Culture: My Best of 2014

That’s it; as 2015 approaches fast and all sorts of lists of things we have enjoyed are bustling on your social feeds: movies, albums, news and much more. I decided to compile an exhaustive list of films, albums, books and TV shows proposing to look in the least objective manner at what marked – my – 2014. Although in my opinion lists are stupid, because they vulgarise information as well as narrow down endless possibilities, I succumbed to the trend. Also, it takes a lot of brashness and self-importance feelings to declare ‘this was better than that’. I do not pretend in any way to hold the absolute truth. Amongst the following, I have not had the chances to see, read and watch all that could be seen, read and watched because my dear reader, as unexpected and shocking as it sounds I am not an encyclopaedia. Anyways, here is what grabbed my interest in 2014.

  • Films

Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal reporting on a crime scene in Nightcrawler.
  1. Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy
    This is the story of a lunatic, immoral jobless thief who decides to start a career in freelance journalism. It is a life-time performance and by far the best Jake Gyllenhaal has ever pulled off. Cynical, hilarious and dark, Nightcrawler is a satire of a world in which human life is worth no more than images.
  2. Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch
    Following the commercial success of Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries I reckon I was quite scared when Down By Law‘s director announced he was writing a story about vampires. What a pleasant surprise! I feel ashamed and I know better than not to have had faith in Jim Jarmusch. The Akron-born filmmaker’s latest work is a success in terms of photography, acting (hats off to Tilda Swindon and Tom Hiddleston) and sound. Although the action in Only Lovers Left Alive unfolds slowly and its scenario is quite simplistic, it manages to tell a humanistic story where vampires are only here to make us realise the perfection of our mortal condition.
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson
    I always thought Wes Anderson‘s cinema was lacking something. Although The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom had the potential to soar up to the status of masterpiece, they probably won’t be considered as such in a decade. Let’s be honest though, Anderson – as was Dario Argento with his Giallo – enjoys creating colourful, lively universes where aesthetic prevails upon scenario. With the Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson takes us to the fictional Republic of Zubrowska. Verdict: what was lacking has been found. The film is well balanced between humour and terror – thanks to the pragmatic and witty Mr. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and the terrifying Jopling (Willem Dafoe) – whilst maintaining the dandy of cinema’s childish narrative. His best work so far.
  • Albums

Caribou Our Love
Caribou – Our Love
  1. Caribou – Our Love
    Dan Snaith, A.K.A Manitoba, Daphni or more recently Caribou is the same man. A simple, nostalgic and versatile Canadian musician born by the banks of Lake Ontario. Snaith opened the doors to electronica in 2010 with ‘Swim‘ and took a dramatic turn towards house with the release, under the name Daphni, of ‘Jiao‘ back in 2012. ‘Our Love‘ is Caribou‘s masterpiece: An introspective album exploring the future, the probable and the desirable.
  2. Tom Vek – Luck
    Maybe ‘Luck‘ is not as consistent as ‘Leisure Seizure‘. Whilst the latter was more some sort of self-proclaimed manifesto of what indie music ought to be, the latter explores the possibilities of experimentation, resulting in an heterogenous batch of songs – The oriental ‘Broke‘, the robotic ‘How Am I Meant To Know‘ or the energetic ‘You’ll Stay‘ – that luckily work out for the best. Tom Vek is definitely a genius.
  3. Kasabian – 48:13
    A lot was expected from The Leicester-based band since it now features alongside big stars of English rock music such as Oasis, Blur or The Stone Roses. Some said when experimental track ‘Eez-eh‘ was unveiled, it is an utter pile of crap. Others glorified Kasabian‘s ability to re-invente themselves with every album… there does not seem to be a middle ground. And indeed, how to resist the string arrangements in ‘Stevie, the house-music-styled solo in ‘Treat‘ or the brashness of ‘Eez-eh‘? You know Sergio worked it like a treat!
  • Books

Although you will quickly notice that these books weren’t written in 2014, I have chosen to share the ones I have discovered this year and have spent sleepless nights literally devouring. I wish I could have fit more than three in this list, unfortunately I had to omit a lot.

