Two dozen students in Buffalo State’s television and film arts program (TFA) got the rare chance to mingle with stars and see a handful of premiere films at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in mid-September.
This marks the seventh year that TFA director Jeffrey Hirschberg has taken a cadre of students to the festival that draws actors, directors, and producers from all over the world. He said exposing students to one of the top film festivals provides both a learning experience and a chance to network.
“I think we are the only college to bring students to the festival year after year,” Hirschberg said. “It’s a great recruiting and retention tool for Buffalo State.”
Over each of the three days, students had the chance to view as least one film premiere and meet Hollywood luminaries.
“I wanted to see great filmmakers at work, and that’s precisely what I got,” said junior TFA major Katie Lipczynski. “For example, I had the amazing opportunity to listen to (director) Rob Reiner speak, and that was, by far, my favorite experience.”
When he began taking students to TIFF, Hirschberg negotiated a reasonable price on a five-star hotel in downtown Toronto, as well as dinner at a nearby restaurant to make the trip affordable for more students. And the proprietors have kept the deal in ensuing years. Additionally, the TFA Foundation and the Student Success Office provide additional travel funding.
“This trip is great boost for students at the beginning of the fall semester. It gets them excited about doing the best work they can with their own projects,” Hirschberg said. “Toronto is also a bonding experience. Students from sophomores to seniors form lasting friendships.”
Lipczynski also noted the camaraderie that resulted from participating in TIFF together.
“There’s such a fantastic sense of community in the TFA program, and I really got a chance to be a part of it for the first time,” she said. “Everyone was so nice and so unbelievably welcoming.”
The TFA program, which accepts 15 aspiring filmmakers per year, prepares students for a variety of careers in the entertainment industry including screenwriting, producing, and directing. Applications for next year will be available on December 1 on the program’s website.