You know those moments where you will always remember where you were and what you were doing? July 12, 2017 is a day I will never forget. 4:32pm to be precise. 

I remember I was walking on Bank Street in Ottawa, just in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart on my way to Cineplex Lansdowne VIP for a movie, of course. I was going to see the Planet of the Apes Marathon and my phone buzzed. I looked down at my phone and to be honest, I got a little emotional as I read the words.

Before I get into the message allow me to re-introduce myself; my name is Keith and I love movies. I go to at least three movies per week in the theatre. I don’t do it out of obligation, I do it because I love film. I have been reviewing movies for several years now and my audience has been growing.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved movies. I recall my parents taking my brother and I to the cinema. I can remember the smell of popcorn and how my legs were so short my feet didn’t touch the ground.

In the last year I have had many fantastic opportunities, which included covering the Irish Film Festival and Ottawa Indian Film Festival but also the opportunity of interviewing different actors, actresses, directors, etc. As someone who is interested in people, these projects have been right up my alley. I have also had studios send me screener links of their films so I can review them. I feel very fortunate.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of, if not the biggest film festivals in the world. I have been going there for several years and I love it. There are so many things for so many different people. Whether you want to see great movies, documentaries, short films or whether you just want to see celebrities, TIFF has it all. When I go to TIFF I see anywhere between 35-45 movies. I try to take in as much as possible. 

Movies at TIFF haven’t been released yet and some don’t even have distribution as yet. It’s an opportunity to see new films but also some hidden gems. The ability of the TIFF programming team to pick great films is uncanny. For years, TIFF has been able to show films that have gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In my time at TIFF I have seen there all different types of screenings. There are public screenings, premium screenings and press screenings. Public screenings are for everyone, premium screenings are usually the big red-carpet screenings and press screenings are screenings for accredited media.

Over this past year I have had my reviews showcased on ‘The Carol Ann Meehan’ show on 1310, a Rogers radio property as well as featured in ‘Ottawa Life Magazine’. While growing my audience is nice, I am more touched that other people are interested in the content that I am putting out. I am also fortunate that these two wonderful groups aren’t trying to change what I do but partner with it.

In the early part of July, I submitted my request to be accredited for TIFF with Ottawa Life Magazine as my main sponsor. What this would mean is I would have the opportunities of seeing all of the press screenings I could handle.  It would also mean attending press conferences and essentially have media access for interviews, red-carpet coverage etc.

I applied but didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I went back and forth on how I thought it would go. On the one hand, I have a lot of movie reviews and previous festival coverage and feel confident about my content but on the other hand you never know how these things are going to go. I went back and forth a lot.

I decided that I would just put it out of my head and thought if I don’t get accreditation it’s ok. I would still go to TIFF, I would still see a ton of movies and I would still review them all.

I had mentioned the application process to a few friends and family and everyone offered a ton of support. ‘Of course you’re going to get it.’ they would say but again I was having a hard time thinking that I would get accreditation.

On July 12 of this year at 4:32 pm I found myself on Bank Street in Ottawa heading to watch the Planet of the Apes and my phone buzzed. I looked at my phone and could feel my eyes water as I read the first line. My mind went through a timeline of events through my life from swinging my short legs as a child in the theatre with my brother and parents all through many movie experiences until now. After years of reviewing movies and being the ‘go to’ person for many of my friends and strangers for that matter on all things cinema I saw the words.

First I saw the sender: Media Accreditation.

And then I saw the words:

‘Dear Keith Whittier, your accreditation has been approved.’

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