A Song Of Ice And Fire
A Song Of Ice And Fire’s first instalment: A Game Of Thrones, published in 1996
  1. A Song of Ice and Fire (1996 – 2011) by George Martin
    When George Martin started writing ‘A Game of Thrones‘ in 1991, I doubt he had any idea how many people he would shock and please; firstly by killing off everyone’s favourite characters; secondly by depicting sexual scenes of extreme violence with such ease (incest, rape…) and thirdly by his creativity and the way he achieved to put together pieces of a world in which readers are sucked into from the first pages. Westeros is a ruthless universe and its crudeness is – and some of you might beg to differ here –  expressed way better with words than by David Benioff and Dan Weiss‘ cameras. Every fan of the TV show should read it, provided they can cope with Martin’s extremely slow writing pace before the release of the next instalment ‘The Winds of Winter‘. Surely, it will be worth the wait in the end.
  2. Shogun (1975) by James Clavell
    James Clavell joined the Royal Artillery at nineteen years old in 1940. He was sent to Malaysia during the Second World War and was captured by the Japanese, who made him a war prisoner. When freed, Clavell set out to write the Asian Saga, a collection of stories counting the adventures of British citizens in Asia over a wide period of time (1600 – 1979). Shogun tells the story of captain Blackthorne (Anjin-san) and his encounter with a world he knows absolutely nothing about: feudal Japan. He is made prisoner and quickly gains importance as a prize that can influence the outcome of the raging war between two feudal lords: Toranaga and Ishido. Shogun not only has an historical value (although names have been changed and plots twisted), but it teaches more about Japanese culture than any other book could. Wakarimasu ka!
  3. La Peste (1947) by Albert Camus
    Alright, it was a close one. If it had not been for the events that occurred when I was reading ‘La Peste‘, I probably would have put ‘1984′ that was much more likely to feature on this list. Unfortunately for Orwell, as I was reading Camus‘ underestimated piece – that he himself regarded as a disastrous piece of work – ISIS was being thrown on media outlets’ front pages, setting out to contaminate countries with bubonic plague. Meanwhile in West Africa, Ebola was killing people by thousands, price of an unstoppable outbreak as is the plague in Camus‘ novel. Clear, concise and highlighting the issues our society is dealing with when facing alarming outbreaks, this book is a timeless must-read.
  • TV Shows

Mad Men 2014
Mad Men’s cast for series 7 (Pt. I)
  1. Mad Men
    The power of Mad Men lies it its ability to tell nothing and at the same time everything, in particular in the way characters adapt and fit their behaviour to the changing environment that surrounds them: the deaths of JFK, his brother and Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, a post war atmosphere of repression followed by the freedom of the sixties. All along Mad Men, we follow Don Draper, go to the office with him, get drunk with him, cheat and lie with him and eventually go down with him. We also grow up with Draper’s kids Sally and Bobby. Mad Men is a success in that it has the ability to make us empathise with ruthless, ungrateful people we would despise if it weren’t for the show, because after all, they were only victims of their time.
  2. Fargo
    Based on the universe the Coen Brothers had created in the namesake 1996 movie, Fargo follows the fearful Lester Nygaard. His world is going to be shaken up by the arrival in town of an enigmatic killer Lorne Malvo. Hilarious, dark, eerie, uncanny and mysterious, Fargo will please TV series lovers and Joel & Ethan‘s fans.
  3. The Missing
    Last year, it was David Tennant and Olivia Colman‘s investigation following the death of a young boy that shook Britain in Broadchurch, this year it was The Missing. In 2006, in the fictional town of Chalons-du-Bois in the North of France, the Hugh family: Tony, Emily and Oliver (James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor and Oliver Hunt) is going on holiday when their car breaks down. They decide to take a room in a hotel nearby and stay overnight, planing to leave when everything is fixed. Unfortunately, Tony and Emily’s son, Olly, goes missing. Eight years later, a divorced Tony has still not accepted his son disappearance and is desperate to reopen the case whereas Emily seems to have chosen to forget. With the help of former detective Julien Baptiste (The fatherly Tchéky Karyo), they will try to unveil the horrible truth. The Missing offers an interesting reflection around pedophilia, forgiveness, vengeance, love and the fragility of relationships.

