Homecoming with Julia Roberts part of TIFF's TV lineup
The TV lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival has big-screen cachet, with Amazon Studios’ upcoming series Homecoming starring Julia Roberts and four other shows organizers tout as “bold” projects with cinematic qualities.
Based on the podcast of the same name, Homecoming stars Roberts as a caseworker at a facility helping soldiers transition back to civilian life.
Four episodes of the psychological thriller will be in the Primetime program, which features projects that are bound for the small screen, where the lines between cinema and TV are becoming blurred as more film talent enters the space and streaming services provide uninterrupted viewing experiences.
“What makes this new trend in television especially cinematic is that it’s non-commercial and not interrupted by advertising,” said Paul Moore, a historian of movies and movie theatres, and professor of sociology at Ryerson University.
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Viewers are also watching such series in a way they would theatre, he added.
“I do think people are streaming television and binge-watching television in that cinematic way — where they get prepared for an engaged experience in a way that’s socially very similar to going out, except it’s staying home,” Moore said.
“It’s done with some preparation, it’s done with some anticipation, it’s done with some planning. You do it with others and you put some time aside to turn the lights down, turn the television on and watch as if you were in a theatre.”
The Primetime lineup also has Facebook Watch’s dark comedy Sorry For Your Loss, starring Elizabeth Olsen, and the French sci-fi series Ad Vitam.
Other series with international appeal in the lineup are Folklore: A Mother’s Love & Pob, a multilingual horror anthology helmed by six Asian directors that tackles superstitions and mythologies from each director’s respective country. There’s also Stockholm, about four friends covering up the death of their Nobel Prize-nominated friend.
“Cinematic television has provided a new lane for the consumer’s experience of cinematic art,” Michael Lerman, Primetime programmer at TIFF, said in a statement.
“These series not only push the boundaries of what can be presented, but also demonstrate how it can transcend culture, visual arts and communications.”
Quebec director Jean-Marc Vallee is among the filmmakers who have entered TV in recent years, with his acclaimed HBO series Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects.
Vallee made each series like a film, shooting the entire project before cutting, rather than going episode by episode as is often the case.
“I don’t see any difference except that (TV) is longer and we have more time to explore and develop these characters,” Vallee said in a recent interview.
Vancouver native Seth Rogen also entered the TV world in recent years with his AMC series Preacher. In an interview last year, Rogen said more cable networks are providing the budgets needed for cinematic-type TV.
“I think the (TV) sensibility has shifted much more to that of an independent filmmaking mentality, almost, where they really just want smart, interesting, stories,” Rogen said.