Kirk Fernwood – Film Critic

I stumbled upon Kirk Fernwood’s filmsite www.onefilmfan.com while looking for film reviews and was immediately captivated by his writing style. I loved both his summary of the movies as well as his analysis of what made each work or not work. I was honored to have him review Providence. Then he did an interview with me, and now I’m turning the tables and interviewing him. 

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When did you develop a love for film?
While I immediately recall growing up and seeing efforts like “Pete’s Dragon”, “Superman”, and, of course, the original “Star Wars”, my real chance to even catch a larger number of films didn’t truly begin until the Fall of 1988 when I first got to college. This meant I had more free time (LOL) and freedom (Woo hoo!!) to go out when I wanted as often as I wanted, so I took advantage of it when I began making friends who enjoyed film as well. So at this point, purely an entertainment medium.

Then, the next larger leap came after college when getting a job and hence having more money came about, I started paying even more attention to what releases were coming out, not just in the near future, but for the whole upcoming year. Next thing I know, I am slowly building up the number of films I took in each year, to the point where I started averaging around 40-45, which for most people, is quite a lot if not well above average.

Finally, in seeing so many consistently, I started to get far more interested in not just being entertained, but rather learning more about how the films were made, researching the casts, directors, studios, etc., which then in turn began making me pay more heed to the overall quality of the story, characters, and execution of what I had paid to watch. At this point, we’re into the early 90’s, and now I am enthralled by film.

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What drew you to analyzing films?
As I was alluding to above, I think it really started to hit me during that post-college period beginning in 1992 when I was viewing so many theatrical releases, that there was more to film than just entertainment value. So as I began delving a little more into a given project, it became more fascinating to critique the content–how the effort actually impacted me as a viewer, how well-done (or not!) the writing, cinematography, music score, casting, and delivery was, and how did this film compare to other films within that genre.

Factors like those became so much a part of how I was taking in these releases, that I actually had friends telling me I should try to be a film critic, that I should create a website and post reviews. And all I would do is laugh and say “Oh yeah, wouldn’t that be awesome to do!” But I was so paralyzed by my own sense of self-doubts, about being able to create something people would actually gravitate to, I never took any action whatsoever to even try. And this was as the next 15-20 YEARS went by with people continuing to encourage me to do it, but again, I just had too much fear of failure.

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Tell us about One Film Fan.
Honestly, now, I can very confidently and humbly say, what you see at OneFilmFan.com is that dream of being a published film reviewer come to life, and I could not be happier with the way it has panned out to date! Started in January 2014 after finding a hosting site (BlueHost) and publishing platform (WordPress) I was satisfied with, I posted my first online review, which was for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”! The moment I hit “publish”, I realized “Wow! That’s actually “out there” now! “Will anyone notice?” “Will anyone read it?” “How do I promote this?” It was actually kind of scary! LOL

So, I simply kept making it a point to write and post a review for every film I saw, all the while creating a new Twitter account for myself as OneFilmFan, and then placing Tweets with links to my reviews on it, hoping somehow, someway, people would take notice! I started telling friends, family, and co-workers about my site, at least counting on their support and spreading the word about it. That did happen and it was satisfying, but I cannot deny a little frustrating, since I knew I needed to go beyond that in making the site known.

During this initial time as well, I signed up on IMDbPro in order to have access to contact information for the actors in these films I was seeing, attempting to score an interview with someone and therefore increase my exposure and my legitimacy as a site. Got a LOT of polite “no’s” or “they aren’t currently available”, but what it was really showing me, was that I was willing to put myself out there by even contacting these publicists, much less the thrill of getting an answer of any sort from them! So between posting reviews and trying for interviews, I stayed the course.

The first “big break” came in September 2014 when I got my first interview, via emailed questions, with lead actor Blake Rayne from the indie film “The Identical”, and that was by tweeting him directly to ask if he was willing to do it! So after that, I had a new sense of purpose, joy, and feeling of accomplishment, which was then compounded when the next interview came via Scott Takeda, a supporting actor in “Gone Girl”, which was my first phone interview. I was nervous to say the least, but Scott was absolutely fantastic.

Now I am on cloud nine because I cannot believe this is all happening! But it wasn’t over yet! In November of 2014, when I was out in SoCal visiting my cousin, I received an email from an indie film director from Sweden (whoa!) asking me if I would be interested in reviewing his new, no-budget film for my site!! Wait a minute—someone is coming to ME for a review?? Blew my mind completely! So I did, and let’s just say that after publishing that review and having it promoted by the director on Twitter, the next 13+ months since then have been one incredible whirlwind of making connections in the indie film community to the point where I have review requests coming in so consistently, I still have to pinch myself!