Also worth mentioning The Walking Dead‘s lack of consistency, seemingly lacking inspiration, making us all grow tired of watching. It is kind of a weird feeling I have for this TV show – bipolar I would say – hating it one minute and loving it the next one. Also worth taking notice, the announcement of Twin Peaks and Agent Dale Cooper return for 2016.

‘A Rogue Reporter’ review – A film by Rich Peppiatt and Tom Jenkinson

Tuesday night, Rich Peppiatt, former reporter for the Daily Star honoured the Electric Cinema of his presence whilst his first ever movie ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ was screened the day of its national release. The film was co-directed with Tom Jenkinson and appears to be some sort of DIY compilation of archived images, pranking footages and interviews with contemporary figures of the British media landscape, including Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Owen Jones, Joan Smith and John Bishop.

On his website, Peppiatt describes himself as a “writer, filmmaker, journalist and comedian.” A writer and journalist he was, in the days he had to write what he calls ‘anti-muslim propaganda’ and ‘fit facts into stories’; a comedian, he certainly his, and the humorous approach he used in the movie has often been welcome by laughter from members of the audience; as to being a filmmaker, one just needs to seat in front of a screen and watch the 61 minutes of journalistic satyre he has just directed to be convinced that he definitely is. Just as a background fact, ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ was part of the official selection of this year’s Sheffield Documentary and East End Film Festivals. If that is not enough, the mighty John Cleese has even dubbed the film as “Hilarious” adding that he “highly recommends“.

One Rogue Reporter‘ explores the issues that journalism – tabloid journalism in particular – is facing nowadays. Amongst the problems brought up: an ideology based on ‘exposing and selling’ rather than telling the truth, newspapers acting as conservative propaganda and the lack of care or compassion towards potential victims of press casualties. The film is structured around seven chapters autobiographically inspired, introduced by a typewriter and all beginning with images of some of Hollywood’s biggest classics by Billy Wilder or Samuel Fuller.

The film’s first minutes see newly made freelance reporter Rich reflecting on his achievement at the Daily Star: hanging around prostitutes, dressing up as a transvestite, Santa Claus or wearing a burqa: nothing to be proud of really. He eventually justifies the reason why he chose to quit a job he had only taken because he needed to pay off his bills – and his student loan.

A cheaply disguised Rich with grey hair announcing to the camera he is going to interview ‘the most hated man in Britain‘. With this evocation, the figures of Piers Morgan or Jeremy Kyle could pop up in one’s head – and Rich actually walks past the Emirates Stadium, wrongly confirming these suspicions. However, it is not till the final chapter that will be revealed the identity of the chosen one: Kelvin Mackenzie former editor of tabloid The Sun. For those too young to be familiar with Mackenzie, he published an article called ‘The Truth‘ in his newspaper in April 1989 following the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool fans perished when bleachers crushed. In the piece, it was said some Nottingham Forrest fans took advantage of the situation to pick-pocket corpses also going as far as to “urinate on brave cops“. This cruel lack of subtlety partly explains the hatred Mackenzie is still victim of, even today.

In his interview, where he pretends to be working with a Canadian TV documentary, cheeky Rich is going to ask personal questions – hidden behind an innocent unawareness – relating directly to Mackenzie’s life. What is joyful and brings laughter in the audience is the awkwardness in which Mackenzie gets bogged down as he tries answering the questions with hidden shame before he eventually realises he his an utter fool – and as being taken as such.

One Rogue Reporter‘ also pranks famous tabloid figures, notably Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre whose qualities are highlighted when he is wonderfully described by The Guardian journalist Owen Jones as the “Worst human being in the world“. However, Rich would rather help than demonise Dacre, seeing “a man in need“; follows an hilarious conversation with Dacre’s gruff security guard around a dildo on a step door and a special midnight ejacul… projection over the front building of the Mail‘s bureaus. Amongst other targets of Peppiatt’s ruthless vendetta and investigation “weasel-faced” and former News Of The World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck who bares it all for the (hidden) camera and Daily Express‘ editor Hugh Whittow whose car ends up plastered with newspapers display Madeleine McCann case related headlines.

