While there is no official start date to Hollywood’s awards season, it certainly feels as if something has begun. And on Thursday the Toronto International Film Festival kicked that feeling into high gear by gathering heavily buzzed about titles from earlier festivals ranging from Sundance to Venice, and adding a whole new crop of contenders to the mix.

This year, for the first time, Toronto is raising the stakes with an awards tribute gala all its own, intended as a fund-raiser for the larger TIFF organisation in support of its year-round programs. As previously announced, acting honours will go to Meryl Streep, at the festival with Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix romp ‘The Laundromat’, as well as ‘Joker’ star Joaquin Phoenix.

Taika Waititi will receive a directing award for ‘Jojo Rabbit’. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who shot ‘The Goldfinch’, will receive an artisan award. Jeff Skoll and David Linde of Participant Media will be recognised for social impact. Actress and filmmaker Mati Diop, at the festival with Netflix’s supernatural romance ‘Atlantics’, will receive an award for emerging female talent named for Mary Pickford, who was born in Toronto. Music producer and songwriter David Foster, subject of the documentary ‘David Foster: Off the Record’, will receive a special tribute.

As Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, put it, “From Mati Diop to Meryl Streep is a nice selection.”

This is the first year at the festival for Joana Vicente as executive director and co-head of TIFF alongside Bailey. A longtime independent film producer — she’s had 12 films play in the festival over the years — she was most recently executive director of the New York City-based Independent Filmmaker Project, the organisation behind the Gotham Awards.

For Vicente, the TIFF gala was a natural opportunity to remind people that TIFF is a year-round organisation, bring together industry figures and recognise talent from the festival selection.

“Once we started putting it into place, it all just made sense,” Vicente said. “And so we feel like we see something that we can all do every year and it has a sustainable model. At the same time, we have an opportunity for everyone to be in the same room, not just for one film, but really celebrating a number of talented people in film.”