The Business Lessons I Learned at TIFF 2017

This year, it seemed that the common theme in the movies that I saw was “change” – both actual physical change as well as social change.

In business, change is a constant.  In my business, there are many external changes that I need to be aware of:

I’m sure that similar changes are occurring in your businesses as well.

But, back to the movies.

Let’s start with “physical change”.  I saw the movie “Kodachrome”, a story about the relationship between a father and son. The father, a famous photographer who shoots only on film, approaches his son, a record producer, to take a road trip to Parsons, Kansas to develop his last rolls of Kodachrome film before the last developing lab closes.  FYI – this movie was shot on film (versus most are now shot digitally).  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose or the English version of the proverb - the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps the best scene was towards the end of the movie, when all the photographers who gathered in Parsons, stand to applaud the dying famous photographer.

Contrast this with a film one of my friends saw – “High Fantasy” shot entirely on iPhones, supposedly by the actors in the movie. This movie is by the award-winning South African director, Jenna Bass.  Quite a contrast in technology between the “old” film video cameras and an iPhone.

And in the middle of these two movies was “Jane”, a biography of Jane Goodall that integrates incredible 50 year old National Geographic 16mm archival footage, shot by Hugo van Lawick, with new digital footage shot by Brett Morgen. This movie tells the story of Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park. It discusses the development of this project that started out studying chimpanzee behavior in the wild to help understand human behavior and now is involved in raising awareness, protecting and expanding the forests in Africa to protect the wildlife.  Their mission statement is “Protecting wildlife, empowering people”. More information can be found at I guess this movie was not just about the “physical changes” but also change in knowledge and society attitudes.

Many of the movies discussed social change.  I saw “Novitiate” A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Vatican II and the massive reforms to the Catholic Church that took place between 1962 and 1965. It was interesting to watch the members of the order adapt (or not) to these changes.  For those of you looking for a review of Vatican II, check out the Wikipedia article. This movie documented what happens when social change is sudden and you need to adapt or give up your dream. 

The movie I saw that integrated social and technological change was “Silas”. This movie profiled the life of Liberian activist Silas Siakor, a tireless crusader against illegal logging and a symbol of resistance for a new generation against the backdrop of a corrupt, democratically elected government.  The technology?  A phone app – TIMBY that enables ordinary citizens to safely record and submit examples of illegal logging to a central group who can use this “proof” to force change.  This app is now being used in other parts of the world to record and report other illegal activities.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women reveals how a trio of brilliant thinkers embraced an unconventional lifestyle (menage a trois) and gave birth to an icon of female power – Wonder Woman.  Their lifestyle, that was offside in the 1920’s has now become main stream (at least in the Western world), even if it is still not common place. The character of Wonder Woman has generated almost as much controversy as the lifestyle of Professor Marston.

Social change (or not) was a primary theme in the movie “Sweet Country” an outback western inspired by real events in 1929. This is a story of personal conviction and settler justice set in the stark panoramas of Australia's Northern Territory. It discusses the different justice for Aboriginals and “white” men.  This is in stark contrast to the start of every film at TIFF this year that began with the TIFF person introducing the film thanking the local tribes for “hosting TIFF on their lands”.

The changes in my business have been steady. I now routinely complete life insurance applications online while talking to my clients by telephone or “Skype”. I have access to a much broader product offering than when I started in the business in 2001. I also conduct my business very differently with a lot more online processes and fewer face to face and snail mail exchanges than ever before.

So how do you incorporate “change” in your business?  Should you be thinking about the adaptations you, your employees and business need in a broader sense?  Has change been forced on you (like Canadian banks going from Monday to Friday 10 to 3 to 24/7 cash machines)?

Let’s have coffee (real or virtual) and discuss how change affects our businesses and learn what adaptations have worked for each of us.  Perhaps future change won’t be as difficult if we can incorporate practices that have worked for others in our own business.

To see who won the awards at TIFF in 2017 (or in the past), check out these links:

TIFF 2017 Full List of Award Winners -

TIFF Full List of all PAST Award Winners -

Links (from above) in case they don’t transfer: