Point of View

Point of View: Evolution of a Critic

I remember working reception at an executive medical clinic in 2004 when someone came in for a travel medical appointment (to get shots specifically for going to places that have hepatitis risks and the like). He was with what I presumed to be his girlfriend and they were talking loudly in a small space about things relevant to them.

I remember hearing the words, “…and this guy says ‘read it on my blog’ to me and I was like, what’s a blog?” His girlfriend didn’t know, so I hopped in.

“Oh, it’s this horrible thing you can do online now where you basically use the web as your journal. People get on there and talk about themselves and it’s the height of vanity. I’m not a fan.”

And it’s true. In 2004 I thought that talking about yourself on the internet was deplorable.

But, then, I didn’t realize that this would be the beginning of a whole new revolution in business, giving a new face to the “Brand of Me”.

Fast forward to 2007. My husband and I take a trip to Los Angeles for both a Star Wars convention (don’t judge) and our second honeymoon (sounds more elaborate than it really was, in 2004 when we got married we were dirt poor and 6 months later we went to our first Star Wars convention as our honeymoon).

Being in LA was a very emotional experience for me. I had always wanted to work in film and – somehow, almost inexplicably when I look back on it – I ended up in theatre. I don’t regret that, because that’s where I met my husband, but it wasn’t the right job for me. In order to keep my husband working in the profession he loves (he is a theatre carpenter), I moved into a career I knew I could excel at: working in an office.

Going to LA was like being slapped in the face with all the dreams you used to have. I felt like it was too late for me to start something new. It was too late for me to have a career I could love. It was too late for me to work in movies.

And I wanted to work in the movies. When I was 9-years-old I was so passionate about this medium that I wrote a full-length script for Terminator 3 (which was oddly similar to the resulting movie and you know what that means: Terminator 3 could have been written by a 9 year old girl). I carried around Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 like it was the bible. I gobbled as much film as I could. I made the Academy Awards a bigger deal than my birthday and got into loud arguments with anyone who declared that Steven Spielberg was anything less than a genius. (Why yes, I do feel differently about this now… War of the Worlds/War Horse/Transformers, what?)

While it was all highly romanticized, it certainly wasn’t “romantic”; I did theatre, after all. I knew it was hard work, but I knew that the product – and its resulting effect on humans – was worth it.

And yet, I had given up this dream.

I came back from LA horribly, hopelessly depressed. I had all this pent up emotion that needed an outlet.

So I took to the internet to talk about film.

I started blogging about anything and everything to do with film. I would talk about what I liked about movies, what I hated. I reviewed them, posted appearance footage and festival coverage. (I don’t write there anymore, but you can find it here: 10 Movies to See Before You Die.)

One day, just after Toronto’s annual horror festival Toronto After Dark, I got an email from the festival director. He said, “If you want to get your reviews finished up by Friday, I’ll include them with our press clippings to the filmmakers for them to use in their press kits, etc. And maybe we can accredit you next year.”

I (nearly) literally lost my mind. I had been dancing like no one was watching, and someone was. In fact, many somebodies were. I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I started looking for people to show me the ropes.

What I found was a wonderful community of bloggers who all live, work and love film in Toronto. We still get together on a regular basis to talk about movies and drink alcohol. (After all, that’s what liking movies is all about – speaking in a loud voice about something you declare to be good or bad.)

One day, I stopped and looked around. We all live here. We all watch movies here. We all talk about them here. But none of us talks about the incredible amount of film that happens all around us. I knew how difficult it was for me to find out about great film events that were happening in the city. And I thought someone should do that.

So I did.

(Come back next week when I talk about the changing landscape of online film criticism.)

Trista DeVries is the Editor-in-Chief of Toronto Film Scene, an online film magazine specializing in local, current and thoughtful coverage of the city’s film and its makers. She is also a web designer and strategist specializing in websites for artists and arts based businesses at the Magpie Design Co.

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