One Rogue Reporter Peppiatt
Peppiatt just trying to help ‘a man in need’ in One Rogue Reporter

The film is quit populist and Peppiatt is probably the first one to recognise it, essentially because it can be seen on two different levels: firstly a comedy set in the journalistic world and secondly an in-depth criticism of problems surrounding Fleet Street. The issues raised are embedded in a context of cases that shook Britian such as the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson inquiry and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
To sum it up, ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ is a clever satyre, a witty comedy and a serious film that raises more question than it answers.

Brilliant in every ways. To enjoy without moderation.

Reflection on online journalism – December 2014

That’s mad how time flies.”

Although this might be one of the most popular, misused, and agreed upon sentences in the world – and also fills the gaps in an awkward conversation in which the weather has already been mentioned – it sort of rings true to me. I kind of feel like this has been what my worries and negative thoughts have revolved around lately.

I started university at the end of September and since then it’s all been a long succession of days in which work is taking the central spot. To tell you the truth, I don’t feel like I can commit to watching any new TV shows because it would distract me from my journalism path – and when the path is worth ten grands, a few months of abstinence don’t seem that much. To be fair, I am not complaining. I knew beforehand what I had signed for and here are the first things that I have learnt so far.

  • WordPress – Eastside

For our first assignment in Paul Bradshaw‘s module ‘Online Journalism‘, we were all given different online platforms to investigate, including Twitter, Instagram, and FaceBook. I ended up with WordPress. Overall I think I produced a decent piece of work – not terrible though not amazing. Using Birmingham Eastside, I managed to post 9 articles within a timescale of 8 weeks. I am not boasting, far from it – September Robin probably would though – as I come to realise that standards in this field are higher than this, way up there.

WordPress is not a very complicated platform to use. One can get to grips with it just by playing around a bit. In my case, I had already used it with the magazines (music ; cinema) I write for and was quite familiar with most of its functionalities. What I was more or less a rookie with were SMO and SEO. It is true that we had covered these in class and it just all seems like logical and simple steps that would get us more clicks and views. The reality is somewhat different.

  • Search Engine Optimisation:

My biggest failure with this experiment can be summed up with three single words: “search – engine – optimisation”. Amongst the +400 views my articles got, I dare you to guess how many came from the fact that they ranked well on search engines.

If you guessed one, well done. If you guessed more than that, you have truly flattered my ego. If you guessed otherwise, f**k off, you’re a prick. Sorry, this was inconsiderate and I apologise, maybe I am still too touchy about it…

I learnt that you may be an expert on SEO, if you have not got the tools (a website with an already constituted audience and them referring to your blog) then there is not much you can do.

Starting off with the domain name “Birminghameastside” it appeared complicated to optimise stories in which Birmingham was not the focus for search engines.

Unfortunately, according to Bruce Clay’s SEO hierarchy of needs, the thing that matters the most for a blog to rank well on search engines is something that cannot be controlled: referrals and links to this blog. Of course there is still the option to post comments on blogs to engage a conversation (that has never occurred for me).

Bruce Clay's SEO Hierarchy of Needs
Bruce Clay’s SEO Hierarchy of Needs
  • Social Media Optimisation

In terms of SMO, the outcomes of the experiment were not as catastrophic as they were for SEO. Although the links on my tweets only got clicked on when they were relayed by others – I had less than a hundred followers then – I used the techniques I learnt throughout my SMO research. Here is what I found for Twitter:

  • Time:

Tweet around lunchtime and before/after dinner:

Tweet time

Also tweet on weekends:

tweet weekend

  • Characteristics:

The perfect tweet contains between 70 and 100 characters, a picture, hashtags, and a link. Alternatively, to optimise the link’s ‘clickability‘, it does not harm to make your tweet brief, clear, and add a bit of humour.

Alternatively, tweets that are using psychological techniques seem to work well. They would typically be addressed to the readers curiosity. Something along the lines of “This guy is the cleverest person on earth and here is the reason why.” engages your curiosity on two aspects (1) the guy (2) what he did.

If you clicked the link, it proves that the theory is right, not that I am the cleverest person on earth (thanks for making me feel that way though).

  • Lack of contacts equals lack of control?

