Somebody recently asked me why I do what I do…
Four years of Sound On Sight, and I’ve got to say, it’s tiring. There were many times I just wanted to call it quits. Just ask my film editor Simon Howell, how many times I called him late at night cursing up and down. Sound On Sight has never come easy, and faced often with seemingly impossible roadblocks. We’ve been hacked three times, our site crashed due to unforeseen circumstances, and we’ve lost a few friends along the way. Here we are, four years later, with a complete makeover – a new design, a fleet of podcasts, a dedicated crew of TV reviewers, an assembly of columnists and a few OFCS members contributing reviews. But why do I do what I do?
Sometimes I wonder why any blogger, critic or podcaster dedicates so much time voicing their opinion. We are at a point in time in which everyone has a blog, a podcast, a tumblr account, a facebook page, a video-cast, a twitter handle and an opinion to share (of which they all believe is the final say). Have we over-saturated the internet with movie blogs? Are we too busy voicing our opinions that we don’t have time for anyone or anything else?
It can be hard to draw the line and figure out if you are actually passionately involved, or if your focus has become an obsession. Sometimes I wonder if it has… become an obsession. I’ll freely admit that there is no worse feeling than being amidst a bunch of hardcore movie nerds and not having seen the film they fervently debate over. So how do I avoid these awkward situations? I still recall a time when I was jeered for not having seen The Godfather. I’ve corrected this by covering my tracks and watching as many movies as time allows. But was it passion or obsession, or a bit of both?
There are two types of passion: harmonious passion and obsessive passion, and for a while I was walking a fine line between the two. Not too long ago I decided to correct this issue.
Step 1: Rediscovering the magic of the box office and abandoning press screenings.
I realized I didn’t care about press and industry screenings and I didn’t need a press badge to a film festival. I didn’t need to see a movie before everyone else and I especially don’t need to see a movie at 10:00 AM with a bunch of cranky old film critics snarking back at the screen like they own the place. Truth be told, I enjoy the opening night box office experience with a group of friends, even if it means not having bragging rights about watching a certain movie by a beloved filmmaker ahead of everyone else. I also enjoy the midnight screenings at TIFF as appose to the early morning industry screenings with buyers pulling out their blackberries and blinding me with the lights from their laptops. I just didn’t feel the need to have to see everything right away. Honestly, who the fuck cares?
Now I’m not trying to knock every single critic. I can only speak for some of those I’ve encountered here in Montreal, and I’ll take a press badge anytime, but I’ve decided that I don’t need to inconvenience my life and rush out to publish a review online before everyone else. I get it. I really do. There are
hundreds, thousands of bloggers, and a few true critics, and so everyone wants the head start, the traffic, the likes, the tweets and more importantly, the recognition for their hard work. I decided that I cannot worry about such things – not anymore. I admire those who can do it, and actually enjoy it, but I still prefer to head to the bar after a late night screening, gulp down a couple of beers. let the movie soak in and worry about writing later in the week.
Step 2: Managing my time.
Sometimes a little overdose of focus in order to keep your businesses growing is necessary, but obsessing isn’t healthy. A while back we tried to start a new column on our site. Like almost every other movie blog, we would recycle stories which ideally all originated from the same few sources – you know, the big guns like Variety and Hollywood Reporter. It didn’t last long because I realized rehashing the same piece of news that hundreds of other sites also printed, wasn’t very fun. Even worse, why produce an article, and waste my time on something that could easily be summed up in a headline. We abandoned the idea very quick. This is where obsession kicked in. Thinking we need to produce or reproduce every article online was not only pointless, but unrealistic.
With our recent reboot (Sound On Sight 2.0 if you will), I’ve decide that I, along with SOS, needed a change. I’ve decided to harness my passion and love of cinema while keeping it in perspective so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming obsession. There is only so much time in a day. How much of my life does Sound On Sight require of me in order to move on? Why is it that I have 2000 DVD’s and Blu-Rays sitting in my office, and not enough hours in my lifetime to ever get around to watching 95% of these ever again? I can only answer so many emails, requests and other demands, and so I realized it is time to politely start saying no. My plan for 2013 is to focus more on what I want to do and not what others expect. I plan on writing more, including contributing to this very column, but writing about what actually interests me. Long gone are the days in which I feel obliged to review specific films or answer filmmaker’s requests, when in truth they do not excite me. Perhaps it is a bit rude, but I’ve always said you need to do what is best for you first.
A funny thing happened while writing this article. I received an email from a younger movie blogger asking me if I could promote his one-man-blog on my twitter and facebook account. He wrote saying he used to contribute to a widely known and extremely popular film e zine (name not included), but left so he could gain more exposure. Normally I’d answer back and even go so far as to help the kid out. After all, there isn’t much difference between him and me, four years ago. But as stated above, there is only so much time in my life, and I just don’t have it in me at the moment. Besides, I wouldn’t have anything remotely positive to say. Maybe I can tell him to go back to the site he used to write for considering they’ve already spent a decade building their audience and establishing a reputation. But for all I know, he most likely left on bad terms. It doesn’t really matter. It is his problem,and not mine.
I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts throughout the years and very few have lasted. I’ve witnessed some of my favourite movie blogs shut down (Classic Horror, you will be missed) – and every time, I honestly feel really bad about it. I know how much work is involved and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to shut it down. If this emailer, ever reads my blog entry, I wish him the best of luck. If he really wants to make it, he will, but I just hope he realizes how time consuming it is. I can’t remember the last time either my I Phone or my laptop wasn’t by my side. I’m constantly tweeting, updating posts, editing, writing, organizing podcasts, answering feedback and emailing studios. It just never ends. A hobby should pass the time, not fill it.
