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2013/03/03

100,000 Interview

by Jav Rivera and Lisa Adamowicz Kless

It was the summer of 2010, and I was working for an online entertainment magazine and web TV program in Los Angeles. Among my other duties, I offered to write up an article to be featured on their website. They accepted. But I noticed something odd about my article in comparison to the other articles - mine featured an artist that reached mediocre fame back in the 90s, whereas the other articles featured younger, hipper, and more popular artists.  I thought, "Maybe I should write about newer, hipper artists." But the thought left a terrible taste in my mind.

Then I had a better thought: "Why don't I just create my own site that features articles about quality artists that just so happen to lack popularity?" Now, that was like a party in my mind, and the whole world was invited. I went to my friend, Lisa Adamowicz Kless, to see what she thought and was greeted with excitement about the project. After a few weeks of constructing the layout of the site and a few more weeks of writing our initial articles, 2nd First Look went online on October 15, 2010.

Now, a little more than two years later, the site is going strong and averages about 700-1000 hits per day. Not too shabby for an unsponsored site and no paid advertising. Currently, we're still running on word-of-mouth and the use of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I like to think that the growth in our popularity is thanks to the quality of our writers and the devotion of our readers.

--Jav Rivera


When Jav had the idea of starting 2nd First Look, he was living in California; I was in Wisconsin.  Long-time friends, part of the way we kept in touch was by sharing suggestions for music, films, etc. that we thought the other person might like.  For me, 2FL has felt like a continuation of that.  Rather than just sharing suggestions with a close friend though, we’ve extended it to, well, sharing with anybody with internet access.  Our recommendations to each other were sometimes spot on; at other times, we had to be honest and admit that we didn’t love something with the same passion that the other person did.  Still, whether that thing became a new favorite or it didn‘t quite click, my knowledge of and experience with film, music, and myriad other types of art expanded because of it.

And, that honesty and frankness carried over into the website.  My first post on 2nd First Look was fraught with indecision.  I was writing about one of my most intense experiences with art, after seeing a painting by Francisco de Goya.  In my opening sentence, I used the word “ass”.  Jav and I had just begun this new site, and we both hesitated about my use of the word.  Would it offend and drive away some readers? Would it be looked upon as setting a certain tone? Finally, Jav suggested that I just go with my gut.  I kept the word.  It perfectly conveys the exact feeling of the moment that I was sharing, and to me, that's the spirit of the site: to reveal what sparked a love of a particular piece of art, and to encourage others to check it out for themselves, hoping that they might enjoy it too.

Thankfully, it looks like there wasn’t much need to fret over my use of a “bad word”, and we seem to be doing something right; those first days turned into months and then (happy day!) a year, then two.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have fantastic writers from both the U.S. and the U.K. join us on this adventure, and we’re all still writing about what captivates and intrigues us in the creative world.  Not everyone may agree with our opinions or necessarily share the love of a particular topic, but that‘s okay.  If it inspires a reader to explore the world of arts and creativity in any form, we’ve achieved our goal.  So, a very sincere thank you to everyone who supports our site.  100,000 views and nearly two and a half years later, we simply wouldn’t be here without you.

--Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Now that we've reached the 100,000 page view mark, we thought it would be a great idea to interview some of our writers on their experience with 2nd First Look thus far.  We thank each of our writers and readers for making 2nd First Look as successful as it is.  And now…the 100,000 Interview:

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What made you decide to write for 2nd First Look?

Dave Gourdoux [DG]: I’ve been a fan of 2FL from the beginning.  I like the freedom the writers are given to write about whatever they want, and I like the fact that the site stays positive, and doesn’t do negative reviews.  I like that the writers are talented and passionate about their subject matter.  So when Lisa asked me if I’d like to join the staff, it was an honor and pleasure to accept.

Jenny Bootle [JB]: I've always been a fan of things a little out of the mainstream (not to say I don't enjoy a big razzmatazz blow-it-up blockbuster once in a while) so when Jav and Lisa approached me to write for 2FL, I thought the site was an excellent idea - to encourage people to take a look at something they may have missed the first time round. Also, I'm one of those annoying people who insists they were fans of anything good before everyone else discovered it... so this allows me to channel that annoyingness into something more positive!

John Bloner, Jr. [JBJr]: I needed a place where I could demonstrate my OCD tendencies--make lists and see what they look like alphabetized versus in numerical order--as well as engage in a favorite pastime: looking up stuff.  I love research.  Once a topic has seized my interest, I'll stuff real and virtual folders with my finds.  I also love to learn new terms of speech.   My recent favorite is "drone culture", i.e., our collective fascination with pilotless planes. 


How did you decide which article you would write first?