The biggest problem to one’s progression – and I can relate to this a lot – in this field is something as similarly to SEO there is no way of exerting control over: others. Let me explain. When he writes articles about events, news, or even interview, the journalist needs to get in contact with people who will give him insights on circumstances, details, and feelings that will make the story unique and relevant for others who weren’t there.

How is it possible to be an efficient journalist if people do not reply to one’s mails or do not return calls? Suddenly, Camus‘ expression of the “unreasonable silence of the world” in front of our “desperate call for help” is starting to make sense.I guess a key point here is what is known in the jargon as networking. The more sources one has the less likely he is to get turned down or even worst: ignored. Perhaps it is something that takes time to build, a bit like SEO does.

Fortunately, I came across people who even though they had other preoccupations, had time to spare me. Although sometimes the person you are trying to reach do not respond, it happens that they will come back to you a month later or so apologising for their late reply and proposing an interview time that does not fit your schedule. The article has already been written and long gone from your home page anyway.

  • What it brought me:

The general experiment has been an interesting one, not only because it taught me how to cope with failure but because it made me realise that nothing can be taken for granted in journalism: there is no place for complacency. It also gave me the opportunity to explore social media – in particular Twitter – something that I had only used to connect with friends. I do realise now the potential of using it for professional development and networking and believe me, I plan to use it to that aim from now on. In a way I have already started, but that is a story for later.

Enterprise: A change of direction

  • Realisation:

Last week, I had a session that has been really helpful to me in terms of professional objectives. Something has been triggered in my head that made me think:

Oh my god, why didn’t I think of this before?”

For my entrepreneurial project, I have decided to specialise in music and cinema. The idea that establishing oneself in a niche market that one is specialised in is what will make you stand out, provided you have got the knowledge, the wit, and the style.

What led me there was mostly my background: music reviewer, movie critic and feature writer on arty things. Essentially, these are the experiences that made me enter if not break through journalism. However, I have come to realise that I may lack some of the resources to appear credible and stand out.

If last week lecture taught me something, it is surely that you need to believe in yourself and never back down when your idea gets sniggered at or mocked. If you truly think you can make it then try till you achieve what you had planned.

Moreover, my plan for the future does not necessarily coincide with music reviewing or movie criticising. That would be good though. The market is just too fickle and it’s hard to make a living just writing music or film reviews, especially when the industry has never been so appealing and does not necessarily pay.

I have been reflecting on things that I am passionate about and know in depth. Do not get me wrong though, I am passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to music and films, I just have doubts about how much do I know. I just think there are loads of people out there who know more than I do and who can write about it in a better way.

  • What made me go into journalism?

The question here is clear: why do I write?

To that question I have provided answers in my past reflection: I want to write a book, I have always written stories ever since I learned how to.

How blind was I not to see that these were not direct answers that tackled the problem to its root? A bit like the tree that hides the forest, these were just things I kept telling myself because they seemed decent, socially acceptable and expected answers.

Writing, for me is a process that will help me become a better, more thoughtful, and disciplined person (thanks James for making me realise). I do not write for others in the first place, though it helps to have readers – especially when your job revolves around writing. First and foremost, I do it for myself. Writing is an outlet where I can express my feelings and thoughts. Roughly, it is some kind of confessional to me.

I went into journalism not because I wanted to communicate things to others – although I am more and more chuffed by the idea– but because I wanted to express myself. In a world where communicating has never been that easy, I wanted to make myself heard although I am not very good at talking. I think I am much better at penning things down like I am doing right now.

  • Everyone has got something to say:

The other day, I went to the conservatoire and met an old woman whom I started talking to. We discussed for a bit and she started going on about herself. Never have I had a discussion that deep with someone I did not seem to share much with apart from the fact we where both foreigners in this country – nothing of that typical bullshit weather small talk I’ve grown accustomed to really.

From Birmingham we went on to Peaky Blinders. From Peaky Blinders we went on to Northern Ireland. From Northern Ireland we went on to the Second World War. From the Second World War on to her education, family and so on. Never did she make her motivation and thoughts clear.