Step 3: Fuck the haters.
Apart from trying to do it all and see it all, I recently realized my sudden lack of enjoyment in running Sound On Sight really boiled down to fear. When I started Sound On Sight many people rolled their eyes, passed judgment and wrote it off as an automatic failure. Its no big secret that I never went to film school much less took a computer class and my sometimes broken English has often been derided on the podcast I host. It doesn’t help growing up in a Portuguese household while living in a French city and it is crazy to even think that I could host one of the oldest film podcasts for so long, much less kick off this project. You see, along the way, haters, cynics, and downright trolls got to me. They placed a fear in me, that Sound On Sight would be one of those projects that was ill-fated, and I ‘d be the passionate individual who couldn’t let go.
But after four years some of those very same people actually began contributing to the site in various ways, when they noticed it was growing larger with time. Some of the very same people who ignored my emails three years ago, have recently contacted me calling in a favour. And when I look at the progress we made, I realize in many ways we’ve surpassed others who weren’t so nice to us back when. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, a gold medal, a cheer (although I do welcome your hate mail), but if anything, this long rant is to put things in perspective, for me. I’ve always said Sound On Sight is a shared community, a place where film lovers from around the world can voice their opinions, and find a home away from their personal blog and reach out to a wider audience. I might be the captain of this ship, but the ship only sails because of the hard working crew on board. So to them, I’d like to once again say thank you. And for those of you who tried to hammer down my confidence, I’d also say thank because you only fed into my personal drive to keep things moving forward.
Step 4: Keeping it real.
There are some who don’t like our podcast because it isn’t as they say “scripted”. And to them I say, you are not our audience. There are some who don’t like our site because we don’t rate reviews with stars or numbers, so I redirect them to other sites. We may never be The AV Club or Deadline, but we can at least try. We don’t script our podcasts because we prefer the laid back approach. We prefer to sit around and discuss a movie, with our friends, a cold beer in one hand and a microphone in the other. We do not rate the movies we review because we feel it is pointless. We don’t seek to reduce our arguments about a particular piece of art to a number, or a letter grade. It is absurd. Take for instance film critic Joshua Rothkopf, senior film writer at Time Out New York, who uses a six star-rating to possibly encourage studios to label his recommendations in their ads. What one critic would give two stars, Mr. Rothkopf might credit as four, simply because he has those extra two to spare. Whoever invented the rating system should apologize to the film community.
Apart from the haters and my borderline obsessive–compulsive personality disorder, I quickly became fatigued with the trolls, who have nothing better to do than leave malodorous remarks across the world wide web. Like dogs marking their territory, they piss and shit across your wonderful site, leaving behind sexists statements, homophobic remarks and racial slurs. Yes I know this is the internet, but what I didn’t expect was such harsh attacks from other so-called movie lovers. It’s a generation of nerds, bullied in high school who grew up to become even bigger bullies online. They hide behind their computer screens, with their silly avatars, they cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately, that we are stupid for voicing an opinion. Well I’m sorry, internet, that we don’t agree on everything. I’m sorry it makes you so very, very angry. But get over it.
There is no difference between the then and now. Internet or no internet. There have always been haters. They leave silly comments on our site and think they are ahead of the curve just because they’ve seen Godard’s Breathless or, even worse, Boondock Saints. The difference between the now and the then, is that it is easier to find those true cinephiles, much like the kids I’d bump into at a specialty video store while browsing through the Pasolini section and later striking up a conversation about Sansho the Bailiff. And that is why I do it…
I’ve made some great friends along the way, I’ve discovered films I never knew existed and I even reconsidered my my views on many films I originally didn’t like… by …wait for it … reading reviews. If you are reading this, and you are a film student, I can honestly say, that the art of film criticism is so very important. You’ll be surprised at what you learn along the way. Just listen to our wonderful podcast and you might discover a few hidden gems and rethink a movie that you automatically shrugged off as pretentious or dull. And maybe you can send us feedback and change our views on a film as well. Critics lead film communities, and those communities breathe life into movies that studios or mainstream audiences weren’t willing to take a risk on. They revitalize the works of past filmmakers and help to stimulate thought and inspire discussion. And they do so much more.
That is why I do what I do. That is the beauty of Sound On Sight. Knowing I can wake up every morning and easily access Josh Spiegel’s latest film review, get a history lesson from Bill Mesce, or listen to Kate and Simon on The Televerse, makes this long journey all worth while.
I’ve always felt like an outsider. People will tell you otherwise but I’m not sure I agree, and/or maybe I prefer to feel that way. I guess I’d rather be the guy that thinks Stanley Kubrick’s best film is Barry Lyndon and that Reservoir Dogs is better than Pulp Fiction, and that The Avengers won’t stand the test of time but Holy Motors will. And so I don’t really consider myself a critic (although a member of the OFCS), and I still after four years, feel like an outsider. But all that aside – I guess I’m still proud to be a member of the film community, in any which way or form – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions - a podcaster, a critic, a blogger, an aspiring filmmaker, or even a fan-boy.
I have big plans for 2013. Our site expands each and every year. We are currently working on switching to a faster server and expanding both our TV and film sections. I’m excited for year number five and hopefully some of you are too.
Some of you will wonder why I even bothered to post this big long rant. I guess I just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?