Most people who know me know that I’m a huge fan of classic films. Actually, the word fan is not quite satisfactory. I am in fact a full-blown fanatic. So much so, that I created my own website in 2009 dedicated to the adoration of old movies called ClassicFilmSchool.com and I now enjoy posting articles about the what’s happening in the world of classic cinema nearly every day.
Although the desire to share my passion for the films of yester year certainly inspired me to pursue some form of expression, a website wasn’t something I thought of doing on my own. I have to give credit to TCM host, Robert Osborne who provided some words of wisdom during the question and answer portion of a special event that happened about five years ago. Someone asked Osborne how he became who he is today. And the simple answer was that he wrote a book, which in turn established him as an authority in his field. That book is the world renowned 80 Years of Oscar (which was originally titled 60 Years of Oscar, but every five years they print an update). The book is the end all be all resource for knowing who won for what and when, and the reason Osborne is known as the authority on the history of the Academy Awards.
So, taking Osborne’s words to heart I decided to exert my own authority as a film history aficionado. However, I was far from prepared to write my own book. Besides, that might take years to write and even longer to publish. Impatient for establishing myself as quickly as possible I decided to turn to the fastest forum of communication currently known to man: the Internet. After all, with a website I can write as often as I like and publish instantaneously. Even better, I can actually use my site as a kind of rough draft for the books I’m hoping to complete. For instance, each entry to the 1939 page (a page dedicated to describing and explaining how the films released in the greatest production year in cinematic history came to be) is a rough draft to the chapters of the book I’m writing about the films of that famous year. Likewise, every entry to my Commentary page is also a rough draft or outline to my planned book on what are considered to be the greatest classics NOT produced in 1939.
However, the site is not just a place to read a bunch of essays on classic movies. I describe it as an online resource for the classic movie fan. So in addition to the critiques it’s a place for people to find out what classic film events are happening when and where, and what noted star from the Golden Age (or any other) might be doing a book signing or making an in-person appearance, and how and where you can get that book or DVD. Basically, I promote the hell out of other people, places and things for the benefit of classic movie fans – particularly if what’s being promoted is FREE.
Of course, using a website to establish yourself as an authority only works if people know you exist. Fortunately with the combination of Twitter and FaceBook the word is getting out there. It was pretty slow at first, but as with all things momentum builds and as it does it grows exponentially. What helps is that whenever I post a new article I’m sure to announce it on the site’s FaceBook page, which in turn is set up to automatically Tweet to my handle @ClassicFilms. I know I got pretty lucky with my handle. Because my handle is nice and clean and is what it says it is I easily pickup five or so new followers a week just on the simple clarity of the name being what it is. And thanks to that fact I’ve had inquiries seeking consultation.
One man contacted me to help identify the stars and films in a recently deceased great uncle’s collection of rare on-set photographs. His family didn’t know Rita Hayworth (Gilda) by sight, so it wasn’t surprising that they couldn’t identify director Howard Hawks behind the scenes on the set of Only Angels Have Wings. It was actually a lot of fun digging through thousands of photos of a professional Studio photographer identifying the notable and collectable stills. It put my specialized knowledge to the test,
and allowed me to begin my resume as a Classic Cinema Consultant. Since then I’ve consulted a local bar that wanted to know what films were in the public domain in order to freely show them without fear of legal repercussions, and a theater company wanted suggestions on the right films to use as reference in a period piece. I even helped a website for ad consulting select the right silent film clips that best suited their image.
All this happened because I started a website to promote myself as an authority in my field. I guess you could say it worked. Better yet, you can say that I used a popular form of communication to pursue my passion and now live the life I always wanted – one that revolves around the world of classic cinema. If that isn’t a Hollywood ending, I don’t know what is.
Carrie Specht has worked as a 2nd Assistant Director for more than ten years. She has been writing online reviews of classic films for six years, running her own website for nearly 4 years, and is looking forward to teaching what she knows at a university in the near future.
Check out Carrie’s prior FilmCourage.com article ‘Your Name is What You Make It.’