detur la Preciziei, final note

Website: http://deturlapreciziei.uk/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/deturlapreciziei/

Twitter account: https://twitter.com/detur_Preciziei

detur la Preciziei grew unexpectedly in the past month. The Facebook page has 135 followers, to which are added the 11 twitter followers and 15 website subscribers. The reason why, from the three, the Facebook Page is the most followed one is that Romanians don’t use twitter, so Facebook is more accessible.

It has 15 posts, at least one in each category and every post has at least 5 likes on Facebook and 2 shares, 2 of them even have comments and a reach that goes from 74 to 854. The website has around 30-40 views per day, with a maximum of 245 and a minimum of 15. The viewers are mostly from Romania and the United Kingdom, but, in a smaller number, there have been registered viewers from all around the world.

Plans to extend: now that the content of the website is starting to take a shape, I will start sending it to people in the industry and other international film/culture websites. Messages have already been sent to Tudor Giurgiu (Romanian director and director of the Transylvanian International Film Festival) and to http://gorillafilmonline.com/ . Waiting for their answers.

“Interviews’ seems to be the most viewed category, and the periodical public interviews dynamise the content and attract readers. Furthermore, I already started writing reviews for the films which are mentioned as favourites in the interviews (e.g. Love Building, Illegitimate). For the time being the questions (for the public’s interviews) were somewhat introductory, not to scare the interviewees off, but also to set a basis for detailed and more thorough questions.

Plans: Anamaria Antoci proposed to contact other people in the industry, who she worked with, from our part. The cinema manager interview is pending, and I plan to continue the series of public interviews – 2 a month.

On the website, there is already a review written by someone else but I, and I have been announced that another article will be sent soon.

Plans: To find at least one co-writer. I might have found one, but I am waiting for her article first, and then there is the prospect of another writer joining in the next 2 months after he finishes his current projects. They are both Romanians, but from different parts of Romania and with a different background.

Must: Find a dedicated and professional translator, to translate articles sent to us and proofread the content on the website (I already have a proofreader for the content in Romanian)

Articles, there is only one article published and another one ready to go out. The articles are meant to deal with different issues or aspects which cannot be discussed through reviews and interviews. I started with an introductory one, in which I tried to identify the principal reasons why Romanians dislike Romanian films. The article started a dialogue on Facebook.

Future article ideas: The phenomenon of the inverted world in Glissando, Lux Hotel and Somewhere at Palilula, and its recurrence; The change in the film’s aesthetic – the return to naturalism and brute realism; Metaphors and cryptic messages in the films before 1989 etc. – 2 articles per month

As the promotion part is going well, the posting on social media will continue on a similar pace + open questions for the followers to answer and, hopefully, to create a larger dialogue.

The hardest part of running detur la Preciziei was the constant writing pace, the frequency of published posts. I have learnt that things do not go as planned, and there always needs to be a plan B post ready to be published, especially in the case of interviews. I have dealt with delays, which ruined my schedule because a delay causes another. I learnt to send the questions a week in advance, and even that wasn’t enough in some cases. The public interviews were the most challenging, people forget, or they don’t answer, initial lists of interviewees are changed on the way, some answer with yes or no to questions that cannot be answered with yes or no. The participants need to be diverse, age, occupation, gender wise, so maintaining equilibrium and hitting a deadline hardly go together. More stressing than the writing itself was translating everything, which was just as time-consuming, to which were added all the translation technical malfunctions, until I found the best way to make the website bilingual.

Fears and expectations: Romanian film is either an uninteresting subject (I quote “you’re promoting something that doesn’t exist”) or a sensible one. Exposure was my biggest fear, still is, how people will react to my texts because some of them react pretty violent to the film itself. For now, the website seems to be followed only by people who have a certain interest in film or want to learn something/more about Romanian films. As for expectations, they have been exceeded. There seem to be a few devoted readers (except for my mum). As usually, I did not have any kind of expectations, but people started liking the Facebook page from the first day, and the number grew fast, also they were open about participating in the interviews and excited after they were published.

