INTERVIEW WITH BARRY HERTZ
Barry Hertz is the Deputy Arts/Film editor at the Globe and Mail.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
How would you describe your movie-watching experience growing up? What were some of your favourites?
I was lucky enough to have parents who never really checked in on what I was doing with my afternoons, mostly, and at least three video stores within walking distance that didn’t pay much attention to the ratings of tapes or DVDs. This meant I was pretty free to explore almost anything I wanted to, and led me to the typical films a white, male straight teen/tween might gravitate toward: Scorsese, Stone, the skeezier De Palma flicks, the Coen Bros, various action junk of the ‘80s, and early Tarantino, once he caught on. I ate those up, and probably watched Reservoir Dogs ten too many times, but they provided a great base of knowledge to explore pretty much every other corner of the film world.
When did you decide or discover that you wanted to make a career out of watching movies?
Probably when I was in my mid-teens. I don’t know if I could have articulated it exactly as that – making a career out of watching movies – but I knew I certainly wanted my life to revolve around movies. If I could figure out some way to get paid, all the better. This idea crystallized when I was nearing the end of high school and trying to figure out my next steps. I knew I couldn’t be a filmmaker, not really – I couldn’t use a camera to save my life. Maybe screenwriting was an option, but there was also journalism. I figured going to journalism school, with an eye toward writing about the arts, could be a sideways angle into that life.
How did you end up as the editor of the film section of the Globe and Mail?
It’s a bit of a long and winding and in all truthfulness very boring story, but it all stems from being hired at the National Post after I completed journalism school at Ryerson. I started at the Post as a summer copy editing intern – paid, thank goodness – and I parlayed that into part-time copy editing work for about a year. All the while, I was writing freelance film reviews for NOW Magazine (thank goodness editor Glenn Sumi took a shine to me after looking at clips from the student newspaper), and after a few years of that, and getting a full-time job on the night news desk at the Post (first as a copy editor, then as A1 editor), I made the leap over the Arts & Life department at the Post, becoming the A&L editor. Fast-forward a few years, and I jumped over to Maclean’s to become production manager (not the best fit), back over to the Post to become Features Editor, and then, finally, a move to the Globe. It was a lot of leap-frogging, but I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors along the way to help me get to where I am now.
As a national newspaper you have a responsibility to report on Canadian content. At the same time, there is such a cross-country hunger for Hollywood productions and news. How do you find a balance between the two worlds?
It’s a balancing act, to be sure. Readers are going to come to us expecting coverage of the biggest movies of the week, which are almost uniformly Hollywood productions. But we can serve that appetite while also paying careful attention to the homegrown industry that’s thriving around us. I think The Globe has a unique position in which, if it champions a project with a lower profile than most films, that can legitimately boost its profile among the moviegoing public – and if a film is great, why shouldn’t we do all we can to trumpet its achievements? Sometimes this works better in theory than in execution, but I try to be as aware of the talented Canadians working right next door just as much as I do the larger blockbusters that dominate the cultural conversation.
What Canadian projects or directors are exciting you right now?
There’s so many, and I do think we’re in a truly innovative, daring time for Canadian filmmakers. Ashley McKenzie, Matt Johnson, Andrew Cividino, Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson, Chloe Robichaud, Stephen Dunn, Kazik Radwanski, Igor Drljaca, Sofia Bohdanowicz, Albert Shin, Anne Emond, Johnny Ma, Kevan Funk, Nadia Litz, Chelsea McMullan … we’re almost spoiled for talent. It’s just a matter of ensuring these directors get the resources they need.
Do you find there is a thematic difference between Canadian stories and stories belonging to the rest of the world? Are there certain images or situations that you see repeated in the Canadian canon?
There was an interesting debate that sprang up recently thanks to a column TIFF’s Cameron Bailey wrote for The Globe, which essentially asked whether Canadian filmmakers were making too many “personal,” insular films. I don’t think that’s the case, and I think the term “personal” needs to be dissected a bit, but we’re also talking about artists who are working with limited budgets, so yes, most work is going to feel a little more intimate, less epic. This isn’t a negative thing at all, as any story that’s worth telling is one worth sharing on the screen. I don’t think I answered this question at all, but it boils down to Canadians being that much more curious about their own voice in the filmmaking experience, and a little more fearless about dissecting what that really means to an audience.
Of all the projects you have worked on as a film journalist, what did you find the most exciting? What are you most proud of?
I would say I’m proud of The Globe’s TIFF coverage; every year, our team really endeavours to tell the best stories and bring the festival experience home to our readers. I’d count my feature last fall about Canada’s rising wave of young filmmakers as a project I’m particularly proud of, as well as some more recent features on everything from diversity in the Oscar race to how the future of Netflix is changing the industry for everyone.
What is the most challenging aspect of film journalism?
Finding the time to see everything, and taking the time to talk to as many people involved in the creation of those films. And, of course, finding an outlet for your voice, an increasingly challenging situation for younger writers hoping to make a living at this game, as traditional outlets shrink and others disappear altogether.
How do you think we will be watching films ten years from now? Twenty?
I sincerely hope not with a VR headset, but I may very well be proven wrong. There’s no small part of me that wants to say on the biggest screen possible, but I do feel those will be a more niche experience as time goes on, and more eyeballs switch to the handheld viewing device of their choice.
Do you think Toronto is an artist-friendly city? How could it be more accommodating to those working in creative fields?
Cheaper rents, for one. It’s an incredibly inhospitable city for anyone hoping to make their living from creating art.
Why do you love Fast and the Furious?
It’s big, fun and unapologetically dumb. It’s easy to define it as something of a “guilty pleasure,” but I never enjoyed that label. It’s simply a pleasure – I feel no guilt over embracing its ludicrous (and Ludacris) world. Nor should you! Everyone, come over, let’s watch Fast Five together. You will not regret it.
What are you looking forward to?
As always, to see what TIFF has in store, and the general craziness of the fall film season. Oh, and to keep track of all the projects from the talented and exciting Canadian filmmakers listed above – and anyone else working in the trenches right now whose names I have yet to be exposed to.