On a whim back in the Spring of 2004, I started a blog and since I couldn't think of any other name I went with The International House of Spicer and used the free domain chrisspicer.blogspot.com. As a small throwaway site where I posted random musings, it did me just fine. Actually, it did way more than fine as it ended up being the place that landed my jobs at The Collective Publishing and BuddyTV, which launched my freelance pop culture writing career.
After I started The Movie Breakdown podcast with my co-host (and magnificent friend) Scott Martin, I started dreaming about launching a movie site. I always loved the idea of running my own business and having more creative freedom to write about the things that I'm passionate about rather than on the orders of an editor. Over the years, I've come up with a rabbit family of excuses for why I'm not ready and need more time to prepare and get into the zone.
I've now realized my current strategy would keep me in 'the waiting zone' for the rest of my professional life. While this little site isn't ready to become the ultimate movie news site or conquer the world with one mighty swipe, if this site is ever going to be professional and a realization of my dreams then I need to take the plunge now.
Welcome to Beyond the Balcony, which you may notice, can now be found at beyondbalcony.com. The International House of Spicer and chrisspice.blogspot.com have served me well, but this change will reflect a more professional site that captures my new vision for this place.
What is the vision? Well, I can answer that by also explaining why I chose the new name. That is right, I'm going to answer two questions at once, Because the new site is going to be all about being efficient and solving multiple problems at once. It is the duct tape of the internet.
One of the biggest influences on my writing about movies is the late, great Roger Ebert. The long-running Siskel & Ebert TV series (and its various previous iterations) was a massive inspiration for my movie review podcast, The Movie Breakdown. If anyone watched any version of Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert's TV shows, you will know that they did it on a set that mimicked a balcony in a classic movie theatre and on Siskel & Ebert they always signed off saying 'The balcony is closed.' I'm pretty sure this show is how I learned theatres could have balconies. Since this is going to be my movie site, I wanted a title that could pay tribute to the movie critic who has inspired me, so the balcony is open.
But why am I beyond the balcony?
Roger Ebert often talked about movies being 'empathy machines'. Motion pictures are crafted in ways that we can connect with characters or stories that we'd never experience in real life. They allow us to view and understand people with backgrounds, histories and perspectives that we'd never have. It allows us to connect with different beliefs, views and experiences. Movies are also great at shining a spotlight on the values, state and climate of society. Sometimes a great movie may even help shape and redirect our society. Movies are a major part in understanding our culture.
A great work of art helps us understand our world. It reaches out into all aspects of life and burrows deep into our soul. It nourishes, teaches and challenges. A great movie is more than entertainment and can be the highest form of art.
Ebert's movie reviews were always so much more than consumer reports. Anyone who has followed me knows that I don't think a movie critics' jobs is to just tell you if you should or shouldn't see a movie. Or at least it is much more than that. Ebert's reviews often looked at politics or what a movie says about our culture or his own personal experiences while also being eloquent pieces of entertainment that taught you more on what makes a film work. Great movie reviews are conversation starters that are detailed and entertaining descriptions of the personal experience and journey of a person well-informed and immersed in the medium of film. Another all-time great film critic Pauline Kael once explained the reason she'd never write an autobiography is that she had been already crafting one every single week with her movie reviews. A movie review done right is an honest window into the life, beliefs and values of the author.
At the height of Roger Ebert's online writing career, his site not only had his several a week movie reviews, but he often wrote about everything from memories of his childhood to politics to social issues to even some fiction. That is what I want to do on Beyond the Balcony. This is a movie site where I'll analyze some movie news and writer oodles of movie reviews while also continuing to be the home of my podcast The Movie Breakdown, but I also want to use the art of film to talk about so much more.
I am well-aware there are already a thousand movie sites out there. This is never going to be the place with the latest breaking movie news or have some major connections with the big movie studios. It will be a place where we can explore and discuss movies. It can be a place of conversation. It can be a place to show that art is one of the most crucial parts of life because it explores every element of it. Through the lens of movies, I'll explore everything from parenting to politics to mental health to the creative process to personal experiences. I hope this window into my soul will be a journey that entertains, inspires and enriches.
It is a movie site and beyond, because movies are more than the two hours that they flash on the big screen. It will be through this honesty and personal approach that I hope to stand out from the bigger corporate exclusive news driven movie sites.
You may also notice that the site looks very different from a day ago. It is a work in progress. Feel free to let me know what you like and don't like about the aesthetic. The site is going to go through many changes over the coming months as I try to mold it into the place that I want it to be. I also want it to be a place where you keep enjoying and reading.
There are a few things I really like about the new layout. I've finally got around to having a search function on the site. You can now pick a topic or movie and find all the articles where I wrote about that particular thing. This function is long overdue. I also like that the main page forces you to click on the article in order for you to read it, because it will give me a better idea which articles draw an audience. It also looks slightly more like a professional site rather than a personal blog with this style choice, but that is a thing that will evolve over the months,
The ideal is to have the site totally ready before doing a grand launch, but I'm a far way off from that. This is more like a Soft Launch 2.5, but my hope is that this bolder change will be the motivation for daily creation on here. It also allows me to clearly work towards the vision that I have for the kind of movie site that I would want to read. A place that discusses movies that is still personal and allows me to connect with my readers. This will also be the place where I will detail my writing career and throw some more creative projects your way. A blend of movies reviews, pop culture analysis, personal anecdotes and my own fiction.
The site will continue to develop and grow over the next several months, but Beyond the Balcony is here. I am thrilled to start this new endeavour with my amazing readers. Thank you so much for the years of support, and I am looking forward to where this next chapter in my career will take me.
I'll see you at the movies.