Interview with Festival Director Lari Teräs (Toronto Int’l Spring of Horror & Fantasy Film Festival (TISH))

Toronto Int’l Spring of Horror & Fantasy Film Festival (TISH) had its first event in 2016. The festival was launched by filmmakers and genre film aficionados Lari Teräs and Jonathan Lewis in order to give people of Toronto access to quality genre films throughout the year.

Our aim is to showcase the best genre films from around the World from new filmmakers and seasoned veterans. We focus on new voices and prefer creativity over big budgets. In addition to dedicated short film blocks, we aim to schedule each feature with one short and a genre appropriate music video at the beginning to set the mood. We also run Toronto’s first and only annual Scream Queen/King Competition along with other social events.

Our lineup will be announced March 10, 2018 and the festival will be held April 6-8, 2018 at the Carlton Cinema.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Lari Teräs: We offer a fun environment to screen their work in downtown Toronto. We promote the films before and over the course of the festival; buying Facebook ads, blasting the trailers out not only promote us, but also the filmmakers and their films. We then continue promoting their films after the festival while visiting conventions such as Horror-Rama and on our social media.

If wanted, we give feedback to anyone who asks regardless of whether their film was accepted to screen or not. Toronto is also home to plenty of reviewers and distribution companies to whom we have been making our presence known more as we have grown.

After we ended up on FilmFreeway’s Top-100 Best Reviewed festivals list, we were then contacted by a very notable production company asking for insights on upcoming filmmakers and we were more than happy to drop a few names from our Alumni, hopefully aiding them further in their careers.

To top it off, in keeping with the fun nature of the festival, we award the best films with our coveted Cleaver the Beaver bobblehead(!) statue.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

We think genre films and festivals should be fun and the atmosphere relaxed. In addition to the screenings and Q&A’s, the venue (Carlton Cinema) is fully licensed and we hold two bar nights as well as Toronto’s first and only annual Scream Queen/King competition. That is an experience by itself both to viewers and participants. All that combined makes it a very fun and social atmosphere.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We appreciate creativity and new ideas. The main criteria is that they are genre films (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) or something genre film fans would like to see. Assuming the film fits our categories, we rate how much we enjoyed watching the film, whether we would want to go see it ourselves and whether it had elements we had never seen before.

Part of the selection process is keeping a good variety and balance of different types of movies. Late night, we like to schedule something more gory and outrageous while daytime might be better suited for more contemplative films.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I do believe that nowadays there is a good variety of festivals out there catering to most types of films. Genre films like horror and fantasy might be underrepresented at the very high profile festivals, but horror fans are pretty good at finding their way to the genre film festivals.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Basically our love of movies. I’ve always enjoyed watching movies and hosting movie nights for friends at my house. After doing a festival tour with my film Blood Riders and experiencing a wide variety of festivals (good and not so good), we wanted to expand those movie nights to a festival of our own. We also realized that there was a large gap in horror film festivals in the spring in Toronto, so we decided to fill the void since we believe good genre films should be available all year long!

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

The submission process has been great. Last year we got on the Top-100 Best Reviewed Festivals list for quite a while, which definitely boosted our submissions significantly. Furthermore, we have noticed filmmakers whose works we have previously screened resubmitting to us, which is always nice to see. The only downside is that the amount of quality submissions we receive makes the selection process very hard.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

As mentioned before, our submissions have increased significantly, and our attendance also hiked last year, so we’re looking to extend our festival by a few days very soon and hopefully have a weeklong event by 2023. We’ve always played music videos in front of our screenings and we’re looking into introducing live music at our parties in the coming years.

However, our main goal is to always keep the fun and social atmosphere going. Bigger, Better and Bloodier!

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Donnie Darko. It is an extremely well written and beautifully shot film that really captivated me when I first saw it. The absolutely hilarious “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a close second.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Interesting story supported by witty dialogue with complex characters drenched in blood. (Blood may or may not be optional depending on the genre…)

10) How is the film scene in your city?

The film scene in Toronto is very active both on the independent and studio film side. It is without a doubt one of the top markets in North America. The horror film scene should also get a special mention as it is very supportive of each other and a delightful group to be a part of.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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