Film festival showcases filmmakers’ stories in less than a minute

Jordan Di Lella took one day of pre-production, one day of shooting and several days of editing to make a one-minute silent film.

In 2010, Di Lella and his partner Chris Noble entered the Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) for the first time.

“We thought our film had a certain level of professionalism and quality to it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the panel is thinking anywhere near that expectation.”

Di Lella and Noble walked away empty-handed. That’s the reality for the majority of TUFF filmmakers.

According to Sharon Switzer, executive director of TUFF, about 410 films were submitted last year and of those only 63 were chosen to play on the subway screens. Films are selected by Switzer and Angie Driscoll, a professional programmer. Each one can be no longer than 60 seconds and silent because the monitors that show them don’t have sound.

Di Lella said the 60-second time limit open doors for more filmmakers.

“Short films are an interesting medium because you get to communicate a very exact idea in a very short amount of time,” he said. “It allows a lot of indie filmmakers to display their ideas because they can’t afford to or put the time into a full feature.”

Switzer has learned that a minute is more than enough for quality work.

Di Lella’s film had a fairy tale theme with a very clear statement.

“You really have to have a concise idea,” he said. “If you want your audience to be engaged, you have to have some pretty exciting or shocking imagery.”

However, if the film contains images that aren’t broadcast appropriate, it cannot be shown on public screens. Switzer created the website Too Tough for TUFF last year just so these works could be appreciated somewhere.

As TUFF grows its internet presence, it has also grown more international.

“Because they’re silent there is no language barrier,” she said.

Awards and screenings take place at the Drake Hotel to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) each year. Then, the films then play on monitors around the city for a week, allowing the filmmakers more exposure.

“(TUFF) brings creativity, storytelling and imagination and entertainment to people as they go throughout their day,” Switzer said. “It opens people’s worlds up a little bit when they happen to see a film on the subway.”

The last day of submissions is July 15. For more information go to


About this article

By: Whitney Reyes
Posted: Jun 4 2013 4:54 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life