We are a little over two weeks from the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival. Like many of my contemporaries in the community of “semi-professional film writers,” I have started to come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t be seeing as many films this year as previous years. While I still expect to see a decent sampling of 10-15 films, it will be nowhere near the number of films I saw over the last five years or so, which often exceeded 20. Now, I’m not going to go into the specifics of why I will probably see less films at TIFF this year and instead use this segue into a more pressing issue.
I think that it was around 2012 when I realized that I could apply for media accreditation at various film festivals around the city of Toronto. Since then I have received media access to festivals such as Toronto After Dark, Hot Docs, Reel Asian, and Blood in the Snow. I have even received media accreditation for over past two years for Fantasia in Montreal. However, there is still the unattainable white whale when it comes to Film Festival Accreditation and that of course is the Toronto International Film Festival.
Now, it’s completely understandable that I would have a difficult time receiving media accreditation to TIFF, since it is one of the biggest film festivals in the world. However, it also doesn’t feel quite right that TIFF is pretty much the only film festival to turn me down for media accreditation. There are probably a million reasons for why this is the case, so I will probably start off by sharing the text of the rejection letter I got last month (ironically received a few days after I returned from covering Fantasia):
Thank you for your request for press accreditation for the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of requests, we are unable to accommodate you this year. With limited number of theatre seats, restricted space on red carpets and our desire to maintain high service levels, the Toronto International Film Festival’s Communications Department can only accommodate a very limited number of requests.
Obviously this is a generic message that is sent out to everyone denied media accreditation. One of the aspects of this letter that really sticks out to me is the description of “restricted space on red carpets.” As someone who makes it a point to attend TIFF for the films and NOT the celebrity guests, I can’t help but feel a little offended at this rejection letter listing “restricted space on red carpets” as one of the reasons I was turned down. Restricted space on red carpets is completely fine with me, since if I was accredited for TIFF, I wouldn’t spend one second on them. I would instead go see as many films as I possibly can and provide as much coverage as a possibly can. Isn’t that what the film festival’s all about in the first place?
Of course, the rejection letter does suggest alternate methods for attending the festival, such as purchasing public tickets or applying for an industry pass. I know some people who have gone the latter route, however it’s not really an option for me, since an industry pass costs around $700, which is way beyond my limited budget. I am left instead to acquire tickets like I always do and as I stated at the beginning of this piece, I will probably be getting less tickets this year.
Despite its status as one of the biggest film festivals in the world, TIFF seems to be one of the final holdouts when it comes to embracing online media. The festival really needs to remedy this in future years, even if it means creating a tiered accreditation system. I would be perfectly happy to receive a media pass that only grants me access to P&I screenings and the big red carpet interviews can be saved for the more major outlets.
As someone who wants to provide proper coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival, things really do need to change.