Suddenly the thought occurred to me: what was she doing in Birmingham? Why did she move from Ireland to live here even though she doesn’t “particularly like it”? Following a free association thought process, not far from what a paranoid personality could achieve and that Freud would claim copyright on I arrived to the conclusion that in another setting, I could have completely ignored her and went on my way missing out on a fruitful conversation.

A bit like those people who talk about their childhood remembrances during the war, that woman would probably have something to say about IRA. For all I know maybe she tried to escape from it and found that Birmingham was the best place to settle in?

My point here is that whoever you are, behind you there is always a story. As dull as it appears to you, it might interest more people than you could think of. Your story just needs to go out there and take off.

  • What can you say?

I think I’ve had a lot of things happening to me that I could write about and could make people relate to: maybe behind diagnosed with cancer at a young age is one of them. Maybe obsessing over something that completely changed me is one of them.

All of that ranting may be gibberish to you but it is important for me to write it down because I do feel like writing is going to help me personally to express the way I feel – since I found it quite difficult and awkward to do it naturally.

How does this relate to my entrepreneurial project? I should probably change my area of specialisation. Essentially that would mean leaving the freelance music thing aside (though I would keep writing for the webzines I write for) and get into feature writing the way Vice does it. If it doesn’t work out in the end – and I genuinely feel the only thing that could stop me would not be a lack of interest from editors but the fact that I don’t master English quite as well as I wished I did – I can still try to contact other media outlets that will be interested to publish what is it I have to say. Rue89 for example is specialised in this sort of writing.

I’ve been working on a piece that I want to pitch to one of these publications before the New Year. That idea has been on the back of my mind for a long time now and I feel like making use of it for my enterprise project is much more consistent.

Passion I believe will have a positive outcome, however difficult the road is.

 

Enterprise idea: Start-up as a freelance writer/journalist

  • Robin Cannone – Online freelance writer and journalist:

RobinLogo
My logo

I have already been thinking for some time now about my entrepreneurial project. In a previous blog post I came to the conclusion that starting-up as a freelance was the wisest choice:

Partly because of the realism of the idea, partly because of the skills I have acquired throughout my journalistic experience.

This involves writing about music, cinema and news for magazines. You can find samples of my work by clicking on the magazine name:

In parallel, I have also developed various skills in journalism (use of softwares and tools such as Avid or WordPress). However, my research has led me to realise that I have much more chances to succeed if aiming at a niche market in which I have experience and knowledge (music in particular). Then, once I have made a name for myself in this field, I could potentially expand and write about pretty much everything.

Moreover, using all that distinguish me from others competitors, I can write in English as well as French which is a huge asset for magazines that publish in those two languages.

  • Potential competitors:
Mapping out freelancers around Birmingham (source www.journalism.co.uk)
Mapping out freelancers around Birmingham (source http://www.journalism.co.uk)

During my research, I came across a map on www.journalism.co.uk listing all the potential competitors around Birmingham with the same expertise as mine. I identified two freelancers within a distance of ten miles who were also specialised in music, films and arts in general. Their communication strategy, in particular with clients, is based on social media, notably Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress.

Of course, I do know there are more than two potential competitors in the Midlands but any self-proclaimed ‘freelance writer‘ could be my potential competitor. And god knows how many there are out there.

To appear professional, it helps to have a blog and portfolio with samples of work that have been published. It is even better if you have been paid for your work. Here are my samples.

Using various tools, such as Followerwonk, LinkedIn and WordPress (which happen to be the tools freelancers use to promote themselves) I have searched for competitors around Birmingham: most of them are volunteers. My conclusion is that twitter is not the right platform to research for professional freelancers.

Freelance writers on Followerwonk
Freelance writers on Followerwonk
  • Objectives

I had drawn steps to follow at the end of a previous blog post. Instead of focusing on competitors, I forced myself to contacte the professionals I had identified as “role models” who do what I want to do. I tried contacting and researching as many as I could, with more or less success (two of them are now following me on Twitter):

  • James Nolan:

I interviewed James Nolan, who writes for Vice (one of my target magazines). Asking him various question, he replied giving me advice on how to get into freelance writing.

  •  Clive Martin:

He suggests to write passionately and excitingly:

clive martin

  • Etienne Menu:

In this interview, Etienne points out a tendency in French media to only talk about music in terms of meaningfulness. Suggesting to aspiring music journalists the need to write about music in a new way, less socially inclined and more artistically orientated.

