When I started Bitter Balcony I had two goals in mind:
1. Give John a platform to do his journalism in a proper platform.
2. Start a conversation.
I succeeded on the first goal, but mostly failed on the second point, which I wasn’t very happy about. When I review a film I try to make points that are accurate to my personal perspective on the film. I also use my knowledge of filmmaking to point out obvious and some not-so-obvious flaws in the particular film. I have always been open to, and hoped for, differences of opinions to be pointed out for discussion. This happened a few times and those few times were great. However, those few times were few. Despite not starting a conversation there were other unexpected side benefits that I was able to use to my advantage from Bitter Balcony.
Crypticon Seattle. I started out interviewing people like Eric Morgret of Crypticon simply to help support, a then local, convention that I thought was worth supporting. Eventually, I was invited to speak on panels on various topics, all related to film and most times horror films in particular. I had panels with friends and with writers of films like “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.” The panels were very entertaining for both the panelists and the audience as some would lead to heavy audience interaction. The conversations that would sprout during some of these panels was wildly informative and entertaining. I eventually became more involved in helping the convention with their website and film festival judging, amongst other minor roles.
MIFFF. Alongside my being included in Crypticon in various roles I was also invited to be a film judge for MIFFF for a few years until its sad closure a few years back. Judging films for a film festival is a very informative double-edged sword. I saw some utterly fantastic films (example: HENRi) and many more mediocre to fairly bad short films. I’m not bitter about the bad ones though. The bad films are the ones that show you what not to do in your own personal work. I would recommend judging films for a film festival to anyone who wants to make their own films. It’s a very educational process and every once in a while you’ll be inspired by a film that was submitted which blows your mind. At one point we screened the uncut version of “Srpski Film” which landed people in UK and Australia in jail for screening it publicly. Thankfully, we got away with it.
Filmmaking. Eventually, I was able to use the connections I made through the site to get actively involved in making original film works. It started with “The Shunned House” which won several awards during it’s worldwide run in film festivals from LA to Switzerland. I only edited that one and did some sound design, but that eventually grew to my making a number of short films, a web series and a feature film.
Workforce (web series): It started out as a joke amongst co-workers, but I took those jokes and made a web series. The web series was originally planned to run for 6 seasons and a “movie.” The “movie” being a 30-minute ending to the series, which would close out the narrative for the three main characters. Unfortunately, friendships can be unstable and slowly I lost the cast and couldn’t recast to finish the story, so I shot an ending that only required myself.
“Forms and Shadows” A.K.A. “Monsters.” I attended a stage read through of a script titled “Monsters.” It involved a few friends of mine, so I volunteered my time to help edit. Eventually, I was hired on as the editor and the director of photography. We shot the film for under $5,000 and now have a full feature film. Despite the years that have gone by we haven’t finished it. Making a feature film is hard work. It takes time and dedication, but when you are making a film for under $5K it also takes a lot of free favors. That has bit us in the ass as far as sound, so we linger on until we find a sound engineer and a musician to score the film.
The experience of making a film was super educational, very fun to be a part of and full of a lot of great memories. There were weekends that were 16-ish hour days of work, but despite how tired I left the set that night to get back up at 6AM the next morning for a similarly long day it was worth it. The editing process taught me a lot about writing too. There are things that work on the page that don’t work on the screen, so you have to move things around and edit for the screen.
Cinema Sluts. I was invited to be a guest on the ”Cinema Sluts” (Cinema Tri-force on iTunes) as, potentially, their bitterest guest. Recording those two episodes was a lot of fun it just, unfortunately, turned out to be covering films I didn’t particularly care for. Perhaps that’s part of the fun, but at times I would like to share my positive opinion on films that I like. That last point leads us to…
The eventual rebirth of Bitter Balcony as a podcast. Bitter Balcony slowed to a halt, but was revived as a podcast that ran for four episodes, which garnered over-500 listens per episode. I found that astonishing. I never thought the podcast would gain that level of interest in only 4 episodes. Unfortunately, like with most things, hardships entered the frame. Recording a podcast requires a quite place, time and a coordination of schedules to have the conversation that would become the podcast. At the time, John and I were 3,000+ miles apart, so Skype issues and Google Hangout issues would complicate matters leading to a bit of frustration. These frustrations lead to a good episode being hard to hear because of recording issues and long gaps between episodes. We also were fortunate enough to get one of the Cinema Sluts lead podcasters (Matt) to join us for our coverage of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise. Matt added a little extra something that helped make that particular episode a lot of fun.
Why then is Bitter Balcony essentially dead? I have a few frustrations with film lately. I find it a chore to sit through most movies whenever I attempt to watch a film. I think movies have become so overly formulaic that they are predictable to the point of boredom. With the rise of technological advancements that make movies easier to make, sharper and of much higher quality it seems that better technology does not inherently transfer to better films. The hero movies are the same thing over and over. Major films, in general, have become so safe and without any risk taking in story that makes me feel like I’ve already seen everything. Sadly, I also feel like I’ve seen everything done better by films that came before the film I’m paying $15-ish dollars to see.
My own filmmaking died out over time, too. I was making films and music videos for bands like Q5, but I started to find that I was making films for other people and my voice was never really getting out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved making those films, but there was a bit of emptiness because script after script that I wrote would just sit on a hard drive. That eventually wore me out and I stopped making films. I haven’t abandoned making films by any means, but I am taking a long break from it to start fresh at a later date.
So when watching films is a chore and making them doesn’t really stir something up in me I walked away. Film is still my passion. Storytelling is still my passion. There is nothing like watching/writing something that stirs up an emotional reaction. Writing reviews for bland movies that I don’t hate or love, what I find the vast majority to be, is a bore. Those reviews are hard to write because those movies have failed to stir up anything except resentment for wasting my time and money.
In conclusion, I’ve become mostly bored with modern films. This isn’t to say that there isn’t the random surprise like “Broken Circle Breakdown” or “Eva,” but they are few and far between. Since Bitter Balcony was intended to be a feature film review site it died out due to my growing interest in television, which is taking risks and is, at the time of this writing, pushing better narratives than feature films.
In the meantime, don’t support bad cinema and maybe watch some more television. Let the blandness of the majority of films kill itself and hopefully it’ll come back as something more willing to take risks and not placate to the formula that is known to draw in the greenbacks.
I’d like to send a personal thanks to Eric Morgret for being one of the main factors of getting me involved in so many projects. Thank you, sir. You are a good man and a good friend.
I also thank all of you who have supported us over the years. You humble me by giving us your time and genuinely seeking out our opinions on movies.