Sylvia Franck, Part 1: Origin and Contents of the Film Library at the Toronto International Film Festival

Interviewed by Evelyn Ellerman at Toronto International Film Festival Offices on March, 2012

Franck. My name is Sylvia Franck. I'm Director of the Film Reference Library and Special Collections and the Curator of the Canadian CIBC Film Gallery. The gallery is part of the Library; it’s here to showcase our special collections. The Library started in 1990. It was originally at the Ontario Film Institute. In 1990, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) took it on and did the screening program. Both of those were at the Ontario Science Centre. They became part of the Festival and were the only year-round activities at the time. So, being in our own building has always been the dream. We were located at 70 Carlton in the Warner Brothers Building, then at 2 Carlton for a number of years. And now we finally have a home here at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Ellerman. Can you talk a little bit about the services that you have here and how those have expanded over the years?

Franck. We have always had a public mandate because our collection was a government collection at the Ontario Film Institute. So, we are mandated to be publicly accessible and indeed the Library is accessible. We are open six days a week, on weekends 12 to 5. It's a full reference service; the scope of reference is quite extensive. Some people have quite simple questions but we can do quite in-depth research. It's on anything film related; by that I mean it can be about film festivals around the world; it can be about our own film festival here in Toronto; about any of our programming in the past 35 years. It can be about Cinénathè programming. We have many visitors and answer over 10,000 reference questions a year. Last year we had over 10,000 visitors. So being in this building has certainly made people more aware of our resources than they might have been when we were elsewhere.

E. It sounds as though your collection is industry focused. If I were to come in to use the collection, what would I find?

F. It isn't just industry focused, but if you're in the industry we have all the research papers of Cinema Canada magazine; and by that I mean not just the magazine, but we actually have the research that went into the creation of that magazine. That was the industry Bible; it was the only industry magazine for many decades. So, we have that kind of industry information; we have information about the films themselves, specific titles about the filmmakers, film production, film production companies. There's lots of industry information. But we also have special collections. We have the archives of Atom Egoyan… David Cronenberg; we have about 30 special archives related to Canadian filmmakers.

E. That is quite extraordinary and a gold mine for anyone interested in studying Canadian film. What are your plans for the collection? Do you have active plans for expanding certain aspects of it? Or do you wait to see what happens?

F. It's a mixture. Sometimes things come at us from out of nowhere. Someone may have collected for a long time. We have, for example, one of the best Mary Pickford collections in the world. And that's because there was a collector who was collecting for 30 years and happened to live in the city of Toronto. He wanted a true home for that collection and felt that it had to be accessible to the public. And he wanted people to know about Mary Pickford. That collection came to us because he knew one of our board members. Sometimes we go after collections, obviously, with certain filmmakers like Atom Egoyan. Our plans are to keep building the history of Canadian filmmaking as much as possible. It's a real blend.

We have collections from production companies. Some production companies, when they cease to exist, are looking for a home for their papers. If we hear about that kind of thing, sometimes we might actively pursue it. Now that we are also into exhibiting about film, and we have a very large gallery downstairs as well, we are also reaching out internationally. Sometimes we acquire and display media art, for example - because now a lot of Canadian filmmakers are into media art. So, you find that our collection embraces media art, film and gaming, because TIFF Bell Lightbox is very involved in gaming as well. Our plans are really just to keep collecting in various fields with the emphasis on Canadian artists, of course.