; hundreds of thousands of tourist dollars don’t exactly hurt Canada’s largest city. The 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival is expected to bring in 400,000 extra warm bodies for eleven days starting on September 6th, 2012.
So what’s another 42 people in front of you at Starbucks every morning when you have the chance to watch aliens rubbing elbows and schmoozing with each other? Okay they’re not all aliens, just Tom Cruise, but you’re sure to be entertained by the world premieres, Hollywood pageantry, and just sitting back and watching the industry elite make their rounds.
Founded in 1976 under the name “The Festival of Festivals”, TIFF originally attracted only 35,000 people and has now grown to be one of the largest in the world. Probably partially because of the name change, seriously, “The Festival of Festivals”? That’s like naming this article “The Article of Articles”, and we all know how huge of a stretch that is.
The Toronto International Film Festival is now one of the most esteemed and engaging film festivals worldwide, second only to Cannes in terms of prestige – according to the festival organizers at Cannes. Screening more than 300 films from more than 60 countries every year, complete with red carpet glamour; Hollywood allure, the best in international cinema, and the warmth of Canadian hospitality (can’t claim that one, now can you, France?), the TIFF has earned a reputation for excellence.
The TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is ‘to transform the way people see the world through film’ – which means that if you think a movie totally sucks, they want you to think it doesn’t so you’ll come back again next year. And who can blame them with over $170 million CAD tourist dollars at risk? There are quite a few things I would try to transform if $170 million CAD were involved. Like my writing skills, for instance.
In recent years the TIFF has begun to give more attention to mainstream Hollywood films and many of the film studios are using the venue to begin their Oscar campaigns. Though focus remains on independent cinema, the Festival has grown to become a critical element of Hollywood's marketing machine. Let’s just hope that Hollyweird’s influence doesn’t extend much further into Toronto.
This year’s films include:
Ben Affleck stars in “Argo,” a film surrounding the events of “The Canadian Caper” in which highlights six Americans’ 1979 escape from Tehran after militants storm the US Embassy . Hiding at the Canadian Ambassador’s house and believing that at any moment they will be caught, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist creates an incredible plan to get them out of Iran, in a way that “could only happen in the movies.” Other notable names include Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler.
Hyde Park on Hudson
A film highlighting the weekend President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) hosted the King and Queen of England in their Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson in upstate New York. This was the first ever visit of a reigning English Monarch, set as Britain was facing imminent war with Germany, in which the Royals were desperate for FDR’s support. The weekend becomes unforgettable as international affairs are discussed throughout interruptions from the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment with wife, mother and mistresses descendance on the house. Other notable names include Samuel West, Olivia Colman and Laura Linney.
Introduced at Comic-Con 2012, “Looper,” the futuristic action thriller, depicts a world in which time travel has been invented, but is made illegal and thus only available on the black market. The mob still thrives and utilizes time travel to get rid of complications, thus the need for a “looper” who travels years into the past as a hired gun. Joseph Gordon Levitt stars as Joe, a regular looper who lives well at what he does, until the mob decides to “close the loop” by sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) to assassinate his past. Other notable names include Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.