Hey all you Moviepilots and passengers! Welcome to my very first 'Mini Interview'! It's...exactly how it sounds, a short interview. Basically, I ask a certain person questions, that certain person answers, and then I write up an article based upon my interaction with that certain person. Today's certain person is Moviepilot editor-in-chief, my good friend (at least that's what I tell people when they ask if I have any cool friends) Alisha Grauso!
You may know Alisha from her awesome articles and content on MP, or perhaps from the Facebook page MP Creators if you're a member of that! I emailed Alisha some pretty cool questions, and she emailed me back with even cooler answers. So without any more lollygagging...
Let's Conduct The Interview!
Question #1: For those who don't know, would you mind telling me what some of your duties are as EIC?
Basically, I'm an editor-in-chief that still also fulfills the duties of a senior staff writer. Most editors don't do nearly as much writing as I do, but I enjoy it. Part of my job as EIC is to help shape the overall voice, tone, and philosophy of the content of Moviepilot. So there are a lot of meetings with the owners where we discuss new projects, initiatives, and regular "state of the union" meetings where we assess where we are and where we should be. For example, every Monday, we have an editorial pitch meeting where we discuss editorial ideas for the week and I'll approve or tweak them.
Internally, I deal more with editing staff articles than creator articles, though I also manually curate the majority of the staff-promoted articles on the homepage feed and top bar. This involves a process of going through creator posts suggested by community and either accepting them to be edited and promoted, put on hold while I give notes about images, formatting, and proofing, or rejected for promotion to the homepage. It's a constant feedback loop between our LA and Berlin teams.
Alisha's job is more than just editing and overlooking however. Her duties transcend across more than just the Moviepilot website.
I also work closely with our PR team. Since our content team has been split up into social (the stories you see on Facebook) and editorial (the long form editorials and research pieces you see me and Catrina Dennis write), one of our goals is to regularly publish pieces in outside outlets, not just Moviepilot. I'll work with Josh and Britt, our PR duo, to pitch pieces to outlets such as TechCrunch, Forbes, Huffington Post, etc. Establishing the Moviepilot brand is a big push this year, so landing bylines in other influential outlets is necessary. Same goes for doing public speaking events, whether doing interviews, moderating Q&As or film introductions at film festivals, or panels at comic-cons. Fielding emails from studio, agency, and PR contacts is a regular part of the job.
Alisha is also heavily involved in the new Moviepilot Theme Weeks, which you might remember kicked off with 'Comic Week' a few weeks back.
Since we've launched our Moviepilot Theme Weeks, I'm directly involved in that, as well. Sometimes, it might be reaching out to contacts I have in the industry and asking them if they'd like to contribute content for the site, and all of the time it's about deciding what supplemental content we need to fill out each theme week, how to schedule it, etc.
And there's a lot of admin work, the details of which I won't bore you with. But I see spreadsheets and Google Docs in my dreams.
There's more that goes into what I do, but that's the gist of it.
As you can see, being Editor-in-Chief, especially of such a large and active community, is a TON of work! Speaking of Moviepilot's large and active community, that's no exaggeration. It may be an understatement actually. Moviepilot has amassed a large number of readers over the years, and ever since the website announced that anyone could join and start writing articles for free, a lot of those readers became writers; myself included.
Then came the contests, features and general buzz that the website promoted, only adding to its already large amount of writers. Alisha and the MP crew are small compared to our large number! As EIC, Alisha is practically the Mayor of our large metaphorical suburbia, and I asked her what it's like interacting with the large Creator community.
Question #2: There's obviously a lot of us Creators, enough to fill three communities I'd imagine. Compared to the large size of the Creator community, the MP team seem incredibly minuscule. What is it like dealing with all of us strong-opinionated writers?
Hah! It can be quite challenging at times, but it's wonderful. Something we're working on, because we maybe haven't been as good about this in the past, is teaching with transparency. With the community growing so quickly, there is bound to be some friction from creators who aren't happy with the attention they receive or the promotion they get; that's just a natural extension of so many personalities meeting in the same place. But often, it's because they simply don't understand the business how Moviepilot operates. Or that it is an actual business at all, with real offices in Los Angeles and Berlin and real staff, not just a few freelancers writing from their couches, hah. It's understandably not a creator's concern when he's sitting down to write an article about Batman v Superman. So we have to remind ourselves that we see the whole iceberg, creators, only the tip of it.
