Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weathering the blackout

I'm in another blackout period.

And by that I mean, I have all the desire in the world to write a review, but I've already reviewed all the movies that I've seen from my latest approved list.

This happens about every six weeks. I'll request my new list of titles that I want to review, and then I'll wait. Sometimes for as long as a month, which usually includes nagging my editor exactly one time. (That's enough to remind him, but not so many times that I seem like a nuisance). I'll usually still have a list of about 20 movies to work from, which I've already been approved to review, but haven't watched yet. But I'm shit out of luck until I actually make the time to watch one.

And it's kind of a bummer.

Here's what happens. Every time I get approved for a new list, it leaves me flush with new options, because it usually contains six or seven titles that I've already seen. See, I request movies for two different reasons: Either I watched it in the natural course of my movie-watching existence, then requested it because I discovered it wasn't yet reviewed, or I scouted it out as something I might like/tolerate sitting through/enjoy making fun of, then requested it. These last are better, in a way, because I can literally sit down and write the review as soon as I finish, leaving me with the freshest impression. The reviews of the movies with the longer gestation period don't usually suffer too much -- I'll still usually review them within a month or two of seeing them. But the less impression the movie made on me, the more I worry about too much time passing before I review it.

Anyway, with the combination of the movies I've already seen, plus those on the list I got impatient and watched in anticipation of approval, I've got a handful of choices. And those six or seven titles usually set off a frenzy of reviewing. I can't control myself and space them out to make them last. I go through these intensely prolific periods where I have to work to limit myself to only one a day. And I also try to keep seeing the movies I haven't seen, so the list of available titles diminishes more slowly.

But by about two weeks after the last approval, I'm starting to scrape the bottom again. And I feel like it's too soon to submit another list, which I cultivate on an ongoing basis. After all, the guy just approved the last list two weeks earlier. Could I really have already gone through another 25 titles and be ready for more?

The thing is, I really do need to submit that next request list, because he's not going to approve it right away. And I'm going to suffer during that down period. But propriety always shackles me. I've got this idea that the more frequently I burden him with this odious responsibility of approving the titles -- he has to check each title to make sure it hasn't been promised to another writer -- the more it will give him reason to become fed up and eventually cut me loose. That's not the reality -- he's assured me several times that my position is so secure, I'd be the last freelancer they'd stop offering work. But the paranoid fear is strong nonetheless, so propriety rules the day. And I wait as patiently as I can.

But it's difficult. I was really ready to submit my last list around July 7th, but made myself wait an extra two weeks and submitted it on the 21st. Then I made myself wait another three weeks and two days before finally asking him about it yesterday. Another 24 hours have passed since then, and I've heard nothing from him.


And so this is how it's gone with the last five movies I've reviewed:

The Four Feathers
Watched: 7/26/09
Reviewed: 7/28/09

21 Up
Watched: 7/25/09
Reviewed: 7/28/09

Talk to Me
Watched: 7/30/09
Reviewed: 7/31/09

August Rush
Watched: 8/3/09
Reviewed: 8/6/09

The Foot Fist Way
Watched: 8/12/09
Reviewed: 8/13/09

Reviewing them promptly after watching them is the ideal way to do it, of course. But it also helps to have some movies that are hanging around, waiting for a rainy day. You never want to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

So how have I passed the time? How have I kept the juices flowing in expressing my love of cinema through words? This blog has helped. Deconstructing the strengths and weaknesses of movies in emails helps too.

But a reviewer reviews, and it can be agonizing to go too long without that option.

This may already be ten times more words than you were interested in reading about my process. But hey, as I said, I'm trying to fill that writing hole.

And I have a confession to make as well: I wrote the second half of this post just to complete what I'd started. Yep, just like going to the bathroom at a restaurant guarantees that your food will arrive, starting this post sent a psychic beam of causation out into the universe, prompting my editor to finally approve my list. I flipped over to email, and there it was -- the latest approved list in my inbox.

It's a relief, in multiple ways. Not only can I start writing again, but it also means I can keep writing. Every new approval provides fresh reassurance that the economy hasn't torpedoed their freelancer budget.

Of the 25 I requested, 22 were approved. Eight of which I've already seen.

Now please excuse me while I go write four reviews, and start the process all over again.

Then again, maybe I'll just give it a rest until Monday.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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