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The cool way TIFF has been helping working parents

Now here’s something worthy of a gala—the film industry is finally recognizing the need for childcare.

Earlier this week, you probably noticed the buzz around the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) beginning to flood your feed. After a two-year in-person hiatus, participants are understandably pumped for this year’s festival, which runs from September 8 to 18th and will bring in some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (Hello, Viola Davis and Eddie Redmayne!). But for many parents, getting excited about an event that requires getting a babysitter can be tough.

In an effort to make the festival more accessible to industry parents (who arguably are even more stressed out because attending the festival is part of their job), Canadian childcare provider Kids & Company has partnered with TIFF to offer subsidized childcare during the daily happenings of the festival.

“Not everyone works nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday.” says Linda Starr from Kids & Company, “that’s especially true during the 11-day film festival, which can feel like a marathon for anyone, let alone working parents with young children in tow.”

This year, industry parents of kids aged six and under can take advantage of 15 different Kids & Company locations across the city which will provide $40 a day childcare between September 8th and 16th (including the weekend). Hours run from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and include special TIFF-inspired curriculum “to inspire and teach kids about the language and magic of film” (though I’m guessing many of these kids are already mini industry experts.)

While the program was piloted last time the festival ran in person in 2019, its return signals a movement in the industry toward supporting parents (and, let’s face it, women) working in film. “A childcare strategy is about dropping barriers for industry parents with young families,” says TIFF director of industry Geoff Macnaughton. For parents hoping to partake in TIFF’s evening events (because, real talk, the festival is nothing without the glitzy star-studded galas), Kids & Co. partnered with Imagine That, a service offering 24/7 care in-home (or in-hotel) for the duration of the festival. These care providers come prepared with fun, age-appropriate activities and will even take kids on outings—if you plan ahead.

Even better news is that since TIFF piloted the program in 2019, other festivals have begun to follow suit. At the Festival de Cannes, La Ballon Rouge offers a daycare centre, baby lounge and accessible activities for nannies and kids at the festival and market. Similarly, the Venice and San Sebastián International film festivals have initiated their own childcare programs for industry. In a similar vein, Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, UK opened their first dedicated on-site nursery in 2020, open to staff and productions shooting at the studio. It may be slow for an industry that seems to be booming, but at least it’s progress, right?

Next up: subsidized babysitting for regular theatre attendees?

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