Toronto event mulls possibilities for add'l topper

With Piers Handling set to step down as director of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival to concentrate on his role as CEO, speculation is rife as to who will land the job as co-director of the prestigious Canuck fest.

Many figure the job is Noah Cowan’s to lose. Cowan, the fest’s former associate director of programming, was also programmer of the popular Midnight Madness series and Asian films at Toronto. He left in 2000 to work in U.S. distribution in New York and now consults for Focus Features, among others.

Other names bandied about for the job include Adam Ostry, former executive director of the Ontario Media Development Corp., and Ted East, ex-senior VP of production and development at Alliance Atlantis.

Fest sources say the decision is far from foregone and that Cowan is one of a short list of candidates.

However, he has long been Handling’s favorite, and Toronto is an organization that likes to hire from within. Indeed, Handling said five years ago, “I think if I dropped dead tomorrow, Noah would probably end up running the festival.”

Handling is on vacation in London this week and isn’t due back until early next week. Interviews will start in the next couple of weeks, and Handling’s successor will be in place Jan. 1. This exec shuffle is designed to help the fest expand and take a serious run at becoming the world’s leading film festival, in front of Cannes and Venice.

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