In the middle of last year, I – a budding cinephile – made the decision to become a film writer. A month or two after this rather out-of-the-blue decision, I successfully applied to write for (according to up-to-date Wikio stats) the UK’s top film website HeyUGuys. Subsequently, I created my own blog, Centrefolds & Empty Screens: a sanctum for me to convey my love of cinema through reviews and other, more personal posts. However, it wasn’t until this year that I grew more confident in myself (though that’s not saying much as I still often doubt my abilities) and started to gain recognition from my peers, leading to a number of opportunities and outcomes that I’ll never forget:
NB: If you’re more interested in the cinematic year, you can skip onto the two end of year lists I’ve drummed up: my ten best films of the year and my ten worst films of the year.
Dundee Contemporary Arts:
Not long after setting up Centrefolds & Empty Screens, and having plagued their Twitter stream with links to my reviews in the hope that they’d give in and offer me some kind of high-paid job, I was contacted by the Head of Cinema at my local independent cinema, Dundee Contemporary Arts – DCA for short. I was offered the chance to see films as press, and considering how often I visit the cinema, and how much of fan of DCA I already was, this proved to be a godsend. It’s also lead to a number of other exciting opportunities, including writing contributions to cinema brochures, the scheduling of a mini Pedro Almodóvar film festival and a seat on a panel, which I’ll talk about in further detail below. DCA team, I sincerely thank you.
Edinburgh International Film Festival:
One of the biggest benefits of working so hard at HeyUGuys (to the point where I’ve contributed over ten percent of their overall content!) was the opportunity to attend the 65th Edinburgh International Film with press accreditation. Though I was only able to attend for a few days due to other commitments, and the fact the festival as a whole was suffering amidst budgetary cuts, a lack of experienced direction and discouraging press, it was one of the most enlightening experiences of my writing life. Not only was I able to surround myself with fellow cinephiles and see films I’d been anticipating for many months, but I was also awarded the opportunity to conduct my very first face-to-face interview. It initially terrified me, but it turned out to be a very humbling and rewarding experience.
Never in my twenty two years did I think sentences formulated by me would end up displayed on film posters of highly-sought-after releases in newspapers, magazines and London tube stations, but lo and behold: that was where I found myself. Through my writing for HeyUGuys, I was featured on a total of three film posters – Submarine, then Arrietty, and finally (a personal favourite of mine) the wonderfully charming and criminally underrated Albatross. It was never my intention to make my writing particularly commercial, which made opening the Metro on a Friday morning and seeing it displayed so clearly made it one of the proudest moments of my life. For that to happen three times, was – and very much still is – absolutely mind-blowing.
From Tweets To Blogs: Online Film Writing:
Through my association with Dundee Contemporary Arts, I was asked by Katharine Simpson, the Coordinator of the Discovery Film Festival, one of Scotland’s award-winning film festivals for young people, to be a part of a panel, sharing my experiences in the world of film blogging with other budding writers. Initially, I was quite apprehensive as I didn’t have a clue what kind of audience the talk would attract and why on Earth someone felt I was in a place to impart advice to others in a similar position to myself. However, after having prepared for the unexpected, I turned up to find a moderately-sized audience of willing teenagers keen on learning from my mistakes. In all seriousness, it was an absolute pleasure to have been able to take part in and support the Discovery Film Festival, and it made me feel like I was being taken seriously and rewarded for all my efforts.
Scotland isn’t the best place for an enthusiastic, relatively young film writer to be living, so it was much to my surprise, and merriment, when I was approached earlier this year by both Cineworld and the Cameo Picturehouse in Edinburgh to be included on their press lists, enabling me the opportunity to see and review films before their UK wide release dates.
Windows Into Insider:
A few months ago I received a rather ominous looking email saying that, by entering a few details, I could be in with the chance of being picked for early entry into the Windows Into program, designed to be a new, innovative blogging experience. Moreover, as a part of the promotion, if chosen I’d be given a Nokia Lumia 800, the brand new iPhone-rivalling smartphone, championing the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Feeling rather special, I haphazardly entered my details and fired off a reply thinking nothing more of it. Then, towards the middle of November, I was received a follow-up email to notify me of my success and that I was to come along to an event held at the Tigerlily Boutique Hotel in Edinburgh to collect my phone and be fed more details about the exciting Windows Into initiative. So, by having a blog that showcased my love of cinema – and perhaps a somewhat blasé attitude towards responding to dodgy looking emails – I got myself a shiny new smartphone and a new outlet for my film-related ramblings.
Special mention has to be made to the wonderful HeyUGuys, a website that has advocated me as a writer from day one and continues to do so 1,082 posts and almost two years later.
It’s not all been rosy, though. Life as a film writer, as you may or may not expect, can be very lonely. There’s quite a bit of rejection (as I experienced first hand when an application I’d submitted for an internship opportunity at the Rotterdam Film Festival was declined), competition is fierce and opportunities hard to come by.
However, despite all that, and despite my battles with confidence issues, low self belief in my abilities and an overwhelming tendency to compare myself and my work to others, film writing has been a hugely rewarding and life-changing experience, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Here’s to 2012 and a whole new host of opportunities!