Toronto Film Fest to Demand Talent, Industry Mask Up for 2021 Edition

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The Toronto Film Festival has issued a demand that Hollywood stars attending its upcoming 2022 edition to launch their latest movies in-person must mask up at all theaters and affiliated venues, except when on stage or strutting up  red carpets.

“Talent will be required to wear a mask at all times at TIFF Festival venues and TIFF-provided vehicles. The only exceptions include when talent are on the red carpet and on stage,” the festival said as it unveiled its COVID-19 protocols for talent, rights holders, press and industry for its upcoming September 9 to 18 edition.

TIFF will also require proof of vaccination to gain entry into festival venues as Canada has begun allowing entry only to fully vaccinated Americans starting on Aug. 9. And talent attending TIFF will be required to do a PCR test within 72 hours of arriving in Canada, and every 48 hours until their departure.

Elsewhere, artistic teams accompanying a film’s talent and director will require proof of a negative PCR test to gain entry to movie premieres, press conferences, ceremonies and other affiliated events. Media attending TIFF in person will similarly have to be tested every 48 hours and provide proof of a negative COVID test to attend red carpets.

The strict COVID protocols follow a decision by Toronto fest organizers to hold a portion of their event in-person. “Canada is one of the safest places to visit, with the lowest case incidence in the western hemisphere,” TIFF said in a statement as it pointed to a successful vaccine rollout countrywide amid a summer lull in COVID infection rates.

The 2021 Toronto Film Festival will effectively resemble last year’s hybrid event, with limited in-person film screenings. Last year TIFF first introduced its digital screening platform to comply with safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, Toronto organizers aim with mask-wearing, social distancing and COVID testing to get more Americans and other international filmmakers, media and other industry attendees to the Canadian festival for its upcoming Sept. 9 to 18 run than were available last year when a highly-restricted hybrid edition was staged amid the pandemic in September 2020.

The city of Toronto has seen a recent sharp decline in COVID infections during the summer months after a successful Canadian vaccination program. But the rising threat of the Delta variant has local politicians and health officials looking to stem a fourth wave virus infections expected in the Fall.

TIFF organizers plan to screen around 100 films during their 2021 edition, starting with Stephen Chbosky’s Dear Evan Hansen kicking off the 46th Toronto Film Festival as the opening night film at Roy Thomson Hall.

The Canadian government choosing to end quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated American visitors to Canada from August 9 means industry attendees can potentially travel to Toronto and not be required to isolate on arrival if they show proof of full vaccinations.

“These government measures now in place will allow TIFF to welcome a portion of its traditional volume of international press, industry and talent back to Toronto to be part of the festival,” the festival said.

By not having to demand proof of shots at TIFF venues, the Canadian festival can avoid an ethical minefield where fest-goers could have been denied entry to screenings and related events if they were unable to offer proof of vaccination or recovery to ease overall health and safety concerns.

At the same time, anyone without a valid PCR test document will not be allowed to accompany artistic teams to premiere a film. “Any person who, following a rapid nasopharynegeal PCR test, is found to be positive, will not be able to follow the teams to the presentation,” the festival added.

And TIFF will limit talent entourages to 20 people for a photo call, red carpets, backstage or green room areas, and a maximum of ten people will be allowed on stage at TIFF theaters for premieres, including TIFF execs introducing films.

Toronto organizers said they will update the festival COVID protocols when required as they work with local public health officials and politicians to ensure a safe 2021 edition.

Citing health concerns, Sundance organizers said they planned to ask industry players looking to attend their event on the ground in January 2022 to show they had been vaccinated.

For the upcoming Venice Film Festival, all festival attendees will need an official certificate proving they are fully vaccinated, have recovered from a COVID infection or have had a negative antigen test in order to enter the theaters and screen films once that event kicks off on Sept. 1.

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