Media, Darling: Jason Anderson

Jason Anderson is a film critic and columnist for The Grid (Eye Weekly before that). He also writes about movies regularly for the Toronto Star, Cinema Scope, Movie Entertainment and Artforum.com. He won a Western Magazine Award in 2006 for his music columns for Swerve Magazine in Calgary, and is the author of Showbiz, a novel.

He teaches film criticism at the University of Toronto, programs for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and plays keyboards in the Toronto band The Two Koreas. You can read his blog at jandersonesque.com

@jandersonesque

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I always loved writing but discovered in my teen years that scribbling record reviews was a great way to get free music, too. I never really believed that there was a career in writing about whatever art works or cultural ephemera I was most (or least) enthusiastic about – after two decades or so, I still have a hard time believing it. If this all hadn’t transpired, I would have comfortably slid into a life in academia, which is why I’m happy the journalism has led to some opportunities to do some teaching at U of T.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Hoping to continue to diversify my career with lots of other endeavours beyond journalism (e.g., teaching, programming for film festivals). I also hope to have found the time to crank out a second novel — hell, maybe a third, too.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Don’t put your eggs in any one basket, make sure to cover your bets and… damn, I can’t think of a third cliché. Anyway, my experience suggests that the wisest thing to do is have lots of projects on the go and not be precious about any of ‘em. You never know what’s going to pick up momentum – it could be your most seemingly practical idea or your looniest, most self-indulgent lark.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Still loyal to lots of print magazines, especially about film and music (e.g., The Wire, Mojo, Entertainment Weekly, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema Scope). The New Yorker and the Sunday NY Times, too. Like a lot of folks (young ones, too), I can’t read anything but the shortest items online so my existence is still cluttered with paper.

Best interview you’ve ever had?

I’ve had so many good interviews but I’m proudest when I have pleasant, lively conversations with subjects generally deemed to be impossible or downright nasty (two words: Lou Reed).

Worst?
The worst of all time was an especially bored and sullen Jewel, who entertained herself in between her monosyllabic answers by lighting matches and flicking them into an ashtray in front of us. How charming!

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Keep your head down and keep moving.

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

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Please don’t be mad at me if I make an otherwise reasonable request that may deviate from your plans. I don’t mean to be difficult.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Too many positive ones to mention. Always impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of 99 per cent of the PR people I deal with in Toronto.

I hate?
Rudeness, small-mindedness, Maroon 5.

I love?
My wife and daughter, heavy metal, Stevie Wonder, racquet sports, Scandinavian movie comedies, dessert.

Reading?
Lately: Simon Reynolds’ Retromania, Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, recent tomes on American horror movies in the ‘70s and Hollywood screenwriting.

Best place on earth?
Negril, Jamaica or my backyard.

Dinner guest?
Dr. John

Hero?
John Berger

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Mostly fresh music.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

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Media, Darling: Brian D. Johnson

Brian D. Johnson is best known as senior entertainment writer and film critic for Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly news magazine, where he has worked from 1985 to the present. He is also president of the Toronto Film Critics Association, and has worked professionally over the years as an author, musician and filmmaker.

Born in England and raised in Toronto, Johnson began his career as a staff reporter at the Toronto Telegram and the Montreal Gazette during the early 1970s. He has since written for publications such as the Globe and Mail, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Chatelaine and Rolling Stone. Johnson is the author of three non-fiction books: Railway Country: Across Canada by Train, The XV Olympic Winter Games: The Official Commemorative Book and a history of the Toronto International Film Festival titled Brave Films, Wild Nights: 25 Years of Festival Fever.

Brian is married to author Marni Jackson and they have a son, Casey.

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
I always wanted to write, and the media turned out to be the fastest way to get into print.
Where would you like to be five years from now? 

On a northern lake or a southern beach, retired from working the media treadmill full-time, and doing my own creative work, as a writer and filmmaker.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry? 

Get an adventurous variety of experience in the world, traveling and working, before narrowing your horizons to a single specialty (such as film critic).

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New Yorker, the Sunday New York Times, CBC One, Real Time With Bill Maher, Steve Martin’s Twitter Feed.

Best interview you’ve ever had? 
The best would be any one of the various interviews I’ve done with Leonard Cohen over the years. 

Worst? 
The worst is a competitive category, but it would be a tie between Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith, neither of whom felt like playing ball.
Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

From documentary director Errol Morris, when asked what the key to conducting good interview is, he told me: “Shutting up”. His answer was met with a long silence.
What rule(s) do you live your life by? 

As few as possible. But trying to enjoy it is not a bad start.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros? 

If you want to build a trusting relationship with a journalist, think like one, and when asked off the record, be honest about the nature and quality of what you’re promoting.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

Virginia Kelly is the best film publicist in town. She’s smart, funny, informed, responsive, candid and passionate about cinema. One of a kind.
I hate? 

Aspartame, freezing rain, and Rob Ford’s “vision” of Toronto.
I love? 

Swimming in a spring-fed Canadian lake with no motorboats and water that’s safe to drink.

Reading?
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varnasi by Jeff Dyer.

Best place on earth?
That lake, and its location is my secret.

Dinner guest?
Bob Dylan.

Hero
“We don’t need another hero”.
Favourite app? 
Flipboard for iPad.

