Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

When I first had the idea for Sonic Cinema back in 2000, the intention was for it to be an online hub for my movie reviews, of course, but first and foremost, I wanted it to be a home for my musical work, which was what I saw myself focusing on, at the time. In 2004, when the site officially launched, it was a place for my movie reviews, with my music being added in 2005, along with fan commentaries myself and two of my friends, Ronnie Haynes and David Miles, had recorded over the past couple of years. In 2015, shortly before I got married, I posted a blog, entitled Sonic Cinema Changes, and Life Evolves, wherein I discussed my personal journey over the previous couple of years, and laid out a bit of where I wanted to take Sonic Cinema from there. Almost two years later, I have decided to muse on where the site, and myself, have been headed.

One thing has become quite clear in the past couple of years- while I love the musical work I have done over the years, the growth I have shown since my first compositions in 1998, and do hope to do real, significant film music work in the future, I am a composer secondary, and a film critic and commentator primarily. (A distant third is being a filmmaker myself. While I gained much in trying to make my own films, and hope to work on such things again, that experience did more for me as a critic than as a creative individual.) Since I have been married, I have only done one piece of music, and have not had much in the way of inspiration for more. Part of this can be attributed to a significant cutback in free time, but the truth is, inspiration waits for no time, and can hit whenever. It will again, but scratching that itch has not been a big priority for me in the past couple of years, and I am comfortable with that.

I recently turned 40, and had the 10th anniversary of a health scare that left me (literally) minutes away from death. In thinking about where Sonic Cinema places in terms of my personal “legacy,” if you will, I think it will come to define who I am as a content creator and creative individual. A big part of this comes from something that started before my health scare in 2007, but has become a huge piece of what Sonic Cinema is, in terms of how I cover films and the art of cinema. Since 2006, I have been given the opportunity, through solicitation or recommendation, to watch and review over 200 films (many of which are short films) that have not always found wide release outside of websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, although some features have become available on VOD, and often are on the film festival circuit. This has given me many chances to not only see films I, likely, would not have seen otherwise, but also, to get to know filmmakers who have wanted nothing more than an audience for their film, and feedback on the results. I’ve had several filmmakers whom I have never heard from again after a critical review, but there have also been several filmmakers with whom I’ve become familiar with on deeper levels because I hear from them over and over, whether I like their film or not. Those opportunities have led to other filmmakers contacting me, other films to watch, and a diversity in my film viewing that would not exist if it were limited to, simply, the next major release I see in theatres or via Netflix. This expansion has been a boon to my work as a critic, and has led to some great opportunities for personal, and intellectual growth, both as a film fan and an individual. As I have never achieved the level of “professional” critic, and thus, have to wait to watch theatrical releases when they come out around me, this gives me a rare chance to watch a movie before other people can, and therefore, allows me a chance to be an early champion of something I love.

A couple of years ago, shortly after getting married, I began the Sonic Cinema Podcast, and, quite frankly, it’s becoming the thing that I’m most excited about in terms of what Sonic Cinema can mean for not just myself, as someone with a voice about films I’d like to share, but also the filmmakers and individuals I have shared the microphone with. A lot of times, it has just been myself talking about subjects like my annual Dragon*Con trip or the Oscars, but I’ve also had friends on to discuss films like “Star Wars” and a short film one recommended to me, along with really branching out into filmmaker interviews, and even bringing one of them in to discuss Scorsese’s faith trilogy, earlier this year. All of these are posted on Sonic Cinema, of course, but they are on YouTube (at the link above), as well, and I hope people hit “Subscribe” on that page, and maybe, help get the word out. When I started doing audio interviews last year for the podcast, it was pretty unnerving, but that’s quickly becoming my favorite part of doing the podcast, not just because it helps me put a spotlight on filmmakers and actors whom I’d like to see become better known, but also leading to some fascinating discussions like the one mentioned earlier about Scorsese’s faith films.

One of the big questions for me in the past few months has been how to make Sonic Cinema a significant stream of income for me. Of course, my music, and the albums I have released of my music, can help aide that, but it hasn’t been easy to find an audience, and I think that’s one of the trickiest things I have had a hard time to do. After talking to a friend of mine earlier in the summer, that is what led me to move the podcast onto YouTube as opposed to just posting them here, but I’ve also considered, due to my friend’s input, making a Patreon page wherein people can donate money so that I can do bigger and better things, and help make Sonic Cinema, and what it can be, which (I hope) can be a more important hub for film discussion online. Video reviews are something I want to do, and make looking good. Maybe trying to do more in becoming a professional critic and movie writer, in terms of covering films made in the Atlanta area. And, hopefully, doing projects such as books that help bring my voice more into focus, one of which I have already started that is more autobiographical. This is more than just a hobby, for me; it’s become a work of passion for me, and more important to my overall happiness than my full-time job of the past 15-plus years. I would love to get feedback on how to make a transition where this is my life’s work, and a full-time job beyond it is a thing of the past.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle
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