Hey, GST fans. Today is a special day in Internet history. I’m proud to share with you that it’s been a full decade since I started this site!
For this anniversary/editorial post, I wanted to write more than a catch-all piece recapping highlights from the previous year. Well, there is some of that below, but I hope this look back can also offer a way forward – tips along with lessons learned – for aspiring film journalists or hobbyists like myself.
In a way, I’m speaking to me in 2009, and on that note, I can’t help think of Christopher Lloyd’s famous line from Back to the Future, “My God. Has it been that long?” Has it been fun? Hell yes. Has it been easy? Hell no.
Over the years, this site has truly surprised me every step of the way, and the time spent pushing GST forward has been a labor of love. And it’s because of rule number one for running a site: do it for yourself.
I would urge anyone interested in film, specifically the discussion about film, to get started. Today. It’s easier now than ten years ago to launch a site, but it’s harder to get noticed because so many people are trying to do the same thing. Because of that, it’s important to know what you want before diving in, and I will always refer people to this list of tips for starting your own site. Thanks, John!
Do you like writing reviews? Do you love trailers? Are you a fan of those loathsome “reaction” videos? Do you want to interview people? You could do all, or none, but no matter what “it” is, the one thing you must have – before you type your first word – is passion. Next step: write your heart out. Write about anything that interests you, and keep at it.
Beyond that, the one secret to any longevity (which could be perceived as “success”) is building connections. If you want to write for yourself, that’s great. But if you aim to do what entertainment publications like The Hollywood Reporter** or Rolling Stone do, you need a little more than an avid love of film. You need the help of people who can get you in the game.
When marketing a film, studios work with a number of advertising agencies. In different regions and cities, these agencies handle the campaigns for films from independents to blockbusters. To promote said film, they invite local journalists to advance screenings and press junkets. If you get in with them, there are all sorts of opportunities to advance your presence and career.
I first met some studio reps and marketing agents at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2010 and, little by little, I made connections. But you have to build up a readership and have significant page views/subscribers to even get on their radar. That’s where the passion comes in, and writing even though you may not be ready for that next level yet.
I wrote 50 reviews before attending my first press screening. The film was Attack the Block, and it’s surreal seeing a reserved sign, in a packed theater no less, with (sometimes) your name and the movie tile on it. To this day, I still have some of those and I store a few, with pride, in my review notebook.
There have been so many films reviewed since starting the site (by myself and the now-disbanded GST team – they really made the site what it is today). What I enjoy most about those are the conversations had after the film when our little group of critics stood in the theater lobby hashing over the film.
From there the floodgates seemingly opened; there were more opportunities to take hold of than I could count. But it’s very easy to say yes to everything, so my next bit of advice it simple: pace yourself.
As the site progressed, I transitioned from reviews to interviews (there are more than 200 of them!!) and grew our focus on film scores and the Composer Series. I have no problem telling you that interviews are scary. You don’t want to mess up (because, in person or over the phone, you only get one chance) but they can be very fun because it’s a unique chance to talk – sometimes very candidly – to the talent about their work.
I have many great stories behind the interview that just don’t make it into the final piece, and I think back on some of them very fondly. And sometimes the most unexpected experiences/opportunities turn out to be the most indelible. After all the work you’ve done, it’s humbling when people seek you out, and even cite your work in written or video pieces.
I could rattle off the things I’m proud of, and the opportunities I’ve had, but it’s an embarrassment of riches. Ten years ago, there’s no way I’d have thought it possible to sit face-to-face with Stan Lee, Simon Pegg, Nicolas Winding Refn, Michael Giacchino, Nacho Vigalondo, Key & Peele, the directors of Wreck-It Ralph and its sequel, even Chewbacca. Well, it all happened, plus many others…and if it could happen to me, then anything is possible.
But as far as recapping last year, I have to say that my favorite movie, and score, and interview of 2018 was a film I knew absolutely nothing about – it was a fluke I even saw it. I hosted the Q&A for KIN to help out a friend, but I am sooo glad I grabbed that opportunity. The film, by Jonathan & Josh Baker, is something I recommend to people regularly, and can’t say enough good things about. It’s just awesome. Here is the link to our review and interview.
If writing for a site is work, then any film festival you attend is like a mix between a vacation and Christmas. As mentioned above, networking is important, and more so at festivals because of the types of people you can meet. If you’re lucky, they yield the best (and sometimes only) opportunity to meet people you admire/respect. Pretty sure I was never going to interview Tim Burton, but I got a chance to speak to him on the red carpet. Not the definitive interview I had hoped for, but a bucket list filmmaker none-the-less.
