Back when TIFF debuted as the Festival of Festivals I wonder if the programmers could have dreamed of what an influence the festival would have on the world of film making. TIFF programers have striven to bring only the freshest new material to their audiences, and so many careers have been seen to grow over the course of the festival’s history. But not content to leave it at that, four years ago TIFF unveiled a new opportunity to put a spotlight on new talent and showcase what Canada has to offer.
The Rising Stars program is more than just a list of talent to watch – instead it serves as a sort of boot-camp for actors who are on the cusp of stardom. Rising Stars alumni include household names like Sarah Gadon (seen in several Cronenberg productions, and soon The Girl King), Tatiana Maslany and Evelyne Brochu (both of Orphan Black), and many others.
Chosen by panel, the actors are given a variety of professional development opportunities, through public events and industry meetings during the festival. Given how many international filmmakers visit Toronto during that two weeks it is almost impossible to calculate the value of this experience. The TIFF Rising Stars will work with casting directors, agents, managers, producers, filmmakers, and development executives, to help the actors prepare for success in the film industry both on- and off-screen. The actors chosen for 2014 for announced during the same press conference that revealed the Canadian content for 2014.
Sophie has worked with some of the luminaries of Canadian cinema, including Denis Villeneuve, Denis Coté, Xavier Dolan and Sébastien Pilote. She garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of Sarah, a young runner determined to succeed on the track team in the Toronto International Film Festival hit Sarah Prefers to Run. Directed by Chloé Robichaud, the film secured Sophie a Vancouver Film Critics Award for Best Actress in a Canadian Film, a RiverRun Spark Award, and rocketed her to the top of Indiewire’s “10 Actors to Watch” list at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. She made her English-language feature film debut in the 2004 period drama Head in the Clouds, cast opposite Charlize Theron and Penélope Cruz. Sophie can be seen next in Julie Hivon’s Qu’est-ce qu’on fait ici?, Martin Tallbot’s Henri Henri and Rafaël Ouellet’s forthcoming feature, Gurov and Anna.
Shannon Kook, a graduate of the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada, began his career on the stage at Factory Theatre and at the Citadel Theatre, where he starred in the Dora-nominated production of The Forbidden Phoenix. Shannon made guest appearances on the popular CBC series The Border and Being Erica, Disney XD’s Aaron Stone, and the award-winning HBO series Durham County. He appeared as a new recruit in Global’s hit show Rookie Blue, and starred in the Emmy-nominated series Degrassi: The Next Generation, playing the role of Zane for three seasons. His first major film break came when he was cast in a supporting role in James Wan’s 2013 box-office hit, The Conjuring. Shannon was cast opposite TIFF Rising Stars alumna Cara Gee in Peter Stebbings’ Empire of Dirt, an Official Selection of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Shannon can next be seen in the upcoming adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2009 thriller, Dark Places, which also stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult and Corey Stoll.
Alexandre studied theatre and singing at the National Theatre School of Canada before landing significant stage roles in Montreal productions of Les Aventures de Lagardère, Chambre(s) and Tom à la ferme. Soon after, he appeared in the popular Québec television series Destinées. His major break came when he was cast in a supporting role in his first feature film Gabrielle directed by Louise Archambault. For his performance as Martin, Alexandre garnered critical acclaim and international awards including the Jean-Claude Jean Award for Most Promising Talent at the Dieppe Canadian Film Festival, the Valois Magelis Award for Best Actor at France’s Festival du film francophone d’Angoulême, Best Actor at Spain’s Festival de Gijón, and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in a Support Role in a Canadian film. Alexandre can be seen at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival in a starring role in Rodrigue Jean’s L’amour au temps de la guerre civile.
Julia Sarah Stone
Julia had her breakout performance in the 2011 hit Canadian indie The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom for which she won the prize for Best Performance in an International Feature at the LA Young Artist Awards. In 2013, Julia captivated audiences as a series regular on AMC’s critically acclaimed series The Killing, playing an emotionally troubled teen living on the streets. Julia also starred in the Lifetime Movie Network’s The Pastor’s Wife, The Hub Network’s R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, and played a brilliant nerd battling peer pressure in the Canadian indie feature Vampire Dog. Julia currently stars in the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival selection Wet Bum, directed by Lindsay McKay. Upcoming projects include roles in Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine, Werner Herzog’s Vernon God Little, and Charlie Kaufman’s F/X pilot, How and Why.
It seems safe to say that given their bodies of work thus far (as well as the extensive training and knowledge they are about to receive) we will be seeing a lot more of these actors on our screens, as their stars continue to rise.
Thanks to rock-it promotions for the bios and photos
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