Bright Wall/Dark Room was originally started on a whim, borne out of a small seed of an idea floating through my head back in 2009: how can we talk differently—more emotionally, more humanly—about films? There seemed to be this great and growing gap between the film criticism I was reading and this very real and tangible thing that films themselves actually do to each one of us, how they make us feel. Most critics—professional and amateur and everywhere in between—were quite proficient at writing a very specific kind of review, one that described the film’s basic plot, some of its performances, and whether they ‘liked’ it or not. But I kept thinking there had to be something other than this quick, streamlined, and often lifeless response to a medium that is—initially and essentially—an emotional medium, an art form that can immerse us more wholly in its world than any other form of entertainment available to us.
And so we created BW/DR, with the idea of gathering more personal and creative responses to films; a different lens on the medium, if you will. We didn’t want standard movie reviews on the site, so instead of seeking out proper film critics, we contacted novelists, poets, essayists, filmmakers, painters, and musicians, as well as a handful of trusted friends—people who could approach and engage with movies in new and interesting ways. And from that small kernel of an idea (and a whole lot of late nights spent at my computer), BW/DR has grown into the sprawling and fantastic community of writers and readers that it is today. In mid-2014, Matt Zoller Seitz, the editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com, reached out to us and asked us to partner with them for a monthly feature. For the past two and half years, they've run an essay each month from Bright Wall/Dark Room on the front page of their site, one of the most well-respected film sites on the planet. We're also looking to partner with FilmStruck in the near future, and are constantly looking for new ways to grow.
It's all been an absolute thrill for us, to say the very least—but we still need to find a way to pay the bills. We've put out nearly 50 issues to date, but we're just barely breaking even.
And so our current goal, simply stated, is to continue to put out an online film magazine of the highest possible quality on a monthly basis and to find a way to make that sustainable—to pay not only our overhead costs but the hard-working & talented writers, editors, and artists that contribute to each issue as well.
We feel this is an exciting new model and opportunity for us, writers and readers alike. A way to prove to whoever is watching that a thing like this can actually work. That a few passionate people can start a site—simply and only for the love of something important to them and the desire to write about and wrestle with that thing in unique, personal, and interesting ways—and eventually grow that site out into a successful and profitable magazine without an ounce of compromise, outside meddling, or advertising influence of any kind.
Here's How We'll Use the Money You Give Us:
We set a goal of $1000/month after crunching some numbers (and believe me, as non-math people, that took entirely too long). That amount, plus the revenue we generate through sales and subscriptions of the magazine, will be enough to keep BW/DR going, basically forever.
And so, in full transparency, here are our costs & needs:
Running-a-magazine business-type stuff
Overhead costs & business expenses (business license/renewal, marketing, website hosting, etc etc)
Editorial Staff (Editor-in-Chief, Senior Editors, Associate Editors, Copy Editor)
These folks are the engine that keep BW/DR running from month to month, allowing us to do what we do. They all have real actual jobs though, and a lot of them have been doing this work for free for over 4 years on the side—and being able to actually pay them a little bit of money will allow them to stick around for a whole lot longer.
We would ideally like to pay writers, staff or freelance, $100 per published essay. Currently, we are able to offer just $25.
Art Director (Brianna Ashby) and freelance artists
You don't even want to know how little we pay Brianna currently. It's beyond unfair, but she's a wonderful person and loves us and does it anyway. We want to pay her more per illustration—so that we never, ever lose her—and also offer freelance artists marketplace rates for their contributions.
And that's basically it. If we can get those things covered, we can keep Bright Wall/Dark Room going forever and ever. And, if we are able to bring in more than our $1000/month goal number, we will use all additional funding to help expand the BW/DR universe (a term we literally just made up, but makes us happy to think about). This could include anything: more/special issues, an annual hardcover book of the year's best essays & illustrations, t-shirts & other merchandise, specialized podcasts, having the entire BW/DR Staff come to your house and sing songs to you and give you hugs and watch movies with you.
We deeply appreciate all the support and readership so many of you have given BW/DR over the years, and we sincerely hope you'll choose to throw a little money our way today and help us keep this whole thing going, wherever it may take us.