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Contemplations and digressions from Filmmaker's Editor-in-Chief by Scott Macaulay

Filmmaker‘s 20 Most Read Articles of 2023

A young woman with a black bob haircut lies on a red bedspread in a black lace bra. She is sandwiched between two young men; the one to the right of her drapes his arm over her body, the left of her gazes at both of them with lust.Jonathon Schaech, Rose McGowan and James Duval in The Doom Generation

in Columns
on Dec 28, 2023

My annual exercise in what our audience — as well as our “audiences,” the latter term used to refer to the concoction of first and possibly last-time readers driven to our site by algorithmic determinism and SEO “best practices” — is always a mixture of the predictable and the unexpected. Regular features like our 25 New Faces series and Vadim Rizov’s survey of 35mm production always show up, as do articles by our excellent columnist Matt Mulcahey and podcaster Peter Rinaldi. I was particularly happy to see this year on the list two pieces that were especially deeply researched and provocative in their assertions. As for the rest, that’s for you to check out below.

10. “We Aren’t Simply Trying to Appeal to Nostalgia”: Jon Bois on the Art of Sports Docs. Ryan Swen’s interview with Jon Bois, creative director of Secret Base, the YouTube channel of sports blog network SB Nation, in which he focused on the director’s cinematic approach to his sports video, was our tenth most-read piece of 2023.

9. 25 New Faces 2023. Our 25 New Faces list always charts, and this year its splash page, which lists and links to all the selections, was our ninth most-read piece of the year.

8. Seeing Eye to Eye: Color Correction Styles Across Today’s Film Restorations. Bingham Bryant put a huge amount of work into his exhaustively-researched article proposing that the various European restoration labs were leaving specific color signatures on their restored titles. One of our longest print pieces of the year, the article received a nice shout-out from The New Yorker’s Richard Brody and even prompted an article about it in Cahiers du Cinema.

7. How to Explode a Car: John Wilson on How To with John Wilson‘s Final Season. John Wilson, one of our 2016 25 New Faces, ended his excellent How to with John Wilson HBO Max series this year after three seasons. Vikram Murthri caught Wilson after its premiere and discussed working with Steven Soderbergh as an executive producer, the arc of the third season, and the specifics of episode five’s automobile explosion.

6. At Least 18 Filmmakers Withdraw from IDFA 2023. IDFA’s response to opening night on-stage protesters protesting Israel’s bombing of Gaza led to further actions by the festival’s filmmakers, at least 18 of whom removed their films from the festival. In this news piece, Vadim Rizov catalogued these filmmakers along with the statements they issued.

5. “…That’s When Something Else Works Through Me”: The Chosen and Jesus Revolution Star Jonathan Roumie (Back To One, Episode 240). An episode of Peter Rinaldi’s Back to One podcast always makes the list each year. In 2023, the episode that caught fire was his conversation with Jonathan Roumie, star of the Lionsgate faith-based drama Jesus Revolution. (Roumie plays Jesus.)

4. Man Out of Time: Justified: Primeval City. Filmmaker doesn’t run much long-form criticism, and even less about television. So it was a bit of a surprise when Brendan Byrne’s essay about FX’s Justified: City Primeval, which looked at the narrative approach of this neo-Western through the lens of its Elmore Leonard source-material as well as its Obama-era framing, dominated our traffic charts last month.

3. “Friday Morning Donald Called Me and Said, ‘We’re Shooting Film’”: DP Drew Daniels on Swarm. One of Matt Mulcahey’s DP interviews from his Shutter Angles columns perennially makes this list, and for 2023 his most-read was this celluloid-focused chat with Drew Daniels about shooting Janine Nabors’s and Donald Glovers’s Amazon series, Swarm.

2. Producer Data: The Numbers Don’t Lie (The Truth about Independent Film Revenue).  Along with Bryant’s article above, Naomi McDougall-Jones’s and Liz Manashil’s article on the financial realities of independent film distribution — part crowdsourced expose, part manifesto — was one of the most hard-worked pieces this year, by the authors as well as by us, as we promoted it extensively and devoted a sold-out Zoom masterclass to it.

1. “Sex and Sexuality Have Been Central to All of My Movies”: Gregg Araki on Restoring The Doom Generation. Natalia Keogan’s generational back-and-forth with director Gregg Araki went beyond the usual talking points as it articulated why Araki’s work ’90s work continues to speak to audiences today. Aided by an honestly direct, SEO-friendly headline, it was our top post of the year.

Honorable Mention: Sitting just outside this list at #11 is an article worthy of a year-end shout out, Rebelling Against the Independent Film Industrial Complex. Sophia Haid and Keisha N Knight’s article is another manifesto of sorts, and it has the best closing sentence of any lede graph in our pages this year: “In general, the U.S. A-list film festival circuit, where independent voices used to be able to thrive in more ragtag and aesthetically diverse ways, is now mostly a self-reflexive bourgeois echo chamber of sanctimonious gatekeepers serving corporate interests and neoliberal logics.”

The Top Archive Pieces of 2023

10. Charlotte Wells. With Aftersun continuing its extended victory lap — Wells won Best Director and Writer at BAFTA Scotland’s November ceremony — our 2017 25 New Face profile of the director received a lot of views this year.

9. “Two Girls Coming into your House and Unleashing Havoc”: Eli Roth on Knock Knock. This one’s a bit more inexplicable, but Jim Hemphill’s interview with Eli Roth about his 2015 horror thriller Knock Knock landed in our number nine spot this year, whether due to recent online discussion of its alternate ending, the presence of Keanu Reeves and Ana de Armas, or some Reddit link somewhere.

8. The (Approximately) 30 Movies of 2021 Shot on 35mm. Vadim Rizov’s survey, this time the afterburner of its 2021 edition.

7. Dennis Dortch on the Secrets of Web Success. Following his 2008 Sundance selection, A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy, Dennis Dortch co-founded Black & Sexy TV, produced web series and then crowdfunded a feature. Malaika Mose’s interview with Dortch continues to attract readers interested in his multi-platform career direction.

6. How to Option a Book for Film Adaptation An evergreen piece, attorney Robert Zipser’s article gives readers the basics on book options.

5. 15 Steps to Take After You Finish Your Script. Another evergreen article, but one due for a serious rewrite (it’s coming!), my article aimed at writer/directors on what do when they finish their script always does well, no less so this year when many writers undoubtedly worked on their specs during the WGA strike.

4. 25 New Faces of 2022. Last year’s 25 New Faces landed in our number four spot.

3. The 24 Features of 2022 Shot on 35mm. And last year’s Rizov 35mm survey was number three.

2. Cinema Is Dead and We’re All Its Ghosts: 2022 at the Movies. Mark Asch, who returned this year with another year-end critical essay, struck a chord with this look at 2022 in cinema and films informed by their makers’s scrutiny of this era’s “overwhelming proliferation of digital images, recorded by consumer-grade digital cameras with ever-greater resolution, storage capacity, and ubiquity…” The piece even inspired a think piece by departed New York Times critic A.O. Scott, “Is It Still Worth Going to the Movies?” (What, by the way, does a non-profit mag have to do to get a link in the Times?).

1. Edy Modica. I learned of the Amazon Freevee series Jury Duty through Google Analytics. Why was Natalia Keogan’s 25 New Faces profile of the talented actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian Edy Modica suddenly getting so much traffic? A Google search quickly revealed the answer: new readers anxious to learn more about one of this ingenious, shockingly good-spirited reality hit’s scene stealers.



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