It appears that what the industry is looking for is fresh air and original piece that approach things in another angle. And all the experts agree on the importance of modesty and the importance of voluntary work and pitching to a regional level before aiming for the national.

  • How to pitch:

Amongst all the successful freelancers I contacted, none was willing to discuss money and revenue because it did not look professional. I figured I would research the market and learn how to pitch so that I could send stories to editors and discuss money matters with them without sounding like an annoyance.

JournogradsPress GazetteCompany LinkedIn

All these websites come up with their own idea. Although things differ slightly on certain points, a general idea can be drawn on how to pitch stories to magazines.

  • Guidelines from research:
  1. Read magazine
  2. Look for writing guidelines
  3. Get the attention of Editor (email or phone call)
  4. Pitch a story
  5. Ask for commitment (joins Rob Fitzpatrick’s mom test)
  6. Send your work

Nevertheless, Instead of pitching the story, James advised me to send entire articles to magazines. He said:

I think when you don’t have a lot of credits it’s important to take a chance and do the work without waiting for permission to convince an editor you have what it takes.”

  • Evaluation of the enterprise model:

Business Model Canvas - Freelancing Robin

Following the Business Canvas Model, Simon Bolton‘s “How to innovate” programme, and my research of the industry, I have identified the core weaknesses (Broken Windows) of my idea and organised myself to remedy to these:

Issues and steps

  • Concerning the strength, my knowledge of the industry, my cultural experience of France and the UK and my contact networks (in both countries) are definitely going to be something pushing me forward.
  • For my next step, one of my contacts is going to introduce me to Fused Magazine (local) to remedy to the issues highlighted above. In parallel, I am going to start investing more into essential ressources.

If you are interested by my services, you can contact me using the form below:

Follow me on Twitter @robincannone

Portfolio

LinkedIn

 

Haruki Murakami – Blunt Feelings, Loneliness And Curiosity

 Of all the novels Haruki Murakami has ever published, I have read four. The first one was The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, followed by 1Q84, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage and finally Norwegian Wood.

What attracted me in Murakami’s novels were the uncanny, the dreamy touch and the simplicity with which he expresses complex feelings. It felt a bit like delving into a book that recreated the atmosphere that attracted me to David Lynch’s cinema, and that was all it took to hook me up.

Norwegian Wood: 

It is the book that pushed Murakami onto the international scene, making the numbers of his readership drastically surge from thousands to millions. Fifth novel of the Japanese writer, published in 1987, it is also the most personal. Although most situations are purely fictional, a lot of elements are borrowed from the author’s past.

The settings, to start with, make it seem much more personal than any other books he’d written before: Tokyo, in the end of the politically troubled 1960’s where main character, twenty-year-old Toru Watanabe, seems to share a lot with twenty-year-old Murakami. First of all, Toru is a simple adolescent, who sees life in a rather rational way. It appears quite natural for  Toru to look at the world and try to make sense of it, since his best friend Kizuki committed suicide when he was 17. He then develops complex feelings towards Naoko, Kizuki’s girlfriend. Friendship, attachment and eventually, what he thinks is love. Naoko, however, is torn apart between her feelings for him and the guilt she feels towards her dead boyfriend. Finally she decides to go to a mental institution where she will be cut off from the world. Meanwhile, Toru meets Midori, an eccentric girl in his class, who quickly becomes fond of him. The rest of the novel follows Toru, in a quest to discover who he really his and what he really wants.

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage:

Latest novel to date in Murakami’s broad collection of 13 long stories, this book tells the adventures of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man who remembers his troubled past.

Oddly, Tsukuru got expelled from his group of friends during his second year at University. Of all these friends, he was the only one with a name that did not include a colour, and that is part of the reason why he felt that he never belonged to that group. He then meets Sara, an attractive women, by two years his senior, whom he becomes engrossed with. She feels that something in his past is holding him, not allowing him to fully share his feelings. She encourages him to contact his estranged old friends that have all gone their separate ways, to discuss the circumstances that led them to exclude him from their community. Tsukuru quickly realises that what he had thought happened is not quite what he recalls and the truth can put on different masks.

