Media, Darling: Jessica Allen

Jessica Allen is an assistant editor at Maclean’s magazine where she writes and edits for the website in the areas of arts and culture, and makes podcasts and videos. After work, she maintains her personal food blog, Foodie and the Beast, and is the editor-in-chief of T Magazine, a bi-annual publication put out by Terroni restaurant, a Toronto Italian restaurant that she worked at for nearly a decade. During that time she completed a Master’s degree in the history of art at the University of Toronto and spent a year teaching art history in Florence, Italy. Jessica’s TIFF coverage in 2011, her first time reporting on the festival, earned Maclean’s a National Magazine Award nomination.


Did you
always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
Well, as a kid I really wanted to be a
cashier, a waitress or a writer because I loved cash registers and typewriters.
I was very good at pressing buttons. Some might even say gifted. I also used to
host my own radio show that I’d tape on a little cassette recorder from the
living room floor, in private, when I was seven. Topics included: Why does my
brother like Star Wars so much? How
do you make musical instruments from stuff you find in the kitchen? How do they
make those Strawberry Shortcake dolls smell so good? And…Holy s- – t. I just
realized I’ve been a cashier, a waitress, a writer and a podcast host, which is
kind of like being on the radio. I have achieved all my childhood dreams.

Where
would you like to be five years from now?
Surrounded by friends and family at an
intimate, modest book launch. And maybe the book would have my byline. Or maybe
not.  But it would still be a lovely evening
with wine, cheese (fancy kinds) and crackers that would all be FREE.

Any
advice for people getting started in your industry?
Most days I feel like I’m still getting
started. But for freelancers, I’d suggest avoiding emailing an editor with,
“I’d love to write for you. What are you looking for?” It’s just a bit vague.
Do a little homework and see what sort of stories are making the cut and then
pitch a specific idea. And ideally, those queries should reflect who the writer
is, that they can write and that they have a clear idea for a solid story. If
the pitch is vague, boring and poorly written, chances are, the story will be
too.

What
are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Right now I subscribe to three
publications: the New Yorker, the National Post and Bon
Appétit.
My dad suggested to me 15 years ago, when I was probably reading Sassy, to start reading the New Yorker: if you want to be a better
writer, he said, then read good writing and cross your fingers that some of
that fine craft on the page will be absorbed. I don’t read each issue
cover-to-cover, but man, does it manage to both entertain and enlighten. I love the ritual of first looking at the contents
and mapping out what I’ll read. I’ll usually jump to something by my favourite
contributors, like Amy Ozols, Tad Friend or Calvin Trillin. And I especially
love that the stuff I might resist reading at first, usually ends up being my
favourite. Reading the National Post
is my morning ritual. I like to think that it keeps me sharp because I don’t
always agree with the positions of the columnists and trying to articulate—or
at least think about—why that is, is a nice little exercise with morning
coffee. And since Adam Rapaport from GQ
came on board as editor-in-chief at Bon
Appétit,
I’ve been thrilled with that magazine. And I do love television but don’t have
cable so I just keep watching my favourite shows in rotation: The Sopranos, Deadwood and Northern
Exposure
.
Best
interview you’ve ever had?
This September on
the red carpet of a movie called Quartet
,
directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly. We had
a chance to talk with all three of them on the red carpet for the film’s
premiere at TIFF.  And man oh man did
they bring it! That is how you do a
red carpet. And their enthusiasm, humour and professionalism made me feel a
little less sympathetic to other celebrities who slinked their way down the
carpet, with little verve or vigour, giving one word answers.
Worst?
I once had a scheduled phone interview
with a Toronto chef of international renown. He didn’t answer my first three
calls. He picked up on the fourth though, but asked if I could call back in an
hour. There were a couple of more no answers. By the time I got him, he was
talking to three or four other people in the background at the same time as me.
That was a tough one.
Best
advice you’ve ever been given?
There are three, and they’re so simple
I’m almost embarrassed to tell you: First, I was doing a video with Maclean’s colleague Brian D. Johnson,
who’s covered TIFF for 27 years now and appears on CityTV every Friday to talk
about the newest movies to hit theatres. I kept flubbing a take and he told me
to slow down and pause if I didn’t know what to say, instead of blabbering on.
GENIUS! Second, Philippe Gohier, a former editor at the magazine who now works
at enRoute, told me not to be afraid
to focus on what I think the best bits are in a story: think about the stuff
I’d be most excited to tell my friends about. 
And finally, my boyfriend, after being appalled over how many times I
interrupted celebrities on
my first TIFF red carpet
—think Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and Brad Pitt—told
me maybe to stop interrupting people in interviews. It’s just that I don’t like
making people uncomfortable and would always fill in the awkward silences. If
you let them do it instead, sometimes magic will happen.
What
rule(s) do you live your life by?

I wish I had more
rules to live my life by, but here’s one: Be nice to people. And hopefully not
because your motivations are selfish: be nice to people, including the security
guard, the cashier, the 
sales clerk or the taxi driver, because
being polite and nice are just good things to be in a world that sometimes
lacks those basic courtesies.