DG: My first article was a no-brainer:  my favorite movie of all time, “Shoot the Piano Player”.  It’s such a great and eccentric movie; I’ve always felt it deserves a wider audience.

JB: I agonized for a long time over what to write my first article about. I made long lists of my favourite films, music, television and books and tried to narrow it down. Eventually I picked "Adventureland" because it was a film I had seen and loved not long beforehand and I was annoyed by the way the film's trailer and marketing misrepresented it. I wanted to bring it to peoples' attention and let them know how great it is.

JBJr: I wrote my first article on the film, "Cold Souls."  I was not aware of this film's existence until the day after I received an invitation to become a writer for 2FL.  I spotted it in our library's DVD bin, while I was looking for something else.  So, my first article found me, rather than vice-versa.  


What kinds of projects do you typically like to write about?

DG: Being one of the elder statesman of the staff, I’m probably a little more out of touch with current culture than the rest of the team.  But I am older, and I’m also a true movie and music history geek.   So I think it’s that historical perspective I can bring to the site.

JB: I generally choose to write about films, as I regularly read reviews as a way to decide what to watch. I love music, but I find music reviews tough to write, as they're so subjective. I don't feel you have the same common ground to start from as you do when writing about a film.

JBJr: My interests evolve or change over time, sometimes over years and sometimes over only weeks.  Here are a couple of them.
  1. Puppets.  In the 1970s, I first learned about the Bread and Puppet Theater, which started my interest in artistic communication through puppetry.  It was like stepping through a looking glass, finding a world where puppets were much more than child's play. I'm now a puppeteer in The Puppet Underground, a newly-formed troupe in Kenosha, WI.  
  2. Comics.  As I've grow older, my aging eyes need not only larger type, but images to seize my imagination.  Fortunately, some of today's best storytelling is in the form of comics.  Some favorites include Ben Katchor and Chris Ware. 

Has there ever been a time where you thought you knew almost everything there was to know about a topic you were writing about, but you learned something new that surprised you?

DG: Yes, all the time.  This is one of the fringe benefits of writing the articles.  For example, this week while writing an article on Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love,” I noticed the similarities between his song “Spare Parts” and his famous ballad “The River”.   I’ve listened to both songs hundreds of times over the years, but until writing about it, the similarities never occurred to me.  The result was an increased admiration for “Spare Parts”, a song I never gave much thought to before.

JB: I've never approached a topic believing I know everything about it (how is that possible?) but I do enjoy researching the articles - finding out what the director or writer has said about the film, how much it cost to make, little incidental facts, etc.

JBJr: I've not been surprised, but my interest in topics has been deepened in the process of researching and writing articles for 2FL.  While conducting research for an article on the film "Cold Souls", I finally got around to reading Chekov's play, "Uncle Vanya". Prior to writing an article on the Art Ensemble of Chicago, I had not listened to their music in decades, since selling off my entire vinyl collection.  I gained a deeper respect for the musicians while I listened, and read interviews with and articles about them.


Where would you like to see 2FL go in the coming years?

DG: I like the “out-of-the-box” (an examination of broader arts than the usual movies or music) type of articles John Bloner has been posting lately, and it’d be interesting to see more of that sort of thing (although I fear I wouldn’t have much to contribute}.  Otherwise, as long as it maintains the enthusiasm and passion, I’m okay with wherever it goes.

JB: I'm not sure! I would like people to continue to visit and read the site. Getting feedback about articles or readers' own opinions of what's being reviewed is always interesting to read.

JBJr: I'm excited for the future of 2FL, looking forward to the day (coming soon!) of seeing one million views of the website.  I'd like for 2FL to provide its readers with an opportunity to share their comments, insights, and input on the 2FL site, as well as a chance to join a mailing list in order to receive 2FL news in the form of an e-newsletter or as a 2FL mobile app.  I'd also like to see 2FL provide performing and visual artists, as well as other writers, with opportunities to provide a creative response to works of art, whether it's a classic film, a well-loved tale, or some sounds that stir their souls.  A few other ideas for 2FL:
  • Create a 2FL channel on YouTube.
  • Step off the Web and into communities for discussions, performances, and interactive installations.
  • Offer live Twitter talks between an audience and guest artists, including authors, architects, designers, creative coders and more.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the 2FL staff and am thankful for its many readers and my fellow contributors.
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In the years to come, we hope both our readers and writers enjoy wherever 2nd First Look may go.  And we look forward to our next milestone - be it another 100,000 page views, another year's anniversary, or even just our next article.  To us, each moment that we remain online is a cause for celebration.  Thanks again to everyone who supports 2nd First Look.

TRIVIA: The idea to interview our writers in celebration of this milestone came from Jav's mother.


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