Murakamian themes:

Whereas the plots are somewhat different in the two novels, similarities can be drawn on themes and occurrences: for once, they both explore the past, where strong feelings and issues remain unresolved. Mental illness is an underpinning theme that is constantly present as is death.

What shocks the most is the absence of parental figures. Although they are often mentioned, they just appear as brief memories from the past, as if constantly thrown into the background or even completely ignored.

No wonder why both novels explore the past of the protagonist. Teenage years are those in which we defined ourselves. It is not uncommon for Murakami’s characters to find themselves in a dorm in the middle of Tokyo leading a sort of dull existence where Sundays is not hungover day but laundry day. A gloomy remembrance of “the good old days” that do not seem to have been so good for him, spent between reading Fitzgerald and his ironing board. He admits:

My own youth was far less dramatic, far more boring than that (Norwegian Wood). If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than 15 pages long.”

Memories, true or fantasised are central to Murakami’s universe. It can be seen at moments when dreams and reality mix, resulting in an uncanny and confusing experience for the protagonist. Parts with vividly described sex dreams, a recurring theme, often illustrate the main character’s confusion to distinguish what is real from what isn’t. But this is not relevant to Murakami. After all, what does it change to modify reality ? As Proust did it with his masterpiece  ‘À la recherche du temps perdu‘, the giant of Japanese literature is only writing to illustrate the importance of recollection. Once the past has eluded us, what is left but memories? Why not use these to make sense of the present?

 More about Haruki Murakami

Two Successful Blogs/Websites:

 

Vice or the art of being bold:

Some of the things they publish are often over the top and very opinionated but that is what they are known for. Pretentious, Hipster or even crap are terms that these articles are often referred to by the magazine’s numerous detractors.

In addition to those controversial pieces, Vice is also specialised in investigative journalism, flying freelancers off, camera on shoulder to Raqqa, North Korea or Ukraine.

Vice often offers great quality content. Just have a look at Clive Martin’s articles to seize the essence of what is known as the magazine’s infamous style: in depth analyses of our (sub)culture’s issues, punctuated by witty sarcasms and a cheeky pen. Vice may well be reshaping our vision of modern journalism.

Vice

The reason why the ‘Definitive guide to enlightenment’ features on this blog post is its entrepreneurial evolution. Let me explain…

Founded in 1994 by Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, and Gavin McInnes in Montreal, ‘Voice of Montreal’ was first launched as a Punk Magazine. The outlet quickly changed its name to become what it is known as today. Flash forward two decades later and the magazine is worth $2.5Billion. Even media figure Rupert Murdoch bought 5 per cent of the company’s shares. Not bad for a free content magazine…

Today Vice has offices in more than a dozen countries and birth numerous alternative channels on its network: Noisey, Thump, Vice News – the latter has just been launched in Paris yesterday.

What is amazing with the magazine is the way in which it has succeeded in evolving, going from Punk Magazine to the reference of investigative journalism. Shane Smith even talks about how he dreams to “get ten times bigger than CNN”.

In a way, he has succeeded in doing so, at least on Youtube where Vice can boasts of more than 5 million follower, whereas the news outlet has only 600 thousands. Not bad at all indeed…

Roger Ebert, a simple man with a simple blog:

Roger Ebert

It was last year in April when the giant figure of American Cinema left us, succumbing to a long battle with cancer, aged 70.

Impossible not to relate to this man, first because of what he has been through and because of his love for movies. Film critic, screenwriter, journalist, film historian and novelist, Roger Ebert’s pen was the sharpest that Hollywood has ever seen.

I discovered Roger’s blog right after watching ‘La Dolce Vita’ for a second time. The movie, featuring legendary figures Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee, is one of the first that he has ever critiqued. Coincidence or fate?

Even though sometimes my opinion differed from his on certain movies, I could always acknowledge the depth of Roger’s analysis, awed by what he had seen that had eluded me.

In my opinion, this website is the best in terms of content quality and critics. An entrepreneurial as well as personal blog that every film lover looks up to.

 

Also have a look at Brain Pickings and Freelancer Union if you love writing.