New Midnight Madness programmer talks The Room and so-bad-it's-good

By Jim Slotek

It’s not his department, but one person who was sad to see TIFF cut ties with the theatre formerly known as The Bloor was the new Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky.

The theatre – now known as the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema – was home to the festival’s Vanguard program. But when the program was axed as part of TIFF’s streamlining, the theatre went with it.

Danika Vandersteen and Woodrow Graves in The Crescent. Terrible things are about to happen

Danika Vandersteen and Woodrow Graves in The Crescent. Terrible things are about to happen

“I love the Bloor,” says Kuplowsky, the former Midnight Madness assistant programmer who took over this year with the departure of Colin Geddes. “I worked there for six years. I’ve done so many events there. I worked concessions and then started programming for them. I did Troll 2 (a reputed “worst movie ever”), I did a series of Edgar Wright films called The Wright Stuff and a series with Kevin Smith. It was really where I cut my teeth on event production, programming, curating.”

Peter Kuplowsky

Peter Kuplowsky

And it prepared the producer/programmer for his TIFF calling, perhaps no better exemplified than Monday’s sort-of-meta Midnight Madness feature, The Disaster Artist. Directed by and starring James Franco, it’s the story of The Room (another reputed worst movie ever made) and the mysterious auteur Tommy Wiseau who made it happen.

“It’s such a charming movie,” says Kuplowsky. “I think it’s super inspiring for filmmakers to watch that film. It’s like, ‘If Tommy could make a movie…’

“I’m a huge fan of the eccentric movie or the outsider art film, or the so-bad-it’s-good movie. I was really worried that Franco’s film would be mean-spirited, but I found it a very sincere veneration. It made me really like Tommy, which I was not sure I was going to do after watching The Room.”

What will he bring to Midnight Madness? “I definitely think I’ll be pushing the needle a little bit in terms of reaction,” he says.

I think (the program opener) Bodied (about “the world’s most artistically brutal sport – battle rapping”) is an edgy, in your face and irreverent movie, and I think some people will be made uncomfortable by that and will not be onboard with it. And I think that’s really a good thing.

The Crescent is going to get talked about (playing Thursday, it’s a fever-dream about a mysteriously threatened woman and child in a Nova Scotia village). It’s a combination of genre cinema intersecting with avant garde, lo-fi resourceful filmmaking. I’m really interested in how genre filmmakers go off the tracks in unique directions.”

“At the same time, I also have The Ritual, which is a straight up scare-fest by a promising up and coming director David Bruckner."

Kuplowsky’s own producing credits include Manborg and The ABCs of Death 2 . And he’s keeping up that side of his career. “Every six months is a festival cycle and the other six months I balance it off as a producer,” he says.

And he even has his own festival, a one day event called What The Film Festival, the latest edition of which took place at The Royal in June. “I’ve seen so much stuff for TIFF that is not a fit - a little too weird, a little too low budget, but in a way that I find endearing or fascinating. I like giving those type of films a home,” he says.