What is better than watching an idea grow and bloom into reality? Two entrepreneurs, John and Jas, share a passion for movies, film production and lengthy humor driven conversations. Their shared fascination with film was the foundation that fueled Bitter Balcony. The site takes on a niche of reviewing movies to another level. With traffic and engagement growing daily, these hilarious and sometimes bitterly saturated movie reviews are on the right track to evolve into a full on start-up. Great ideas can become great actions when acted upon.
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John: A film production graduate from Miami Dade College, finishing my degree in 2003. I have done a few short films, my longest being “When I Dream of the Dead” back in 2002. I’ve worked in T.V and have participated in some shoots here and there, while also volunteering in the Miami International Film Festival. Mostly, my film knowledge was put to good use as a video store clerk in Miami’s renowned Foreign Film vault Lion Video.
JAS: I studied film for a short time, but wanted something more technical from a degree than film. I personally feel that studying film, aside from the technical stuff, is almost useless. Practice, talent, connections and drive will get you where you want to be in film. Instead of spending $30K for a film degree, spend the money on a film idea you think is worthy of it and that could start off your career. [gets off soapbox] I’ve worked on a bunch of short films and music videos, mostly independent stuff. I’ve written plenty screenplays, which I have yet to get produced. Hopefully, slow and steady will win the race and Bitter Balcony fans will be bashing one of my films in the future.
Motivation to Create Bitter Balcony
John: Well, I had suggested the idea to Luis to write on a MySpace page entitled RedZone Cinema. However, the venue wasn’t pulling in any traffic, and JAS took the reigns on building a site. Personally, Bitter Balcony gives me a chance to contribute to the industry that I love while also keeping me motivated to write. Plus, taking a cheap shot at Michael Bay has its own rewards!
JAS: John and I had discussed doing reviews for a while, dabbling here and there. I thought the idea of having a site that would trash the bad movies would be something that would catch on, so after much procrastinating I called John and started brainstorming. Within a few weeks we had the site up and a steady stream of “G.I. Joe” haters jumping all over a quick article I wrote titled, “G.I. Joe and why you shouldn’t watch it.” From then we were mentioned in Variety’s website and in USA Today’s site. Personally, I love movies and take any chance I get to analyze or tear them down, all for the sake of learning more about them. If BB was to ever really make an impact on Hollywood, I hope it affects the creativity and quality that the moneymen keep watering down.
Community of Bitter Balcony
John: BB is a forum where people can feel free to debate our opinions and feelings about films then and now. We encourage fans to write and post their reviews, which is pretty socialist.
JAS: “Activist Against Mediocre Cinema” is my middle name! Our intended audience is for those who have been burned one too many times at the box office. Plopping down $9+ dollars (or $16+ in Australia) for a movie that is flat, lame and utterly dissatisfying should be against the law and punished by a severe public flogging (producers, directors, writers – anyone who was responsible for its lameness). We encourage everyone to write their own reviews about movies that should just not have been made or could have been better. When a studio spends upwards of $150 million on a feature there is no reason for it. With that kind of money they can afford real talent and leave the mediocre ones, COUGH Michael Bay COUGH, out of the industry.
What to Expect on Bitter Balcony
John: Hopefully they will enjoy the approach we take in our reviews and commentary. We believe our material is good and worth the time, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We want people to have fun with it, we’re not Richard Roper, but we manage to be insightful all the same.
JAS: I agree with John. Ultimately, the goal is to entertain and provide our own brand of sarcastic insight. Visitors will also get suggestions on movies we think are good alternatives to just Hollywood and impressions on the ones we think might actually be worth watching .
Visitors should also take advantage and post their own thoughts (yup, this again) and experiences. We feel there are plenty other people out there that can contribute some entertaining reviews while at the same time letting out their irritation with the poor movies they’ve been subjected to. Best of all, they can contribute for free and get their reviews read by all our fans!
Basically, Bitter Balcony exists for cathartic release.