Explaining the day-to-day processes of MP doesn't always work - there will be some creators who just want to be validated rather than hear real, constructive feedback. But the vast majority get it, and it's been gratifying over the past few months to see the things we've been teaching creators reflected in their articles, their comments, and the way they explain concepts to other creators. I used to teach composition in community college, and watching creators grow, whether in their writing or their interactions and how they represent themselves professionally, makes me feel the same sort of quiet pride that I felt whenever I had a student grow in leaps and bounds over the course of a semester.
Moviepilot is a website for fans to write about whatever they want to write about. Be it comics, TV or film. But ask anyone who the most stubborn people on Earth are, and they'll probably give you one of two answers; writers, or geeks. As writers, we're all incredibly opinionated, we have thoughts and views that no one can change. And as geeks, we're filled with so much pride. Specifically pride in what we love; give a geek a pencil, pen or keyboard, and tell them to explain why they like Batman, and they'll give you a four-page editorial on why Batman is not only cool, but what makes him cool, why he connects with him, and also why he could totally beat Superman's pansy alien rear!
The point is, as EIC, Alisha hears our opinions basically every day. It's nice to see that she and the MP team are trying to communicate with us, and it's nice to know that they've given us this cool internet environment to learn how to interact with each other in. I've seen some debates amongst my fellow Creators before; but luckily, most of them have had logical and debatable things to say, rather than saying things you'd find in the comments section on YouTube.
Question #3: Moviepilot's been around since 2012. When did you first hear about Moviepilot?
Question #4: A follow-up to Question #3. What made you want to become a part of MP?
Alisha answered Questions 3 and 4 together, because her answer actually answers both.
I first heard about Moviepilot in 2012. The U.S.-based, English language site, Moviepilot.com had just launched from Moviepilot.de, the original site focused on the German film industry. At the time, I was good friends with the first EIC of Moviepilot (and still am), and MP was in a very, very fledgling state, being built from scratch. He needed veteran writers, so he asked if I'd like to freelance. I was willing to do it without pay just to build up my porfolio and to help him out, so when he laughed and told me he'd be willing to pay me, I was pleasantly surprised.
My first article was a review written at the end of November about why The Avengers had been my favorite movie of 2012. I was the best-read article on the site to that point, getting a whole 10k views after a while. I look back at that now and laugh, but, at the time, was a huge number for us. So the following January, I was asked if I would be willing to write for MP full-time, with the caveat that in a few months' time, I move from LA to Berlin to be Senior Staff Writer and help teach and train the younger writers. PLOT TWIST: I said yes.
So I moved and it was amazing. But the previous EIC didn't quite work out, and when he left the company, I was promoted. It was kind of crazy, and I found myself thinking, Who on earth let me be in charge of everyone? on more than one occasion. Amazing how much I've learned since then. Just when I'd gotten comfortable with the idea of staying in Berlin through at least 2014, the company started growing like crazy and the need to shift the focus to LA - most importantly, the content team - saw me packing my bags again in March of 2014 and heading back to LA to help build the team here.
I'm going to put this in the geekiest terms possible, just because.
So Alisha started off as the humble student, learning the ways of Moviepilot from her humble friend and sensei. Then, as time went by, her master went the way of Danny Glover and got "too old for this sh*t" and stepped down (I know that's probably not the case, but it has to sound dramatic!) and left his writing dojo to Alisha.
Alisha, the new master of the Moviepilot dojo, trained many young writers, before moving to a new location to continue her master duties! Pretty good right? I'm honestly shocked that Nickelodeon went with M. Night for The Last Airbender instead of me, but whatevs.
But seriously, Alisha's story is absolutely wonderful. It's a definite inspiration for those who are currently striving to get to the top. Her story reminds everyone that no one truly starts out big. Alisha was just a simple paid write on a website that started out as a gamble. Now, Moviepilot is booming, with millions of readers checking it out everyday, and Alisha is Editor-in-Chief of the whole party!
I'm another one of those hopeful dreamers with ambitions that others would find unrealistic, but stories like Alisha's motivate me to keep pushing forward!
But now it's time to get into one of the most important questions anyone could ever ask anyone!
Question #5: I know it's probably really hard to choose, especially for a comic fan; but, favorite superhero? I understand it's like choosing from one of your children. It is for me anyway.
Spider-Man. Always has been, always will be. I identified with him in a way I didn't really identify with other superheroes. He was a nerd, smart, funny, more like me than any other god or goddess-like superhero out there. Honorable mentions: Deadpool, Captain Marvel, and Batgirl.
