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Point of View: It's Hard Out There for a Critic - Ardent Pictures

Point of View

Point of View: It’s Hard Out There for a Critic

(Last week, I published a post about my evolution as a critic. This post directly continues from that one, so check it out first if you haven’t read it already.)

In 2009, I created something called Toronto Film Scene. It started out as a place to go to find out what was happening in the city and read some reviews, and has evolved into a full-scale online film magazine.

But that path hasn’t been easy.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: watching movies and writing about this is pretty much the best job ever and I am not complaining, but with every good thing comes a considerable amount of politics – and blogging is no different.

Over the past three years I have struggled to make the site work. I have dealt with craptastic writers whose work I’ve had to re-write (sometime almost wholly) in order to produce a product I felt I could be proud of. I have made friends and lost friends – both as a direct result of the site – and most of all, I have discovered that this line of work is not for the meek.

You see, it takes a certain kind of person to stand up, have scruples and standards, and become a self-appointed gatekeeper.

Let’s all be honest here, I get to hand out business cards with the title “Editor-in-Chief, Toronto Film Scene” on them because I got up one day and decided that’s what I was. I have no special education that would allow me to get this type of job in any other circumstance. I have literally no experience in journalism, unless you count all the Entertainment Weekly I read.

And yet… this is my job.

Because I am a self-directed learner who is excellent at business (thank you hippie parents who decided to home school an only child while running a franchise), I figured out that we needed a style guide, a set of policies and procedures and an editorial calendar pretty quick. I read a lot of other websites and decided what I did and didn’t want to do. And, most of all, I wasn’t afraid of the change that comes with creating something from the ground up.

In the years since I discovered blogging, the online landscape has changed vastly, and those changes have separated the bloggers from the online journalists.

There is an echelon of people who write online for whom their only concern is being able to see movies for free. And that has, essentially, become their entire identity. They sit around and say really judgey things like, “Oh, you’re not on the Warner list? Huh.”

And, unfortunately, these people make my life very difficult. While I spend my every waking moment trying to create a publication that elevates the dialogue on Canadian film criticism and operates with integrity, bloggers release plot details, break embargos and tear movies a new one just for the heck of it.

Studios leapt on the immense free advertising opportunities that bloggers provided. All they extra costs they incurred was the theatre rental for an advance screening and voila! they could reach an entire demographic of niche readers they couldn’t with traditional media. They instantly recognized the power that influence has, and the resulting box office potential that come with it.

They used it very well, however, now they are unable to see the difference between the ever-widening strata of online film critics and as a result, for now we are all painted with the same brush. I can’t blame them, but I do hope that someday the strata will separate and we will be able to be seen as what we all are – the good, the bad and the ugly.

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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