What’s
the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I suppose to do a little research before
emailing a press release or pitch: For example, while I’d love to cover a media
scrum on the Hill in Ottawa that you’ve emailed me a press release about, there
are probably far more capable reporters at Maclean’s
to do the job, even ones who actually work in Ottawa. Also, peg the person,
place or thing you’re promoting to a specific section of the magazine or
website that you know would be a good fit for your pitch. And don’t be alarmed
if I choose not to write about those chipotle-yogurt-acai berry gluten-free
chips that you’ve sent. I’m sure they’re amazing, but our readers might not
understand why I just dedicated 500 words to them. 
Best
experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Last year was my first time covering
TIFF. I was so naïve and had to count on the kindness of PR strangers
(including you fine folks! But it might be considered gauche to recount here.) I
managed to connect with Jennifer Love of Duet PR, who practically held my hand
after I flat out admitted that I was new to TIFF and usually wrote about food. She
did her best to include me at events that might have a culinary focus. One was
a private dinner for a movie called The
Artist
where the star,
Jean Dujardin, director
Michael
Hazanavicius
and producer Harvey Weinstein would be
in attendance. Media wasn’t supposed to be there but I promised to behave and
be a fly on the wall. I ended up sitting with two of the smartest people I’ve
met working in media—Anne Thompson and Dana Harris of Indiewire—and had the time of my life. Hearing Thompson over dinner
confess that:
“I’ve been quoted in print as saying
Ewan McGregor has the most beautiful penis I’ve ever seen. Well, the title now
goes to Michael Fassbender,” was especially memorable, not to mention watching
the Weinstein brothers work the room, or rather, the room working them, and
being privy to New York PR sensation Peggy Siegel doing her thing, were like
scenes out of a movie on the business of making movies. And I
got a great little story out of it to boot
.

I hate?
Chicken on pizza, or in pasta. And
strawberries in rhubarb pie.


I love?
My bike. I ride it everywhere. Sometimes
in heels (don’t recommend.)


Reading?
Currently on the bedside table are A Room With a View (because I just
re-watched the Ivory-Merchant film), Philip Roth’s Zuckerman Unbound, and a food history called Consider the Fork.


Best place
on earth?
Lately, my couch, in home-time comfy
clothes, fire going (in fireplace), one of the above-mentioned TV shows
playing, with my feet on my boyfriend’s lap and a glass of Sancerre resting on
my tummy. (I will take a cheap Italian white, if funds are limited, which is
more often than not.)
Dinner
guest?
Daniel Day Lewis as Nathaniel in Last of the Mohicans, Matt Damon as
Jason Bourne and Brad Pitt as Tristan from
Legends of the Fall
. And if there was room, Russell Crowe as Gladiator. Okay, and Daniel Craig as
007. They would arrive in costume, and be in character the whole night. After
dinner, which I’d prepare at my place, we’d all go sit on the couch with
glasses of bourbon and watch the movies they’re in, or maybe deconstruct
episodes of Girls, and eat a Deep and
Delicious cake out of the container. I’ve said too much.


Hero?
Professionally speaking, Elaine Lui of LaineyGossip. Her writing is not only
hilarious, but it also, for me, blurs the line between high and low culture. If
I’m ever feeling lazy, I think of how much she works, and how she manages to
pump out copy on pop culture that is often so acute and illuminating that I
wonder why she’s not a f–king university professor. (Probably because having
your own gossip website is more fun, and you still get to do TED Talks on the
side.)
Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I use the LCBO App quite a bit. Probably
too much, actually.


Pool or
ocean?
Always the ocean.

Voicemail
or email?
Always the email.

Photo Friday: Happy Movember!

It’s finally here, the one month that men wait all year for – the month they can finally let their facial hair roam free on their faces, in honour of Movember. We think it’s pretty great that a charity and awareness campaign has managed to grab hold so tightly of everyone. Guys like to grow a ‘stache and girls like to complain about it (while secretly sort of… enjoying). 

In honour of this great month-long hairy crusade, we’ve curated a collection of our favourite moustaches, and added a special photo at the end.


*Psst: Movember isn’t just about growing the bushiest moustache, it’s also actually about raising funds for male prostate cancer research and mental health issues. Make a donation here.



A classic moustache – Gregory Peck.

Brad with a ‘stache? Always.

Whoever this dude is….kudos.

Perhaps one of the greatest moustaches of our generation.

Another handsome mouth brow from our time.

Impressive form.

Yes, we ARE ready to rumble.

Charlie’s quirky ‘stache.
Perhaps the most famous Canadian mo.
Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.
(Like this moustache)
Image source.

Serious soup strainer.

Frida down to the hair.

Jules has got some impressive facial growth.

A more permanent (and unisex!) option.

When leading men were manly.

Happy Movember! 
(Apparently we take moustaches REALLY seriously).







Media, Darling: Teri Hart

Movie Entertainment’s Teri Hart burst into living rooms in 1996 as host of The Movie News (later known as @
The 
Movies) with an infectious charm and irrepressible energy that has made her a favourite with viewers and movie-stars alike. More than a thousand interviews later, Hart has become a fixture on red carpets, press
junkets and film premieres, connecting film fans with all aspects of Hollywood
and Hollywood North – from scorching hot, A-list celebrities to up-and-coming
local talent.


