Bill Marshall, the producer and writer who founded the Toronto International Film Festival in 1976, died Sunday morning of cardiac arrest. He was 77. The festival announced his death with a pair of statements from Marshall’s family and TIFF director Piers Handling.
Marshall “was a pioneer in the Canadian film industry and his vision of creating a public Festival that would bring the world to Toronto through the transformative power of cinema stands today as one of his most significant legacies,” Handling’s statement reads. After founding the festival in 1976 along with co-founders Henk Van der Kolk and Dusty Cohl, Marshall served as director of the organization for its first three years. TIFF, which celebrated its 40th year in 2015, has evolved into one of the most influential and prestigious festivals on the indie film circuit.
Marshall immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland in 1955; a “proud Canadian,” as his family’s statement called him, he was honored with the Order of Canada for his contributions to the arts, and served as president of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers.
“Bill was a visionary in the Canadian film industry,” the family statement reads, “producing 13 feature films, including the award-winning Outrageous, along with hundreds of documentaries. He was an accomplished writer, journalist, novelist, and speech-writer to royalty and heads of state. He also produced numerous live theater productions, including the Toronto production of the hit musical Hair.”
In addition to being a leader in the Canadian film industry, Marshall was involved in the city’s politics, having served as campaign manager and chief of staff for three different mayors.
Among those remembering Marshall on Twitter are TIFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who tweeted a statement saying Marshall “always thought big, and we were the winners thanks to his creativity and determination.”
“In a very real way, Bill was in the business of making dreams become reality, and he continued doing so to the very end with several new projects in development,” Marshall’s family’s statement reads. “Now, as the house lights dim, friends and family will remember and honour Bill as a first-rate raconteur, famous for his honesty, keen mind, and wry humour.”
He is survived by his wife Sari Ruda, children Lee, Stephen, and Shelagh, and six grandchildren.