Best of 2017 | Year-End Highlights on The GATE

by W. Andrew Powell
Chicago's Cloud Gate

Look at where a year took us! At the start of 2017, it seemed like 2016 was going to be hard to top. In 2016 I visited Hong Kong, L.A. for Hamilton Watch’s Behind the Camera Awards, and I had a lot of really incredible interviews. But 2017 topped all of my expectations.

Part of what made the year one of my favorites was just being able to dig in and work as much as I could, but I also think 2016 set The GATE up for great things. I’ve worked hard to evolve The GATE every year, and that work has been paying off constantly.

At the same time I want to say a very, very big thank-you to all of the publicists, and people, who make all of this possible. I’m very proud of all the support, and being able to keep doing what I love. I’m very hopeful about the year ahead, and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2018.

Without further ado, here’s my rundown of my highlights from 2017, from events that I covered, trips, interviews, and everything in between.

Judy Greer | The GATE's TIFF Lounge
Judy Greer | The GATE's TIFF Lounge
Cedric the Entertainer | The GATE's TIFF Lounge
Cedric the Entertainer | The GATE's TIFF Lounge

TIFF 2017 and The GATE’s Interview Lounge

This was a big one–the biggest thing I’ve ever done, actually. After 17 years of running The GATE, and of covering the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF 2017 took a lot of time and planning, and it was worth every minute. I actually started prepping and planning for The GATE’s Interview Lounge at TIFF 2017 all the way back in January, but the heavy lifting started in the summer.

The lounge, in partnership with Hamilton Watch and a number of other brand partners, gave me a chance to interview close to 40 actors and filmmakers, with photographer Rick McGinnis capturing amazing portraits with our guests, and interviewer Bonnie Laufer-Krebs helping with some of the coverage.

In the lounge we had some very special guests each day, and they were a huge hit: yes, we had rescue dogs from Save our Scruff. Fashion magazine liked the space and our furry friends so much they included us in a round-up about gift lounges at TIFF.

And then there were the interviews. There were a lot, but some of my favorites included Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon for The Lodgers; Billy Howle and Dominic Cooke for On Chesil Beach; Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, and David Bruckner for The Ritual; the wonderful Miranda Richardson for Stronger; Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, and Andy Serkis for Breathe; The Breadwinner star Saara Chaudry; and Paul Schrader and Cedric The Entertainer for First Reformed.

Thanks to the Government of Canada for their support, Hamilton Watch, Sparkling Ice, Flawless by Friday, House of VR, Roku, Woodhouse Brewing, and Impact Kitchen. (Photos above by Rick McGinnis.)

Ford Edge

Ford Canada road trip | Fogo Island | Father’s Day

Ford has been a tremendous friend to The GATE, and in 2017 we had no less than three incredible adventures with them.

At the end of spring, heading in to summer, Ford invited me to take a road trip to Sault Ste. Marie and experience some of what Canada has to offer for Canada 150. On the way we explored a few of the best road-side attractions, and took a breather at the half-way marker for the Trans-Canada Highway.

Then, for Father’s Day a few weeks later, I went to Toronto Motorsports Park and had the chance to drive the Ford Mustang GT on the racetrack, and went out for hot laps in the Ford Focus RS.

But in September, my family and I had the trip of the year. Ford flew us out to St. John’s, Newfoundland and set us up with a Ford Edge to drive up to Fogo Island, and then we stayed three nights at the Fogo Island Inn. The drive was spectacular, and the hotel was utterly charming and wonderful, with exceptional food. At the end of our trip we didn’t want to leave, but we had a wonderful opportunity that took us to a province we had never explored before, to a remote part of the country that is serenely beautiful, and perfect for hiking.

Watch my video from Fogo Island to get a sense of the epic trip and the stunning landscapes.

Girl and the seaSamsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung and the Note 8

One of my other favorite friends to The GATE is Samsung Canada, and it’s thanks to them and the Galaxy Note 8 that I captured that last video from Fogo.