In
addition to Movie Entertainment – on-air at The Movie Network and HBO Canada and online
at themovienetwork.ca – Hart can
be heard weekly on Entertainment Extra,
a weekly 
entertainment show on NewsTalk 1010, and contributing segments for Astral 
Radio stations Virgin, Boom, and more.

Hart’s
interviews include the “who’s who” of Hollywood – Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt,
Julia Roberts, 
Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Will Ferrell. She is
also an ardent champion of emerging Canadian filmmakers and was among the
first to turn the spotlight on Canada’s
now-established storytellers such as
Michael McGowan, Sudz Sutherland and Deborah Chow.

Born
in Brantford, Ontario, Hart studied broadcasting at Humber College where she
found her
passion for entertainment journalism. 
Before joining The Movie Network, she held several 
on-air positions, including stints at Toronto radio stations Q107 and CFNY and CKNX.  
Hart is a member of the Broadcast Film
Critics Association
(BFCA), Women in Film and 
Television (WIFT), Canadian
Women in Communications
(CWC) and the Academy of 

Canadian Cinema and Television.




Website: www.themovienetwork.ca/movie-entertainment/
Twitter: @TeriHart


Did
you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
horizon?
Being a lawyer crossed my mind, but my fate was sealed when I started
working at the movie theatre as a teenager; I knew I wanted the smell of
popcorn “topping” in my life forever.  

Where
would you like to be five years from now?

Carpe Diem.


Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Know the business! Watch the movies! Understand the org. chart, know how your company makes money from your position and get involved with as many different business units within the organization that you’re working for. 

What
are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New Yorker, New York Times, Deadline.com and of course, I watch the Canadian daily
entertainment shows.

Best
interview you’ve ever had?
 
Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter. I loved the movie and
he was so gracious and interested 
in having a detailed talk about the film; it was the perfect combination of hard work meeting a willing subject. There was also the time that Ryan Gosling practiced his line “do you
wanna get 
outta here” from Crazy, Stupid, Love with me but I loved that moment
for very, very different 
reasons.

Worst?
There’s always that moment when you’ve been standing on a
carpet for hours and you find yourself screaming another human being’s name and
they simply walk by. That’s soul crushing.

Best
advice you’ve ever been given?

There’s always time for wine.

What
rule(s) do you live your life by?

Do the right thing. It’s usually the easiest decision.

What’s
the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Know who you’re talking to and be honest. We all need favours once
in a while. I’m usually on your 
side.

Best
experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Understanding that specialty TV might not be conventional but we
can deliver true movie fans. I
love when that’s understood.

I
hate?
Judgement.

I
love?
Girl’s nights.

Reading?
Right now, inevitably press notes and a back issue of The New
Yorker
. Eagerly anticipating two 
books from friends: Richard Crouse’s Raising
Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of the Devils
 
and Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982.

Best
place on earth?
Lake Nipissing with the sun setting, my three nephews laughing in the
sand, a backgammon and a 
cribbage board close by and glass of wine in hand.

Dinner
guest?
Fine dining with George Clooney or Ryan Gosling.
Spaghetti with my husband.
Ice cream with my nephews.


Hero?
Spanx inventor.

Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

Pool
or ocean?
Pool.

Voicemail
or email?
Email.

2012
TIFF film you’re most looking forward to?
The Master or Argo.

City Living: Our favourite TIFF memories

Like tons of people in the city, once the air starts getting a little cooler at the end of the summer, we can’t help but feel a little je ne sais quoi. We’re counting down the days for one of our favourite times of the year, TIFF, officially beginning September 8.


We’re totally able to rock 12-hour (+) workdays with very little sleep, and sometimes without being able to share epic moments with our BFFs. The one thing that gets us through these 10 awesomely chaotic days are great moments that make our day (or in many cases) our night, and today we share a select few with you from TIFF’s past.

Think you’ve heard it all before when it comes to film festival? Bet you’ve never heard many of our faves, often from behind the scenes or at late-night gigs. From our memory vaults to you, we’ll be sure to share more after this TIFF is over. Enjoy.

  • Gord Downie closing out Festival Music House last year, playing a solo set to a few hundred lucky people.
  • Oprah literally shutting down all of Yorkville when she attended the ONEXONE party in 2009.
Image source.
  • Julian Schnabel conducting interviews in his silk pyjamas while in town promoting The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Julian wearing his infamous purple sleepwear at the AGO (image via LaineyGossip).
  • Sarah Ferguson’s (a.k.a. the original Fergie, the Duchess of York) six Blackberries – each one is for a different business/charity/personal function and they were carried around in a custom-made Louis Vuitton case that accommodated all six.

  • Being at the same party (for Burn After Reading) as Brad Pitt, Mark Ruffalo, the Coen Brothers, Jeremy Piven and Frances McDormand and realizing there was no VIP section. Because of course, the whole party was VIP (so how did we get in?).
Part of the Burn After Reading cast we spotted at the after-party.

TIFF participants: What are your favourite memories? Tweet us @rockitpromo.