I have to agree with 100% on that. Spider-Man is a nerd and true to his nerdy self! He's my favorite as well. Along with Deadpool of course.
Question #6: Everyone has a certain preference. What are your favorite type of articles to write? To read?
Personally, I gravitate toward writing long form editorials and opinion pieces. Probably, as my dad would say, because I can never shut up (whether verbally or in text). Shocking, I know. What can I say? I just have a lot of words in me. I obviously enjoy writing about geek culture, and I'm fascinated by the behind the scenes business of what goes on in Hollywood, with marketing. I'm also not one to shy away from social justice and equality issues in my writing, though I do have to rein that in a bit while representing Moviepilot. I'd say my writing style is more conversational and memoir-like. I bring a lot of personal anecdotes into what I write, because I think the most interesting writers are the ones who let you take a peek behind the curtain into their lives.
I like good writing with wit. If it's an opinion piece, I want it backed up with solid research and critical thinking. Typos, bad spelling, and poor grammar and structure will absolutely turn me off to an article, no matter how interesting the premise - if the author doesn't care enough to put time into his or her work, why should I invest my time in reading it? I also like articles where the writer's personality, intelligence, and originality shine through, so I'm drawn to writing that's more than just a listicle or regurgitated news pieces. My favorite writers on the internet tend to be the ones who write from a very personal perspective, and pepper it with razor-sharp wit.
If you've read any of Alisha's recent articles, you'd know that she enjoys editorials. I prefer them as well, it's really great to see when a writer puts a lot of thought and research into what they're trying to convey.
Question #7: Finally, there are a ton of Creators and even non-Creators out there who frequent Moviepilot. I'd imagine that the majority of them are aspiring writers. Any advice for them and achieving their dreams?
I know it sounds cliché, but write, read, and do both often. The best writers are the ones who are born with natural talent, of course, but talent only takes you so far. Building up your brain for the marathon of writing is a lot like building up any other muscle - you have to use it almost every day, and if you don't, you'll lose it. Likewise, if I'm going to run with this analogy, too much of the same kind of exercise, and you plateau. So push your boundaries, get comfortable writing in styles that make you uncomfortable. And if it's crap at first, so what? Not everything you write is going to be gold. Do you know how many times I've had to scrap an editorial and start over from the beginning? Or scrapped an editorial halfway through and didn't rewrite it? A lot, that's how many. That being said, figure out what your bread and butter style is and get really, really good at it. That's where you define your voice.
Likewise, listen. I've noticed that some writers (mostly younger) tend to be a bit, well, entitled. They believe they should be getting front-page promotion, wide distribution, tons of page views, right off the bat. And that's just not how the world works. Not at Moviepilot, and not in publishing, at large. Unless you're a hell of a naturally talented writer right out of the gate, the truth is, until you've paid your dues, there will always be more senior writers with years more experience, knowledge, flexibility, learned skill, and a more defined voice. So when they give you feedback, listen. Don't take it as a criticism or a sign that you're not meant to be a writer. Use it as a tool and grow from it.
I'm very guilty of being a young and hungry writer. You don't know how many times I've looked at an article and thought "Why aren't I getting more attention for this?" But Alisha's words ring true, I'll get my time eventually; for now, I'm just going to keep working harder and harder!
I can't stress this enough, but proofread your work. Edit it. Read it over. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you can't be sloppy. Poor writing, bad grammar, typos, awkward sentence structure, chaotic formatting, and an unclear focus or thesis will all undermine how others view you and your writing. If you want to be a writer on a professional level, you can't come across as nothing more than a hyperactive fanboy or -girl. Especially not if you're one with sloppy writing habits. It's fine for when you just want to be a super-fan of something (and it is great!) but that can't be your definitive writing style if you want to make it a career.
Lastly, the vast majority of writing opportunities are happening online now. So build up a thick skin, because you will always, always have critics. You will always have stupid comments from people who clearly did not read the whole article. It happens to everyone, and it's annoying, but you have to let it slide off you and not affect the way you write or your self-confidence. If you can't handle criticism or feedback that isn't anything but positive, then writing is the fit for you.
Seriously motivating words to live by. Well thanks to Alisha for taking time out of her busy day to answer my questions, and thanks all of you who read this. If you related to anything Alisha said, and want to write about anything that you love (be it movies, comic or etc.), you can get started today on Moviepilot by clicking below!