Throughout the year I worked with Samsung for a number of launches and events, from the launch of The Frame, to their work with Sick Kids for their vs. campaign.

I’m a very big fan of what Samsung does with their QLED televisions, to their phones, and household appliances, but to date my favorite device is the Galaxy Note 8, and Samsung gave me the chance to demo it for a month first before they gave me one of the phones in December. My Note 8 is more than just my phone though; the Note 8 is what I use to capture events and travel, and I use it for a lot of my video now, and for anything I shoot live for my social channels. I absolutely love it, and I can’t wait to show off more of what it can do with it this year.

Some of my favorite photos that I shot with the Note 8 in 2017 are in the blog.

Chicago's Cloud Gate

Chicago, Blue Mountain, and Prince Edward County

In 2017 I had a number of opportunities to travel, and aside from the stunning trip to Fogo Island, I also had the chance to explore Chicago for the Windy City Smokeout festival (which I also wrote up for Eric Alper), the Drake Devonshire Inn with Mini Canada, and Blue Mountain for the fall foliage.

There are really few things I enjoy more than travelling, and these trips were unique, and a lot of fun.

In Chicago I ate like a country king at the Smokeout festival, from BBQ wings to an entire feast of crawfish that was served with Moët & Chandon, not to mention all kinds of beer. I also adored the Virgin Hotel Chicago, and the chance to explore the city with a City Pass.

During my family’s trip to the Drake Devonshire Inn, we enjoyed a drive through the countryside, played on the beach (in September, no less), and fell in love with the Mini Cooper Countryman.

And at Blue Mountain near Collingwood, we stayed at the Westin Trillium House hotel for the first time, rode up to the top of the mountain in an open-air gondola, painted pottery at Crock A Doodle, and had an incredible meal in the village. I’m a huge fan of Marriott hotels, and the Westin was wonderfully welcoming.

Savoury Restaurant | Westin Harbour Castle

Food & Drinks

Along a similar vein as travel, I also had an epic year for food and drink. Early in the year I had a chance to sit down with Marc Laverdiere for a tasting of Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old scotch with paired food, and Lincoln Canada had me out for their “Luxury Uncovered” dinner with chef Susur Lee to unveil their Navigator concept vehicle.

Then in the summer, a big highlight was visiting the Westin Harbour Castle for a dinner at the hidden-away Savoury restaurant with Chef Corbin Tomaszeski cooking right in front of us.

Finally, in the fall, Star of Bombay showed off some delicious slow cooking to highlight the “art of slow” that goes into making their gin with Chef Michael Kaplan of Two Forks, NY. Beyond the food, Star of Bombay served some excellent cocktails, including an Espresso Negroni that I have been making at home ever since the event.

Yannick Bisson


Interviews are a cornerstone of what I do, and 2017 was an exceptional year for interviews too. I spoke to Bruce Campbell about Fan Expo and Ash vs. Evil Dead, I sat down with Kumail Nanjiani and his partner Emily Gordon for The Big Sick, I was on set for both Killjoys and the final season of Orphan Black, I interviewed Sera Gamble for The Magicians, I was invited to Yannick Bisson’s home to chat about Murdoch Mysteries, and I had a few minutes with Chef Gordon Ramsay during the launch of American Express Cobalt in Toronto.

A few interviews stood out above the rest though, especially because of the fan reactions to the interviews. I sat down with Alex Høgh Andersen to talk about Ivar The Boneless on Vikings, and I also chatted with the new Anne for CBC, Amybeth McNulty. Then, for Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, I sat down with the one and only actor and director Taika Waititi.

But the biggest interview of the year, if you go by the international fan reaction, was for director April Mullen’s Below Her Mouth with actors Erika Linder and Natalie Krill. To date that video has been played over 850,000 times, making it the biggest interview on our YouTube channel to date.

And that, in a nut-shell, was the year. Thanks for reading, and myfingers are crossed for an even bigger and better 2018!

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