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What I'm Watching at TIFF '18: Franklin Leonard

The Black List founder battles the space-time continuum at TIFF '18

WIW Review FranklinLeonard Aug27 Light
Aug 27, 2018
Franklin Leonard

What I’m Watching asks the friends of the Toronto International Film Festival, both old and new, what films they’re most excited to watch at this year’s Festival.

First up: Franklin Leonard, who returns to TIFF for the third year of the 3 for 30 series.


Founder and CEO of The Black List

Los Angeles

Number of years attending TIFF:
13 or 14 years

Favourite past TIFF movie:
I have a very clear memory of watching *A Prophet*, Jacques Audiard’s film, at an 8:30am industry screening and not being sure if it was as good as I thought it was, because I was severely underslept, or if it was one of the best movies that I've ever seen. It turns out that I was both severely underslept and it was one of the best movies I've ever seen.

I would say that, and then seeing *Moonlight* two years ago at its debut screening at the Festival, were probably the two screenings that I most treasure from my time in Toronto.

The most movies you’ve ever seen at one Festival:
Early in my days as a junior executive, I was probably knocking back six a day at the Press & Industry screenings. I would guess that my peak is somewhere in the 25–30 range.

Franklin, what are you watching at TIFF this year?

As usual, there are way more movies that I want to see than it’s physically possible to see, given the linear nature of the space-time continuum.

ifbealestreetcouldtalk 01

If Beale Street Could Talk
dir. Barry Jenkins

Given my experience with Moonlight and the fact that he’s a personal friend, If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins. That trailer does more in a minute and a half than most films do in an hour and a half. I mean, the trailer is just unbelievable. There's four notes — there's no score except for four notes of piano in the entire trailer. Just amazing.

If Beale Street Could Talk plays TIFF on September 9 and 10 as part of the Special Presentations programme.

lifeitself 0HERO

Life Itself
dir. Dan Fogelman

Dan Fogelman is a writer that can make people cry, and quite clearly that film is designed to do exactly that with its audience, and I have no doubt that it will. It's also a Black List script, one of over half a dozen that Dan has had. I’m very excited to see that movie and have every expectation that it will be in the hunt for the much-desired Toronto audience award (the Grolsch People’s Choice Award).

Life Itself plays TIFF on September 8 and 10 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.

firstman 0HERO

First Man
dir. Damien Chazelle

In my youth I dreamed of being an astronaut, and this film looks like it will be a really interesting investigation into that experience. I've also known Damien since before he directed Whiplash; I consider him a friend. I also said after the Moonlight and La La Land debacle that, really, what we were looking at was a seven-game series between two filmmakers that we get to watch over the next several decades. I assume this begins game two, and I very much hope both that and Beale Street are amazing, because I feel like we are very blessed to have two filmmakers who are young and ambitious and talented, and I hope they continue to elevate the level they go to.

First Man plays daily at TIFF from September 9 to 16 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.


dir. Karyn Kusama

I've always been a fan of Karyn Kusama’s films, and I like her personally. There's something about her vibe that always makes me want to see what she does next. And I think she's an exceptional director of thrillers, in particular, and there's nothing quite like being in a theatre where everyone in the theatre is wondering, "Oh my God, what's going to happen next."

Destroyer plays TIFF on September 10, 12, and 15 as part of the Platform programme.


High Life
dir. Claire Denis

It’s Claire Denis. What else does a person have to say?

High Life plays TIFF on September 9, 11, and 14 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.


Honorable Mentions:


The Front Runner
dir. Jason Reitman

The Gary Hart scandal is one of my first political memories as a child, and I'm a sort of political junkie. So I'm very interested to see the version of the story he tells there.

The Front Runner plays TIFF on September 8, 9, 14, and 15 as part of the Special Presentations programme.

thestandoffatsparrowcreek still 0HERO

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
dir. Henry Dunham

It’s a Black List script, so I have every expectation that it will do well.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek plays TIFF on September 12, 14, and 16 as part of the Midnight Madness programme.


dir. Zhang Yimou

I’ve long been a fan of Zhang Yimou’s films and generally am increasingly fascinated by the storytelling coming out of China.

Shadow plays TIFF on September 10, 11, and 14 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.

widows 0HERO

dir. Steve McQueen

The cast is unbelievably good. Steve is as talented a director as exists. Very excited for that.

Widows plays TIFF on September 8, 9, 13, and 16 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.

hateugive 0HERO

The Hate U Give
dir. George Tillman, Jr.

Because of George Tillman, Jr.’s work, but particularly because of what I'm assuming this year will be the year of Amandla Stenberg. I think she's in three films at the Festival this year. This is the one I'm most excited about, but it has long been obvious to me that she was going to take Hollywood and the filmmaking world by storm. This appears to be the next step in that process, and I'm very excited for it because she's obviously both an incredibly talented actor and brilliant and cool as a young woman, and I support everything that she speaks on behalf of.

The Hate U Give plays TIFF on September 7, 8, 13, and 16 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.