On September 7, 2011, I published a review for director Kevin Smith's Red State titled "A Sad Sate of Affairs." While it also marked a change in relationship to the filmmaker, it was also another shift that has impacted the way that my career has gone. In the years following this review, I have published a substantial amount of reviews for films that I never thought that I would see. Some were great surprises while others were The Human Centipede: Full Sequence. No matter what, it was the feeling like I had achieved something. I had taken my first step into film criticism.
In reality, I had been "that guy" for years. Going back to high school, people praised me for my knowledge of film. It wasn't until 2009 however when I began to take film criticism more seriously and through Cypress College's CCMN program, I started up Nerd's Eye View which currently runs as a weekly podcast. Still, my roots were too much snark and not enough facts. I ran Optigrab as best as I could, but writers are hardly the best self-motivators in their early 20's. Too much distracting tissue in the brain.
Then came what is essentially "the next step." I reached out to CinemaBeach via an ad that I received from Craigslist. I applied for a job and within a considerable time, I had received a response from the website's editor Bryan Thompson. I had the job. It was a moment of pride and one that I felt helped me to reevaluate my trajectory. Admittedly, the site was heavily a Long Beach operative, but it was a way to expand my audience and at least have peers as well as experience working for a site.
There is very little that was as fun as getting roll call in my e-mail every week. Some weeks, the assignments were duds, but at least there was the unpredictable nature. If you were 10 minutes late, there was a good chance the best selection would be gone. It was all about competition to get something that wasn't embarrassing. In fact, that has backfired in some ways and I have had to see low budget mediocrity like Apartment 143, Creature, and Storage 24. The last two rank as the lowest grossing films in their year. I maintain pride in having seen films of that ilk.
More than the obscure films, I felt like it allowed me to grow as a writer. Being 22 upon hiring, I still had some of those teenage tendencies of sarcasm to my pieces. I look back on some of my early drafts and I am thankful for the editing. I still suck at good article titles, but elaboration and concise material have been areas where I have grown thanks to weekly assignments that asked me to not just stick out my nose. It made me respect the craft more and find ways to be clever while maintaining prose. At most, I am very glad that I escaped a format that I call "the college essay" in which I ended each opening paragraph with a question.
It helped me to recognize my weak spots because it challenged me to do something fresh. It also made me feel more confident. Not only necessarily in writing, but also in my perception of this as a career. With school journalism, you use what you have. In the real world, I wouldn't be as immediately accepted. So writing for CinemaBeach was a great breakthrough in how I perceived myself. True, I have yet to get paid (and I am still paying off loose expenses from Sundance), but writing is only holds an impact if you produce as great of quality no matter what your tag is.
During this time, I have covered some crazy things. I covered the Newport Beach Film Festival and attended a special screening of The Paw Project. These are things that I have since become invested in. It has opened me up to a realm outside of the mainstream and while the site expanded to included catch-all content, it always felt like my personal challenge to recognize no-names and give them a chance. For the most part, I can say with pride that I achieved that, thanks largely to countless screeners provided via roll calls.
I have written extensively about my time at Sundance, though I do hold it as one of the last great achievements in my time at CinemaBeach. While my last published review was for Her, it was a film that I saw in Utah on the trip, meaning I haven't written about anything since, save for an unpublished review of A Fantastic Fear of Everything (which I didn't like, anyways). Still, in my time at Sundance, I felt like I reached yet another level. I was among my national "peers." It felt great to be intimidated as I stood in line with people who had seen three films in the time that I woke up and drove to Park City for a noon showing. While it made me realize how terrible I was at networking, it made me feel like I wasn't too far gone on my goals since joining CinemaBeach two years prior.
I saw a lot of great films there and even met Matt Patches (Fighting in the War Room podcast), a critic whom I admire. If there's any highlight on the trip, it is him saying "So, what do you do at..." reads tag, "CinemaBeach." Even if that was a moment he likely forgot hours later, it is one that I still think about with great fondness. In a sense, it encapsulates the growth that I have had thanks to CinemaBeach, who gave me the chance to go in the first place. Thinking back to 2011, I never thought that I would be going to Sundance or meeting Matt Patches and the countless peers who bugged me while waiting for films to start. It was an addictive experience and one that I hope to do again.
Then there was Brian Thompson himself. The man who took a chance on me. In reality, we have only met twice in real life, both attached to festivals (The Q Festival, which I didn't cover thanks to parking issues and Sundance). He has been supportive in making sure my work is the best that it can be. He's even felt like a small inspiration to try and keep improving as a social networking presence. We had more opportunities to meet up, but thanks to school and poor planning, I missed out on those times. Sadly, I never got to help with their short-lived video show, which was something I was excited about. We didn't always agree, but it was one of those early peeks into the constructs of how a website works. In that regards, I thank him for all that he has done. A simple eulogy post probably won't sum it all up.
With all of this said, news was released in the past few days in regards to the future of CinemaBeach. As implied, the site hasn't been as active as it used to be. In fact, my Her review remains one of the last published articles towards the top of the page. The e-mail gave a farewell message that reflected the difficulties of financing the site and its prospects of success dwindling. Still, it allowed me to gain experience and extend beyond my goals. Hopefully, this is only the start and I will be only using this as a stepping stone. It was a necessary one that I owe a lot to.
|Top half of the current CinemaBeach.com Page|
So please, take this last month to peruse the archives of CinemaBeach.com while you can. It is planned to disappear in the upcoming month. Look at the vast history made over three years and notice what the site did. Not just me, but all of the other writers who made special columns and even the comments section on my Frances Ha piece where I was mistaken for someone else. It will soon be gone unfortunately. It will live on as archived on Optigrab and The Oscar Buzz, but the whole set isn't likely to be in one place ever again. The internet is cruel in that way, but the closure makes sense considering some difficulties.
So thanks once again to everyone at CinemaBeach for the experiences and memories. I know it seems strange to dedicate a blog to a website that didn't pay me, but it gained me recognition and ability to grow as a writer. I met some great people and have a wider interest in film because of them. Hopefully I will hear from them again somewhere down the line. Until then, I will always have the experience and now that my motivation and trajectory is motion, it's best that I keep going onto the next thing, whatever that may be.