I’ve now got an amazing network (which keeps growing!) of genuine, passionate, and dedicated filmmakers, crew, actors, and publicists in my corner who I’ve reviewed for and in turn, they have way more than helped my site get noticed in that community, all over the world! Just plain awesome! And by the way, it was during the latter half of 2014 that I was introduced to and now LOVE independent cinema!

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What are the most important factors that you consider when reviewing a film?
Now, thanks to reviewing more and more material and being exposed to so much diversity via independent films (theatrically or sent to me), one word actually encompasses it—depth. Give me depth of story and characters, something I can really sink my teeth into and be deeply, emotionally moved by in some way. I want a film I can end up being able to even relate to on some level, large or small. And in the midst of that, still have it successfully entertain me as well.

Have to be completely transparent here, indie films have WAY more covered this as a whole than the larger Hollywood efforts. It’s just the truth. I find myself disappointed in some big budget fare that originally I would have been automatically saying “Oh! That’s awesome!” I feel my pallet and understanding of what film is and should be has truly changed my perspectives a LOT over the last 2 years of posting to my site. Plus, I have also had the revelation of “indie film” NOT automatically translating in my head as “low quality”. Far from the truth, it’s mostly been the exact opposite experience.

So, yeah, depth! 

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How do your personal beliefs and preferences come into play when reviewing?
As a Christian, I do make every effort to maintain at MINIMUM a sense of what content I am about to be exposed to when seeing a trailer in the theater, or considering screening a film that’s been sent to me. I am not a huge fan of extremes in content, especially language and sexuality, because at least to me, there’s SO often NO true need for it in the story, regardless of what genre or theme is being expressed. The points could have been made without spouting 500 “f”-bombs, seeing these people naked, or simply such blatantly crude content like so many modern comedies, truly! Even extremes in violence can be unnerving to my spirit when outside specific contexts.

So, I have had to turn down films sent to me, and I explain why politely to those who sent me the offers, because I will NOT disrespect them as filmmakers, but rather let them know their film just isn’t something I would be able to watch with an unbiased or untainted view based on my personal preferences. And how funny—they appreciate the honesty! As far as overall preferences, I have found I love films in pretty much every genre thanks to being at least more open to TRY them. Now, have I been burned by some choices? Absolutely. More than once! But I therefore try to learn from it all, and strive to make choices that are better.

I have my faith, and I stand by it. I’m not perfect, and not as an excuse to watch films I flat out shouldn’t, but more knowing the grace of God is in me, I keep growing along the way and try to avoid those extremes especially.

What do you enjoy most about reviewing movies?
It has given me my first REAL chance to exercise the gift of creative writing I feel God gave to me, and which I went to college for, but then never got to utilize in such an enjoyable way. Additionally, to have had the blessing last year of getting feedback about my writing and reviews from local professionals here in Columbus, OH, it ultimately helped my review style, format, and content direction evolve exponentially to where I have learned how to say a lot without it taking 1000 words to do it like when I started!

Of course, this interview is well over that amount, but then again, you’ve asked me to share about something I have such a passion for! And that passion keeps growing more and more!

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What is the hardest part of being a film reviewer?
Sometimes, I truly stew over what I want to write about a given film, and writer’s block is an inevitable wall you hit! I will write a paragraph, then get up, walk around the apartment, come back, and try again! It can be a vicious cycle, and one you need to overcome! I want to be fresh in the ideas I put out for each movie I review, and when that’s not happening—ARGH!!!

What is your ultimate goal as a film critic?
I started this journey with the desire to become a full-time, paid film critic. And that is NOT easy to do in this world of the internet, because everyone and anyone can throw a review out there with no one having to pay them! Most major publications have veteran in-house reviewers who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, plus it’s literally a world filled with competition at a whole different level, at least in my opinion.

Therefore, that is why I am BEYOND thankful to God and all the industry people that I have connected with over the last year especially, because as I mentioned above, it IS because of God’s faithfulness and their amazing support, encouragement, and friendship that I have gotten to the point I have so far, no lie. And it has provided me the confidence to KEEP pushing, KEEP seeking, and KEEP making inroads to the industry I love so much. Plus, I feel at 45 years old, it’s been shown to me that it’s never too late to pursue a dream!!

Anything else?
Hey, I first want to give you and the cast and crew of “Providence” a serious shout out for all the recent opportunities you’ve provided for me, my review of your film, and for granting me my first experience at being the interviewee! Has been a true pleasure, I look forward to whatever the future may have in store, and in the meantime, I want to thank all the readers who come to my site and end this interview with a certain familiar quote—“As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!”

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