Marketing Strategies of Bitter Balcony
John: We reach out to other filmmakers when we can, because we also want to spread the word for cool low or no budget movies and hopefully be a vessel of sorts to get an audience for them. We could use a guru, like Bernie Madoff. Well, maybe not.
JAS: We post on forums and try to link to other websites, so that we cam mooch some traffic. We also have a Twitter that gets site updates and random tidbits that might be too small to write about, but still worth sharing. I have reached out and been contacted to partner up with other sites. There are plenty avenues to pursue, but time is a factor. Writing, maintaining, designing a site takes time and so far I’ve let pitching it slip a bit. Not to mention I have to watch the movies I review.
JAS: Learning new technologies and languages was the toughest part at the start, but Drupal helped facilitate this tremendously. Other than that some server hiccups early on lead to some annoying moments, but since then it’s been pretty good. We are constantly updating either the front end or the back end to add features or simplify things for the visitors. We are always open to input as the visitor’s satisfaction is our number one goal (OK, second after bashing Michael Bay and Uwe Boll). The site will continue to grow over time. We will always be adding to the experience.
Drupal Content Management Tool of Choice
JAS: I wasn’t too aware of the others on the market, but after some research I found that Drupal had the right mix of features and user plugins that could give the site the behavior and functionality we wanted. Modding the theme was pretty simple. Aside from some proprietary code I’ve developed for the site’s other editors most of everything else is handled through Drupal with minimal headaches.
Features I’ve come to love are: Triggers and Actions, Blocking IPs to get rid of spammers, the way you can easily update posts and add images (though this is something I want to expand on more for the team), it’s stability. There was only one occasion that the site went down and I believe it was a server error and not caused by Drupal. This is considering that we had a day during that time where there were 920 people visiting the site within a matter of a few hours.
Pros & Cons of Multiple Writers
John: Luckily, JAS and I are pretty laid back about that, so we do have our own voice. However, I struggled a bit in the spirit of sarcasm BB encourages, so I‘ve made an adjustment with varying results. JAS is a natural in that regard. Francine has been a blessing as an editor, helping us polish our writing. She has a lot of nag nags, so you better have your stuff together or she’ll spell check you apart!
JAS: We encourage people to have their own voice, but also like to see a certain level of sarcasm, for fun’s sake. I used to verbally lash John to let out his inner Bitter, but he’s finally learned the ways of the balcony. I rant all the time and have an opinion about everything, so it comes pretty natural for me to be sarcastic when writing about something that has already irritated me and wasted my time and money. John and I have both found it a bit of a struggle when a movie is neither great nor total crap. It leaves us in that, “what the hell tone do I use,” territory. Francine is the bomb! She helps to keep us from repeating points we’ve already made and keeps us on subject, but she also respects that we have our own writing styles and rarely tampers with it. In her words, she helps keep us from making “tap dancing jackasses” out of ourselves.
Francine: As JAS and John’s editor, I’d like to answer this one. I remind them that I’m used to reading their copy and I am accustomed to their individual style, so I have the advantage of understanding where they’re coming from. If something they’ve written doesn’t make sense to me, I send it back for a rewrite. If I don’t understand it, other readers will definitely not get their point. They also have to bear in mind the first-time reader and to make sure they identify themselves as Bitter Balcony in their reviews.
John: I’m going to participate again in the Miami International Film Festival, and hopefully spread the BB word around. JAS and Francine will take care of business in the West side. We desire to someday have our own events and contests, but right now is a work in progress.
JAS: For the moment, while we work on the site, it’s content, and the back end, we won’t be throwing and parties or competitions, but these are things we are interested in doing at some point. Personally, I will post about any events that I attend where people can seek me out for a chat and a handshake. I’d like for Michael Bay and Uwe Boll to stay home during these events since I wouldn’t want to embarrass them in public with my mad Kung-Fu skillz, or is it Kung-Pao?
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