The Toronto Film Festival’s executive director and chief operating officer Michele Maheux is a lifelong film enthusiast: She began her career while still at university, selling popcorn in Toronto’s now-defunct Phoenix Theatre. From that humble start, she’s moved up the ranks at TIFF after stints in exhibition and marketing. She’s now part of TIFF’s programming team (Netherlands and Ireland are her purview) in addition to overseeing TIFF’s year-round operations and its more than C$40 million ($51 million) annual budget.
Maheux is a dedicated fashionista and champion of Canadian designers. Without a doubt, she’s also a tireless advocate for the film-centric org. TIFF runs Sept. 8-18.
What’s new at TIFF this year?
We’re retrofitting a (Lightbox) flat-floor multi-use cinema for virtual reality during the last three days of festival. Although it’s new for us and we’re doing it on a very small scale, we’re making sure it’s a high-caliber experience. It’s a pop-up.
Who are you most looking forward to introducing?
I would have to name the special presentation by Paul Verhoeven that was at Cannes, “Elle,” starring Isabelle Huppert. She’s in a number of films at the festival this year, she’s this year’s “it” girl. We’re doing an In Conversation with her, as well.
What’s new at the festival for industry attendees?
The Filmmakers’ Lounge: We’ve taken a space that wasn’t quite constructed, right behind our building. On the main floor is an Artscape environment and we’re taking it over as a sponsored Filmmakers’ Lounge. It will be the hub for credentialed filmmakers, a place that will give them their own home. It’s a day-to-day place where they can go and find each other.
Favorite festival close spots?
Around the area, Momofuku by David Chang is fantastic; the Ivan Reitman-owned Montecito has really good food and consistently fabulous service. I like Canteen in our building for their steel-cut oats at breakfast, which keep you going for most of the day. For lunch, I like Cibo Wine Bar for fantastic Italian, big salads, and great antipasti. The Hyatt Hotel has a hole-in-the-wall gelato bar. After hours, I like the Shangri-la Lobby Bar or the Ritz Carlton terrace — it’s very private and very dark so you can hide. The bar at Montecito is one of my favorite places.
Tips for TIFF first-timers?
Bring a number of shoe changes. Dress in layers. Take vitamins. Eat healthfully.