Festivals are where you can take your love of film (and, with a little bit of perseverance, your site) to the next level. Truth be told, the very best memories and experiences I have are from film festivals.
Fantastic Fest (the Austin-based genre film festival) has given me opportunities to rub elbows with filmmakers and, in another by chance situation, my work got in front of a like-minded genre filmmaker. Shane Abbess and his team thought so much of my review of Science Fiction Volume One: The Osiris Child that my pull quote was used on the Blu-Ray cover. To me, that’s beyond cool. If I didn’t go, I wouldn’t be writing about it now.
When I started the site in ‘09, (and my wife fell in love w/ Twilight shortly after), I knew fate would one day have @kellanlutz and I grace the cover of a film…never thought it would be the amazing @theosirischild See kids, hard work pays off and dreams do come true! pic.twitter.com/7gahDZkuIn— Marc V. Ciafardini (@GoSeeTalk) December 12, 2017
And speaking of good-old Fantastic Fest, 2018 was the best year to date. We loved Brett Simmons’ horror send up, You Might Be the Killer, and had a blast talking with him and the creative team. Check out my recap post of our time last year, and all my coverage from years past…there’s a lot of it!
If the above paragraphs tell you anything, it’s this: seize every opportunity. Not many things will fall in your lap if you don’t make it for yourself. Like my Dad says, “90% of life is just showing up.” But do so, with a smile, and you’ll be amazed at what you can/will walk away with. Maybe ten years from now (or less) I’ll be reading your editorial post. Fingers crossed.
In all seriousness, a decade as a site-runner has seemingly provided me a lifetime of experiences, lessons, and, most importantly, a network of like-minded filmic friends. They have become my very best friends.
It’s incredibly rewarding being able to do what you love, whether it’s recreationally or professionally. While it’s never been the latter (le sigh), it’s certainly been worthwhile. If I’m being honest, if hammering out one thousand words in a review of a film I will never watch again provides good publicity to either the studio or just one person, I think it’s worth the time spent. Also, every hour at the keyboard helps build your voice whether you know it or not.
Over time, I discovered that I really wanted to focus on interviews, specifically composer interviews because of my love of film scores. I can’t believe my very first composer interview was an exclusive, on-camera, one-on-one with James Newton-Howard. Not only is he one of my favorite composers, but the man is a legend. He also does not like to do many interviews, so getting one was like winning the lottery. And it happened because I attempted to make the connection. I found out he was playing at the Dallas Symphony, reached out to the organizers, pitched them an on-camera interview series, and they went for it.
It was humbling, gratifying, and it really fueled me to go out and keep swinging for the fences. And the work has paid off. Take a look at the Interview tab. It’s full of actors, directors, composers, Grammy-winners, Oscar-winners, comedians, icons, legends, a Bond girl, a Ghostbuster, and plenty of working heroes. Whether in text or on our YouTube channel, they have an honored spot on the site.
I am also very lucky to have spoken with some of my favorite composers on multiple occasions. I don’t claim to call them friends, but Steve Jablonsky, Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler, Carl Thiel and Harry Gregson-Williams are always welcome at GST. If nothing else, it’s these interviews I am most pleased with.
After all this time, interests can change, so, too, can your lifestyle. As such, the amount of time you have to devote to any one thing can change. My interests have stayed the same, but now that I’m a father (check out the very poignant editorial post I put up after my daughter was born) I am much more interested in showing things I love (now, and as a kid) to my daughter than I am to be the first to see the next Marvel movie. My priority in life is to spend as much time with her and Mrs. GoSeeTalk as I can. They’re the important ones. The way I see it, there’s a pause button on a movie, not on my daughter’s life.
She’s almost four now, and I get excited when she wants to watch The Land Before Time, The Incredibles (she called it “Face Mask” for close to two years, and Incredibles II was the first film she saw in theaters), The Croods, Rise of the Guardians, and more. I can’t wait to see her eyes brighten for what’s next.
So, in closing, I have to say that this entire trip was worth it just to recap some of the benefits I share with you today. I went, I saw, and I talked. I didn’t do everything I set out to, but I am blown away by what I have gotten to do. I’m still working towards it, but I implore you to go, see and talk. Go get ‘em, kid!
**Next month, The Hollywood Reporter will run my first interview with them to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Matrix. Look out for that!!