Bright lights, big kitty: Film fest fundrais­ers rake in $1.1 mil­lion

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - VICTORIA GIB­SON STAFF REPORTER

What would Amer­i­can fashion de­signer Zac Posen whip up if he were cook­ing din­ner for you and ac­tress Su­san Saran­don?

A guest at Artists for Peace and Jus­tice’s ninth an­nual Fes­ti­val Gala paid be­tween $25,000 and $60,000 to find out. The de­signer din­ner was one of numer­ous ul­tra-glam prizes in a ritzy, celebri­tys­tud­ded char­ity auc­tion at the Art Gallery of On­tario.

Fancy a hike up Peru’s Rain­bow Moun­tain along­side su­per­model Pe­tra Nem­cova? No problem.

Long­ing for a VIP night with Paul McCart­ney in New Mex­ico, with Paul Hag­gis and Ben Stiller on ei­ther arm as dates? That’s doable. But it’ll cost you. All tal­lied, last Sun­day’s raz­zle-daz­zle list of ac­tiv­i­ties raked in more than $300,000.

Add in the $25,000 price tag for a ta­ble, $2,500 for a sin­gle ticket, plus spon­sor­ships and pledges, and this year’s fundrais­ing to­tal hit $1.1 mil­lion, with all pro­ceeds go­ing to a school the or­ga­ni­za­tion built in Haiti.

At one point, ac­tor Cuba Good­ing Jr. of­fered a visit to the set of his next project, ser­e­nad­ing the au­di­ence with a ren­di­tion of “O Canada” and im­plor­ing them, of course, to show him the money.

Many of the evening’s hosts — in­clud­ing Stiller, Hag­gis, Good­ing, Mor­gan Spur­lock, Yan­nick Bis­son and Ge­orge Stroum­boulopou­los — pitched in to serve din­ner to the well­heeled guests.

This is what it takes to elicit do­na­tions dur­ing the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, which is pig­gy­backed each year by numer­ous char­i­ta­ble events, mak­ing good use of all the bold­face names and me­dia cov­er­age al­ready in town.

“Be­fore the earth­quake hit in Haiti (in 2010), half the peo­ple didn’t even know where Haiti was,” co-or­ga­nizer and PR mag­nate Natasha Koifman said, chat­ting with the Star by phone in the days be­fore Sun­day’s event.

A decade ago, a fundrais­ing event would be for­tu­nate to pull in $50,000, Koifman says. Film fes­ti­vals weren’t, in her eye, a tra­di­tional place to elicit char­ity. Most at­ten­dees were more in­ter­ested in go­ing to par­ties than be­ing “par­tic­u­larly phil­an­thropic.”

“Of­ten you see char­ity events where you spend more on the gala than you’re giv­ing back,” she said, proudly not­ing that “every sin­gle dol­lar” spent at the an­nual APJ gala is ac­counted for.

Us­ing the sheen of the film fes­ti­val to elicit do­na­tions isn’t unique to Artists for Peace and Jus­tice. TIFF it­self is a reg­is­tered char­ity, and hosts a char­i­ta­ble Soiree the night be­fore the event be­gins. This year’s fea­tured ac­tress Priyanka Cho­pra as guest of hon­our. The fes­ti­val’s ad­vance­ment of­fice de­clined to speak about its char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ours un­til af­ter TIFF con­cludes on Sun­day.

Of course, not every TIFF-linked char­ity event pig­gy­back­ing ap­pears in the form of a gala — nor are they all par­tic­u­larly glam­orous. As per tra­di­tion since 1998, the Cana­dian Film Cen­tre founder, di­rec­tor Nor­man

“Of­ten you see char­ity events where you spend more on the gala than you’re giv­ing back.” NATASHA KOIFMAN ARTISTS FOR PEACE AND JUS­TICE CO-OR­GA­NIZER

Jewi­son, hosted a bar­be­cue on the first Sun­day of the fes­ti­val to cel­e­brate its alumni. In re­cent years, the event has mor­phed into more of a fundraiser — “out of ne­ces­sity,” spokesper­son Cory An­geletti-Szasz ex­plained.

“It’s a very crowded mar­ket for fundrais­ing, and we had to make use of the as­sets we al­ready had,” she said. “We had the bar­be­cue al­ready in place.”

This year’s event promised a glimpse of celebri­ties like Ta­tiana Maslany (who ap­peared this year in Stronger, op­po­site Jake Gyl­len­haal), The Carter Ef­fect di­rec­tor Sean Me­nard and the cast of Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies.

“It’s a ma­jor fundrais­ing event for us,” An­geletti-Szasz said.

The CFC de­clined to dis­close the amount it raised dur­ing 2017’s sunny af­fair, or pre­vi­ous years, but said it was its sec­ond-largest phil­an­thropic event af­ter an an­nual gala in Fe­bru­ary. Pro­ceeds went to mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary pro­grams for film, tele­vi­sion, screen act­ing, mu­sic and dig­i­tal me­dia.

Pri­mar­ily, she added, the event was there to thank their spon­sors and donors.

“They ben­e­fit from recog­ni­tion at the event,” she said, “be­cause it’s a very pop­u­lar event that draws a lot of in­di­vid­u­als who are in town for TIFF.”

DIM­ITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY IM­AGES FOR CLARA LIONEL FOUN­DA­TION

A hike in Peru with su­per­model Pe­tra Nem­cova was on of­fer at Artists for Peace and Jus­tice’s ninth an­nual Fes­ti­val Gala.

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