Little joys: first “heart” on Facebook, first comment on Facebook, the 30 likes that came with the interview with Paul Stefanescu, first review written by someone else, seeing the logo, people from the public being happy and thanking me after they saw their answers included in the final text.

Ending note:  It all started with a foggy idea of doing/writing something about Romanian film. It ended being a website, because the virtual content is the most accessible one and I want to write for the large public, not for elites, or at least not only. I believe in the importance and value of an informal, easy written text, style wise, but with a solid knowledge behind it, that is accessible and can be read and more importantly understood by anyone, anywhere. Through my website, I want to raise awareness about Romanian cinema and to make people curious to watch Romanian films.

I have been asked in the beginning if I wanted it to be only a final MA project or a personal project that will continue even after submission. My answer was, a shy, even sceptic one, that I would like it to continue. Now, a day before the submission, I know that I cannot put an end to detur la Preciziei exactly when in starts to grow, it would be cruel, and all my work would be in vain. There has been too much work put into it, there are too many plans, and are already a few readers that I cannot disappoint, but mostly, I cannot disappoint myself by giving up a project that is so close to my heart, my passions, my identity and has also the potential of becoming internationally known one day.

Research

Bibliography for Romanian cinema contemporary or less contemporary is limited, at the least.  And trying to study Romanian film in the United Kingdom wasn’t exactly the smartest decision I could’ve taken. But, one of the reasons for starting this website was exactly the reduced number of textual materials on Romanian film and the fact that they aren’t accessible, being mostly in Romanian and in Romanian libraries or antique book stores. Therefore, most of my research was based on reading the few materials that I had access to, but mostly watching interviews with actors, directors, producers, read mostly all of the film reviews from critics or cineastes for the films that I focused on, and go through “piles” of comments from the public.

Considering that the project was born from my interest in the relation between the Romanian public and its film, reading people’s comments on different films, helped me shape an idea about the reasons behind the like or dislike (mostly dislike) of Romanian films. Also, the interviews, the ones with the public mostly, served the same purpose. The outcome from this type of research was identifying what the public doesn’t like, and why and using this knowledge to write detur la Preciziei’s content as to explain why the films are the way they are, and why they deserve to be watched. It was mostly being “in touch” with the public that helped me find my tone and style.

Why doesn’t Romanian public like Romanian films?

  • it’s too “intoxicated” with commercial cinema, with block busters, special effects, action scenes.
  • the films lack when it comes to their promotion, they simply don’t get to the public. There are cities with no cinema halls, except for that from the malls, which never screen Romanian films
  • the 30 (less than 30 now) cinema halls aren’t as comfortable and modernized as the ones in malls, so the public prefers to go to the later ones, which only makes even the few cinemas still alive to close their doors.
  • besides the aesthetics that the public cannot always digest, the film’s pace that the public isn’t accustomed to, it is mostly the stories. In a post communist society that still bears the memory of the totalitarian regime, the films come to make those memories more vivid. As Romanians, we have not yet made peace with our past, and we are scared to look it in the eyes, even on screen.

From reading different reviews, I identified what might work, what works, but I want to avoid, what doesn’t work at all.

What might work: a friendly tone, a relaxed language, with just enough references, but not too many, a focus on aspects in the story and characters that are deeply human, and how are those integrated into the film’s context.

What definitely works, but I’ll avoid it: there is a certain degree of anger in some of the most read film reviews, a sort of “violent” tone, and an inclination to criticize the result, or certain aspects of with, just for the sake of criticism.

Romanian film websites:

http://aarc.ro/ – not all their articles are translated in English even though the website has that option

http://romfilmdevelopment.org/en/news/ – only 4 film reviews

http://cinepub.ro/site/ – a website with Romanian films, a film library, so it’s probably the best (legal) source for free  Romanian films

  • Solid information, good insides on the industry, bilingual content, interviews.
  • All websites are run by a group of people and are part of larger publics.

What will my website bring new?

Firstly, being only 2 Romanian film websites, it cannot be said that the area is “over populated”. Detur la Preciziei won’t be better or worse than those, but it has a slightly different approach. It is a bit more focused on films than the industry as a whole:

  • http://romfilmdevelopment.org/en/news/ only has 4 film reviews so far, while detur la Preciziei already published 7; plus this one is dedicated only to contemporary films, while detur la Preciziei tries to also incorporate older films, for a larger context).
  • its focus is not exclusively on Romanian cinema, but there are articles about international films, recently released –  detur la Preciziei has a long term plan of maybe extending its area over East European Cinema, but it would discuss films in context, in the context of East European cinema, how it developed over the years, how each country has a specific cinema, and actually one cannot generically name any film produced in the East-central part of Europe an East European film
  • http://aarc.ro/ is a good data base for films, they have an index with (I think) almost all Romanian films, and virtual published articles about those films – but not all of their material is bilingual even though the site has that option; detur la Preciziei has all its articles translated and intends to continue like this
  • what detur la Preciziei does differently and is focused on, while the other websites aren’t, is developing a dialogue with the public (through the interviews, for now). Detur la Preciziei is interested not only in what critics or people in the industry say about certain films or Romanian cinema in general but also in what the public says. As shown, our participants in the public interviews (the Romanians) have articulated opinions about Romanian films in general and films in particular, that deserve to be taken into consideration.
  • detur la preciziei is looking to extend this public dialogue with people outside Romania as well, plus, in contrast to the others, the main interface of the website is in English, not Romanian, which makes it more approachable for the international readers.

Co-writers

A challenging task. I either know good writers, but who are not interested in film, or people interested in film, but not Romanian film. Hopefully, someone will eventually come forward, after making the official announcement on the website and sharing the post on Twitter and Facebook (website’s page, personal page, and a few groups).

P.S. I received a film review, of an old film (unexpectedly old film), but as the initial plan was to have reviews of new films in parallel with older films, the review will soon be published. Plus, it is very well written and the film might just be a forgotten gem.

P.P.S. I might have found a co-writer, but our collaboration will only start in a few weeks as he is busy with another project at the moment.

Interviews

  • Public interviews – series of questions, easy and light questions, which leave enough space for answers that aren’t that light. These types of interviews were the most time consuming, from getting back the answers from the “interviewees”, which usually tried to avoid answering by saying “But I know nothing about Romanian film”, to actually putting the final piece together. It had 3 phases, coming up with the questions, so that they won’t scare anyone off, and I can make, for myself an idea of what people think about Romanian film and what films attract them more, and why, to talking with a double number of persons than that of the actual number that appears in the final piece, because they never answer in time, to collaged the answers together in a relevant piece. I insisted on doing “public interviews” because I want to develop a dialogue with the public, to know what kind of film they consume and to help me build a strategy to promote my website and Romanian film. Also, I consider it to be an effective way of attracting readers and followers, when they know they have contributed to something on the website. The first public interview received favorable feedback.
  • Paul Stefanescu – interview with an underground film artist/director/filmmaker. I knew Paul for a while, and had already written a review for one of his films. I admire him as an artist and of course his work and I knew that he wouldn’t mind a bit of promotion, and detur la Preciziei need some promotion as well. After the interview was published and shared on his pages, the followers’ number on Facebook increased with 30. And was seen by people in the field, probably not from people in the main industry, but by other international artists and underground filmmakers.
  • Anamaria Antoci – the producer of Illegitimate. It would be an interview about the more practical side of things, with Illegitimate as a recent example. Plus, the interview and long it the website might be seen by people in the industry that she worked or is working with. Anamaria already offered to connect me with other people from the industry for new interviews (as a future plan).
  • Cinema manager – pending

Beware, Criticism on this Road

The first encounter with criticism, constructive criticism I would say, even though I do not totally agree with it, or maybe I don’t agree at all, but it is nevertheless a different perspective. I thought the website was going pretty well, considering its only 2 weeks old and the subject, Romanian film, is either unknown for many, or something not of much interest. Romanians as I have said, avoid Romanian films because they are not commercial enough (they aren’t commercial at all – most of them). This criticism came from someone who was talking exactly about this aspect, highlighting that the Facebook page has only 92 followers. And that is because the subject isn’t interesting enough, or sellable enough. Maybe it isn’t. That virtual “starlets” have so many more followers than detur la Preciziei, oh, of course, they have! But then again, detur la Preciziei doesn’t post gossip, or photos of food, or pictures from the gym, or glamorous outfits, it’s a film website. And not even a Hollywoodian film website… how unfortunate.

I will generically name this individual M.
I quote M. “Why does Game of Thrones sale? – because of violence, sex, and special effects” I couldn’t agree more, but then again, Game of Thrones is an HBO TV series, made to sell, Romanian films are nothing like it, and never wanted to be. It’s not that Romanian directors wouldn’t want to bring the public to the cinema halls (the few that still exist), but they have something different to say, they had something to prove at some point, or not exactly prove, but actually wanted to change something in Romanian’s penurious film scene. I’d also say that the reason that TV shows or films like Game of Thrones (and I am a fan of Game of Thrones, exactly for its entertaining quality) are popular, sell, bring the public to the cinema is that they are American or Americanized, because they invaded the mass conscience and Hollywood became almost synonym with film, which is kind of tragic, from my point of view.

M. also said that the articles are too… restrained, too dry; they don’t shock (but then the films’ subjects don’t usually shock, at least not like a Tarantino film, or a Fincher film) or entertaining enough, maybe M.’s right, I will have a look at my older articles, reread them, they might not be catchy enough. I don’t want the style to be rigid, and dull, but pleasant and easy to read. Anyway, M’s suggestion was to write a pamphlet, which is an interesting one to take into consideration, but such a writing implies to have as a subject something of arguable quality, of better, said something of poor quality, which is what I tried to avoid when choosing the films. M’s argument was that mockery attracts, at least when referring to the Romanian public, and I agree, but by mocking something means putting myself higher than that exact film or film-maker, which I cannot do, and I don’t want to either. And if we’re talking about a bad film… then even bad publicity is good publicity and I wouldn’t want to make any kind of publicity to some cinematographic production that should have never hit the screen, but now, if they did, they should be better left forgotten. What I did, though, was to raise a challenge for M. to write a pamphlet review for a film of his choice, if the text convinces me, I’ll edit it, publish it on the website and see how it goes if M. was right and the followers’ number will grow.

M. also gave an example of a film, Aferim!, which I have yet to see, and said I should write something about it, that it would attract more readers. The film is a “hit” of the last 2 years (at least in Romania), it is a “historic” film, and can’t aesthetically be integrated into the New Romanian Wave, so I understand the attraction. Comparing it to the slices of life that the rest of the films are (or perceived to be), Aferim! might just be more a commercial film (but only a bit), with an entertaining story, set in Romania and “good” visuals (but I can’t state that as a certainty yet). I have just added it to my film list (and review list).

All in all, even though I might not follow M.’s suggestions, the dialogue was beneficial to reinforce my beliefs that detur la Preciziei shouldn’t lower its standards, but maybe the articles could be written in a slightly “friendlier” manner. That the films brought into discussion should still be good films, because its purpose is not to mock, or make funny (entertaining) and malicious comments on bad films, but to talk about the ones that deserved to be talked about, even though spiteful texts would attract more readers, but I’m not sure those are the ones that I want to attract, or at least not through these means. Also, it helped to state my opinions and confront them with someone else’s view.

18.08.2017, 18:14 Panic!

Panic! Panic! Panic! (today) It would not exactly be the first bump in the road, but it took me by surprise and it was caused, as usually, by the website’s translation app. It expired leaving detur la Preciziei unavailable to its Romanian readers (at least to those who only read Romanian) for a couple of days. Everything is back to normal now, and I will make sure it stays like that, especially after the work (and nerves, mostly nerves) that have been put into the website’s translation. One would have thought that as Romanian is my native language it would be piece of cake to translate my own writings into my own language… but reality begged to differ.

What I discovered from this unfortunate event, whose solving only came today, is that the views number on the site considerably decreased (from 40 per day last week to no more than 15 – even less on some days, this week) in the last couple of days. I have been wondering why, blamed it on the absence of new articles published this week, but now that I have discovered the translation issue, I strongly believe that this might be the cause, or at least an important factor. Considering that most of the Facebook followers are Romanians, and not only young people, who are used to reading English texts, the website became unreadable for some of its current followers.

Damage control: Facebook post in Romanian (only) to apologize for the inconvenience and to assure the readers that something similar would not be allowed to happen anytime soon (preferably never). A new film review is scheduled to be published tomorrow with its Romanian version for non-English readers. Hopefully, the views’ number will increase again and this unfortunate event will be soon forgotten.

P.S. No complaints about the translation have been received, but honestly I would have been glad to get such a complaint and deal with the situation sooner.

Finding the tone and voice

This is something I am still struggling with, and I will continue to struggle, I am used to having a powerful voice (only in writing), but I seemed to have lost it when I started writing for my own film website (oh! the irony). It is writing about these specific things, close to me, close to what I know. Because a Romanian film feels like home, it was incredibly difficult to write about it from an objective point of view. The articles (be it reviews or essays) had to be informative, for the international public, which might know close to nothing about Romanian film, but friendly and convincing and engaging. All at the same time. And when Romanian public isn’t a fan of its own films and the international public doesn’t know much about this area, is like running with the hare and hunt with the hounds… well maybe not that hard, but still.

I want the texts to be friendly, not to scare anyone off, in spite of its knowledge or interest in film, maybe I convince someone to watch a few films, but then a too friendlier text risks sometimes, to not be taken seriously, and when you want your website to get to the industry, you need to be taken seriously. So, what I decided to do, and did was to write differently about different film, serious when the film demands it, and more playful when the film is lighter. That is why I chose films that cover different genres and deal with different matters and are from different time periods.

First Film Review

Oh, this one was hard to choose and even harder to write. I knew it had to be a contemporary film, but also a film I loved, or at least really liked. There are a few of those, a few films that follow me like: Child’s Pose (Pozitia Copilului 2013), Somewhere at Palilula (Undeva la Palilua, 2012), 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, 2007), Illegitimate (Ilegitim, 2016), Sieranevada (2016). How did I choose Sieranevada? This one is a bit more than a film I like, I don’t even know if I like it that much, but it bears a special meaning. It is the last film I watched in cinema, in home town cinema, before leaving the country. The last radiography of Romanian life, of my reality, my families, so that I would remember it after changing the country. And I did. It was the film that made me think about developing a final project about Romanian film, so detur la Preciziei couldn’t begin otherwise than with a review for Sieraneva by Cristi Puiu, who was also born in the same county as me.
But the decision wasn’t totally based on an emotional impulse. I crossed the other off the list for pertinent reasons. Child’s Pose and 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days are awarded films at European film festivals, and it would have been a cliché to “open” the website with a film of that sort. Somewhere at Palilula, as much as I like it, is an exception-film. It has nothing of the aesthetic that put Romanian film on the map, it’s singular. Illegitimate, the most recent of them all, was crossed only because I planned to have an interview with its producer, and I wanted to publish them one after another.
I have never written a Romanian film review before. It was a challenge because it was a film I liked and it described something I know so well. The film isn’t available online, so I had to base my review on memories, interviews, other reviews and public’s comments, but still, maintain my own opinion and my own voice.