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Canucks eye local star system

Fest chief ponders ways to keep film talent from going south

MONTREAL — Toronto film fest co-director Cameron Bailey was staying up nights trying to figure out why English-Canadian film stars in the Great White North haven’t enjoyed the same kind of notoriety as their French-lingo cousins.

“I’ve been — like many people in Canada — scratching my head and wondering, and sometimes having latenight arguments, about why there isn’t a successful star system in English-Canadian film,” says Bailey. “We certainly have one in Quebec. We have one now in English-Canadian television, and in music and books and nearly every other artistic endeavor in this country.”

But Bailey well understands that the lure of the industry south of the border is great.

“Many of our most talented actors quickly go south and begin working, largely in L.A.,” he says. “But I do feel there’s enough of a base of talent in the country, and enough work here in Canada, that we should be able to get (a star system) going.”

Handy then, that Bailey, and many of his colleagues who feel the same way, have the international platform of the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. The festival’s Rising Stars program celebrates four Canuck actors who are beginning to make waves outside Canada:

Sarah Allen (“Human Trafficking” and most recently in the Montreal-shot Syfy series “Being Human”); Katie Boland, (filming Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”); Sarah Gadon (who has roles in two TIFF titles, David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” and Mary Harron’s “The Moth Diaries”); and Keon Mohajeri (who stars in Iran-set, U.S.-produced “Circumstance”).

Both Allen and Mohajeri are alumni of the Canadian Film Center’s Actors Conservatory.

“We have a platform here in Toronto during the festival, and we have an institution that has generated enough connections in the film industry, so we think we can do at least a small part to help Canadian actors,” Bailey says.

The Toronto fest — in collaboration with the Canadian Film Centre and the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation — have worked together to set up the program and have booked days of meetings for the four actors with industry insiders.

“That (they festival is) putting (its) name behind me is a blessing and an honor,” Mohajeri says. “To be one of the Rising Stars in the first year they do this, and to be the only guy with three beautiful women accompanying me, is amazing.”

And even better than the ladies?

“It will allow me access,” he says. “It will put me in front of people who’re doing really interesting things.”

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