Pool or ocean?
Lake.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Richard Crouse

Richard Crouse is the regular film critic for CTV’s Canada AM and its 24-hour news source News Channel. His Bravo show, In Short, runs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Crouse was the host of Reel to Real, Canada’s longest running television show about movies, from 1998 to 2008, and he is a frequent guest on many national Canadian radio and television shows. 
His syndicated Saturday afternoon radio show, Entertainment Extra, originates on NewsTalk 1010 in Toronto. He is also the author of six books on pop culture history including the best-selling The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, its sequel The Son of the 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen and the upcoming Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils. Crouse also writes two weekly columns for Metro News and is the pop culture reporter for The Morton Report
Photo by James Heaslip.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I didn’t have aspirations to be on television or radio, but I did want to be a writer. The idea of sitting in an empty room with just a typewriter and my imagination was very appealing to me. Ironically, I ended up doing pretty much exactly the opposite of that. The radio and television jobs I took were originally meant as a way to get my name around so I could get published, then it all kind of morphed into one large amorphous pan-career that combines several very public jobs—the TV and radio gigs—with the more solitary writing jobs.  

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Five years from now I’d still like to be able to spend time alone with a typewriter and my imagination, but I’m afraid I’ve gotten used to the outside world, so I’d also hope to be seeing five or six movies a week and reporting on them for radio and TV.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Be patient. The world of media is changing at the speed of light and while it is easy to think that your career should be moving at the same pace, establishing yourself in media takes time. Be patient and be persistent. It’s been my experience that the people who were able to remain standing the longest are the people who were able to create interesting, fulfilling careers. 
Once you have established yourself, the best advice I suggest is following the ATM theory… Always Take the Money. If someone offers you a gig that doesn’t involve nudity, clowns or children, take it.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I’m a bit of a media junkie. Even though I have an iPad glued to my side at all times, a well-used and well-loved laptop for when the going gets rough, and a home computer you could launch a spaceship with, I prefer reading newspapers to getting my info online. We get newspapers delivered everyday, and on the weekends the pile of papers in front of the door threatens to barricade us inside.

Having said that, I’m a bit of a social media junkie, with an out-of-control Twitter habit and I check several websites everyday. For industry news, I look to www.moviecitynews.com and for the best, but crankiest movie commentary on the net I go to www.hollywood-elsewhere and Jeffrey Welles. I can only imagine he’s a very unhappy man, but his acerbic style is addictive. 

Best interview you’ve ever had?
I did a show called Reel to Real for 10 years and when it was said and done it was estimated that I did about 4,000 interviews with actors, directors and writers. I was thrilled to spend an hour chatting with special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, chuffed to joke around with Woody Allen, and I can tell you definitively that Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé are the two most beautiful women I have ever touched professionally. There are so many memories. 

Francis Ford Coppola told me, in a way that moved me very much, about his love of cinema. In a Barbara Walters moment I once made Mark Ruffalo cry on stage during a Q&A and one time, Harrison Ford took my dare and called me “Canada’s most beloved and intelligent film critic” before an audience of 500 people. He pronounced it bee-love-ed. I loved that.

Worst interview you’ve ever had?

One of the most uncomfortable interviews happened not because of the subject, but because of the crew. I was in New York to interview John Malkovich for a film he had directed. As usual I was dressed in a suit, complete with a tie and silver tie pin. It was about 40 degrees Celsius in the city that day and even hotter in the hotel room we shot the interview in. I hadn’t met Malkovich before, but I knew he designed his own clothes and lived in France. Sure enough, I walk into the suite and he is dressed to the nines, reading a French newspaper. We do the interview and it goes well. As I’m getting out of my chair, Malkovich says, “Stop. I want everyone to have a look a you.” I have no idea what is about to happen. Neither do the camera, makeup or sound people. They all stare at me. “This,” he continues, “is a man who came dressed for work today. This is a man who wants to be taken seriously. This is a man who commands our respect.” It was hot in that room already, but I’m guessing I was at least 10 degrees hotter under my collar than anyone in the room when I noticed that the people he was talking to were all wearing weather-appropriate T-shirts and shorts. I backed out of the room, afraid the dressed down (both literally and figuratively) crew might go crazy from the heat and take out their frustration with Malkovich on me. Based on the red-faced looks the crew were shooting my way I was convinced my tapes would be sabotaged and blank when I got back to Toronto. Luckily they weren’t.

The worst interview ever was one I did with a very famous Italian director during TIFF a few years ago. He was arrogant, disinterested and my 35th interview of the day. I asked one question, let him ramble on and while he was talking, read my notes for the NEXT interview. Every now and again I’d nod or say, “yes, yes…” to give him the idea I was paying attention, but he was so self-involved he didn’t even notice I had already moved on to the next subject. 

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Never wrestle with pigs. You’ll both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” Or, “never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”

They’re both movie quotes, but they both speak to me in different ways. 

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. My word is all I have. Well, that and a fabulous head of hair.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Know your press. I cover movies and the film industry so don’t clog up my inbox with pitches for publicity for sports teams, best beauty tips to take your look from day to night in under five minutes or dog and pony shows. Not interested. This business thrives on personal relationships so let’s all get along and treat one another with respect.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I’ve had many wins with PR people. My job relies on a good back and forth with a core group of publicists and over the years I’ve built up good relationships with many of them.

I hate… Boredom.

I love… In no particular order: the sound of Ray Charles’s voice, the moment I realize I’m watching a great movie, the word “jackass”, the way my girlfriend still gets excited about going out for dinner, the cover of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, jukeboxes and a perfectly poured Guinness. 

Reading? Just Kids by Patti Smith. A must-read for anyone who loves good, heartfelt writing.
Best place on earth? The cocktail bar at Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard with Manny making giant bourbon Manhattans for me and my friends. 

Dinner guest? Anyone who appreciates my usual recipe for cheese puffs.

Hero? Anyone who has figured it out.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? Sit or Squat. It has the uncanny ability to find the cleanest and closest bathroom to you no matter where on earth you are. And it’s free!

Pool or ocean? Pool, but only if it’s filled with champagne.

Voicemail or email? Voicemail for when I want to speak to you, e-mail for when I don’t.