World Cinema Paradise
December 24, 2013
I discuss this in more detail on the “About Us” page on that site, but basically it’s been an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while, prompted in part by the cataclysmic impact the Internet has had on professional cinema history scholarship and general reviewing and feature-writing. We’re all aware of how the Internet has all but destroyed the newspaper industry, the viability of print magazines, and publishing in general.
I started out writing local cinema-based feature stories and reviews back in 1989. The very first article I wrote paid, I think, $250, and when I went to work writing new movie reviews for The Ann Arbor News, the going rate back then was $65/review. At one point I also wrote two regular home video columns and began writing books as well and, while it really wasn’t enough to live on full-time, at four or five reviews a week plus the two columns it was still a decent chunk of change.
Nowadays, even the biggest and most prestigious websites pay comparatively little, and most pay not at all, even for professional-level writing requiring hours of researching and writing. We as professional writers erred in allowing this to happen. But happen it did and the result has been that many of the best writers have simply given up on their craft and unique skills or write for nothing simply because they have to write, at any cost.
World Cinema Paradise is something of an experiment, to see if it’s possible in this day and age to actually pay experienced, quality writers and offset this cost with Internet advertising and other revenue. The numbers just might not be there to really make this happen, but we’ll see. I’ve slowly been assembling contributors from around the world in hopes of creating a kind of Rolls-Royce of cinema scholarship and reviewing. Visit the site and you’ll see articles by esteemed television scholar Stephen Bowie (his terrific insight on film largely untapped until now), Seven Samurai audio commentator and former AFI Kennedy Center film programmer Michael Jeck, silent film authority Anthony Balducci, writer-director and former American Cinematheque programmer Dennis Bartok, DVD Savant Glenn Erickson, Lee Marvin biographer Dwayne Epstein, and more. In the coming weeks we hope to post new articles and/or interviews with such luminaries as Steve Bingen, Jon Burlingame, Shawn Levy, Ted Newsom, Ron Palumbo, Christopher Potter, Steve Ryfle, Michael Schlesinger, David Strohmaier, John Sinnott, Randy Skretvedt, Gary Teetzel, and Bill Warren, with even more to follow!
Our aim is to cover a wide range of eras, genres, and tastes with better, more thoughtful and personal writing than one usually finds elsewhere on the Web. The articles already posted reflect this: Glenn’s in-depth look at the different Blu-ray versions of The Big Gundown; Michael’s fascinating, funny and sad story of the AFI Theater; Dennis’s personal remembrance of director Ken Russell; Stephen’s eye-opening examination of sexploitation’s auteurs; Dwayne’s perceptive look at Lee Marvin professional beginnings, years away from movie stardom. (We hope to run a lot more in the way of film book and bio excerpts.) Where other sites are obsessed (justly so in some cases) with the latest Blu-ray and DVD news, World Cinema Paradise will spend as much time looking back at the pre-home video, pre-Internet days of movie-watching and writing, though we’ll also be covering selected new and recent releases, such as Dusty Somers’s thoughtful review of Museum Hours. We’ll look back at specific films, special screenings, and movie theaters that made a strong personal impact and influenced our writing and appreciation of the movies.
Anyway, take a gander when you have a chance. Like the rest of the Internet we’ll be slowing up for the holidays with lots of great stuff to follow after the New Year. Enjoy!