Jun 27, 2013

Transformation


First and foremost- if you've supported us in any fashion over the years, thank you.

This blog has been nearly silent in the past nine months, largely because the vim and vigour had been taken out of me. Personal problems have affected my creativity, but even without them, the desire to put the fingers to the keys has lapsed. 

This latest season of The Eclectic Screening Room (or, ESR for short) was the worst ever. Poor sales of the newest issue and zero reader response have forced me to ponder if this thing is even worth doing anymore. It simply does not get easier for a micro-press like this. With distribution centres closing down, dwindling numbers of trade shows or specialty stores to sells one's wares, and everyone's migration to the web for their fixes of film writing, our audience has shrunk over the years. Another factor of our reduced readership is because in recent times, there has only been one new issue a year, therefore making it difficult to sustain a community and network (which was always our number one goal). 

Admittedly, in the past, these setbacks have actually fuelled my desire to keep up the good fight. But let's face it. I'm not getting any younger. After doing this for twelve goddamn years (and largely relying on myself to get anything done), I'm simply tired. 

Before we continue, two confessions…

-Back in 2001, when the initiative was finally on to start this publication (after being in the back of my mind for seven years), its working title was Filmbitch. However, at the eleventh hour I discovered that this name was also being used for a zine in the United States, and then hastily worked to think up another title. Every name I came up with, that had "film" or "cinema" in the title, sounded too similar to something already out there. At 11:59, The Eclectic Screening Room popped into my head. In hindsight, it is good that Filmbitch wasn't used, since the title suggests a more rebellious, militaristic slant than I'd have been comfortable with.  If anything, ESR was made to celebrate what we love rather than waste space on what we hate.  Even so, for the past twelve years, I've had a love-hate relationship with the name. 

-In 2011, I secretly planned to end the run of ESR with the release of the tenth anniversary issue. There would be no mention of that fact anywhere- not even in the editorial. The idea was to let it end on a high note and quietly slip away while I started other projects. But then, something happened. Because of a healthy season tour in the fall of 2011, and a lot of nice letters from readers, I reconsidered this decision to end the publication. Perhaps it was still viable to keep this thing going after all, in light of the growing obstacles mentioned above. In 2012, I planned to make ESR better than ever, by releasing it in a print-on-demand book format which would ensure its durability, and would be filled with content that wouldn't be outdated by the time it hit the press. Alas, too much time was spent on the look and format, less on the actual content. Therefore, when the new issue of ESR was released last fall, it was business as usual- printed in the zine format, with considerably less of the intended content. (In hindsight, this too was a good thing: with such a poor season- I would've lost even more money in startup costs with the other venture.)

The Eclectic Screening Room has certainly lived up to its namesake with all of the different kinds of cinema discussed between the covers ("anything but what's in the multiplex", I would often say).  I now wonder if that was a mistake. 

Should I have instead focused writing on just one type of cinema? It would be re-assuring that after twelve years, these pages would have represented something- had some kind of cohesion or identity: for example, fellow travellers Jonathan Culp and Paul Corupe are renowned for their expertise in Canadian cinema. It just seems to me now that in my art, as in my life, I'm a jerk of all trades and master of none... as "all over the place" as others that I've criticized for being.

ESR has created further confusion just with the title. Newcomers see the mags on the table and ask, "So where do you screen these films?" Then, I would explain, "No no, it's simply the name of the magazine." (Of course, ESR did host its own screening series one year, but that's another story.) Ironically, I was asked this same question more in the past year than ever before. Sigh….

To some, these comments may sound like crying over spilled milk. Overcoming setbacks is a harsh reality in any creative venture. One is supposed to be doing it more for the love than anything.  Indeed- for eleven years, this pursuit did garner its rewards.  However, over time, the struggles have outweighed the bounties. Last year's dismal season only enforced that point.

I still love to write about film, and still want to share discoveries. This isn't goodbye: it's just that I have to rethink things. I'll still be posting, sharing, learning.... but I'll also be searching.... trying to create a body of work - a voice -  that represents exactly who I am. This voice may be still be under ESR's banner, or perhaps ESR will be put to pasture and acknowledged as the first step in my evolution to other things.

The Eclectic Screening Room has provided many experiences, for which I will eternally be grateful. I am honoured by those who have taken the time to contribute to it, or who have allowed it into their lives. However, it simply cannot survive in its current state. We have to adapt and grow.

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