Toronto International Film Festival wades into television. Can it work?

Actor and cast member John Travolta interacts with the fans before the screening of "The Forger" at the 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Actor and cast member John Travolta interacts with the fans before the screening of “The Forger” at the 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival.
(Warren Toda / EPA)

Film festivals in recent years have been grappling with how, and whether, to tackle television and its current renaissance. Sundance, for instance, offered episodes of “The Jinx” this year, and the Tribeca Film Festival that gets underway Wednesday will debut an episode of “Inside Amy Schumer.”

Now the Toronto International Film Festival is trying an even broader approach. The late-summer confab announced Wednesday that it has created a new section, called “Primetime,” that will premiere as many as six programs at the upcoming festival.

The launch is an especially intriguing one given the fest’s timing: Its early September date comes ahead of the broadcast networks’ big fall debuts, which means an NBC or CBS could use Toronto to launch a new series much in the way a film studio relies on the gathering to kickstart a big fall awards movie. It also means the festival, already packed with titles, could get a little more crowded.


The festival didn’t say what kind of shows it would make available -- but it did note that they would be the best in “international television.”

Given how many filmmakers work in television, it’s certainly a natural fit from a creator standpoint, as artistic director Cameron Bailey noted in a statement.

There are, though, some challenges in bringing TV to film fests. Because of the in-demand nature of high-profile slots, most fests can only afford to show a few episodes at most. And a festival view experience is often a self-contained one; a few episodes is more of a teaser.

Still, it’s an ambitious effort, and it will be interesting to see how popular it proves with the industry players, media and consumers who flock to Toronto (that last group is agnostic; some of the others remain a little more siloed).

“What better way to celebrate our 40th anniversary than with a program that focuses on the new golden era of television that’s currently producing high-quality global programming, terrific writing, and direction that rivals the best feature filmmaking,” the festival’s director and CEO, Piers Handling, said in a statement. You can bet Hollywood -- and other festivals -- will be keeping a close eye.

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT