by Chad Perman
Bright Wall/Dark Room was initially founded on the floor of my living room in the summer of 2009, as I was counting down the days until the birth of my second child. And today, as my son quickly closes in on his 4th birthday—seeming light-years away from that moment when he first emerged into the world this new, gawking, and loveable thing—so too does BW/DR now find itself grown into something else entirely.
The original site was originally started on a whim, borne out of a small seed of an idea floating through my head back in 2009: how can we talk differently—more emotionally, more humanly—about films? There seemed to be this great and growing gap between the film criticism I was reading and this very real and tangible thing that films themselves actually do to each one of us, how they make us feel. Most critics—professional and amateur and everywhere in between—were quite proficient at writing a very specific kind of review, one that described the film’s basic plot, some of its performances, and whether they ‘liked’ it or not. But I kept thinking there had to be something other than this quick, streamlined, and often lifeless response to a medium that is—initially and essentially—an emotional medium, an art form that can immerse us more wholly in its world than any other form of entertainment available to us.
And so I created BW/DR, with the idea of gathering more personal and creative responses to films; a different lens on the medium, if you will. I didn’t want standard movie reviews on the site, so instead of seeking out proper film critics, I contacted novelists, poets, essay writers, filmmakers, painters, and musicians, as well as a handful of trusted friends—people who could approach and engage with movies in new and interesting ways. And from that small kernel of an idea (and a whole lot of late nights spent at my computer), BW/DR has grown into the sprawling and fantastic community of writers and readers that it is today.
Together, our small staff has managed to cover hundreds of films. We’ve kept growing and growing. Two of our writers met through their mutual work on the site, and have since gotten married. Our essays started being regularly linked to by imdb.com and other outlets. We receive fan letters and requests and pitches—from film professors, aspiring writers, and casual readers—from all over the world, and feel continually humbled by all the response to our little-engine-that-could website.
And so, last month, we finally decided it was time to take the next step.
Which is how we arrived here, excited beyond belief to have the chance to turn this long-time labor of love into something even bigger, hoping to reach even more people who are inspired and passionate about film, essays, ideas, and writing. Our goal, simply stated, is to put out a movie magazine of the highest possible quality on a monthly basis, and to make that content available to you, the readers, for $1.99 a month (cheaper than your morning cup of coffee!) in the hopes of gaining enough subscribers to allow us to pay talented and hard-working writers and artists (both staff and freelance) for their contributions.
We feel this is an exciting new model and opportunity for us, writers and readers alike. A way to prove to whoever is watching that a thing like this can actually work. That a few passionate people can start a site—simply and only for the love of something important to them and the desire to write about and wrestle with that thing in unique, personal, and interesting ways—and eventually grow that site out into a successful and profitable magazine without an ounce of compromise, outside meddling, or advertising influence of any kind. That freelance writers and illustrators can and should be paid for the difficult and wonderful work they do. And that a community is willing to support all of this if they’re approached directly, transparently, and in good faith. That this is a business model that works. That we can do this.
We deeply appreciate all the support so many of you have given BW/DR over the years, and we sincerely hope you’ll choose to sign up today and come along with us on this brand new adventure, wherever it may take us.
—Chad Perman, Editor-in-Chief