Where's the Money, Ronnie?

[Apologies to casual followers and people who actually look up Shane Meadows' short during the brief window when this'll be up. Nothing for you here. This is just the best way for me to reach those who'll care.]

This is not in fact a review of the short film "Where's the Money Ronnie!" (which actually ends with an exclamation point, not a question mark), though I saw it over 20 years ago and recall it being quite funny. Rather, it's an explanation for why I've been dormant on this site for a while, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future unless a bunch of people want to subsidize my non-professional writing in an individually small but cumulatively meaningful way.

Yep, Patreon. I'm sorry that it's come to this. Avoided it for years. But the alternative is what you've seen hereabouts lately, which is zilch.

Here's the situation: A recent downturn in freelance income (which I don't anticipate reversing itself anytime soon) has forced me to earn most of my living at the poker table. Which is fine; I'm very good and the competition at my local casino is almost surreally bad. I don't need financial assistance in the conventional sense. However, my current bankroll isn't huge, which means that I have to play at fairly low stakes in order to ensure that a downswing (those befall everyone, no matter how skilled; there's a ton of short-term luck in poker) doesn't leave me broke. This in turn means that I have to put in a veritable fuckton of hours, leaving me with considerably less free time in which to write even fairly brief capsule reviews of films I watch. You'd be surprised, and perhaps alarmed, to learn just how much effort goes into crafting those (usually) single-paragraph thoughts; dashing stuff off just isn't my style, even when it comes to writing that I do strictly for fun/myself.

Hence my silence hereabouts of late. I keep wanting to sit down and write something up, and I keep not having the time or energy to do it. Haven't even gotten around to simple logging/rating. (That's what most of my friends/peers already sensibly restrict themselves to on Letterboxd, because why on earth would you devote numerous hours every week to unpaid labor?) But it pains me, because I've always believed these condensed, informal, barely contextualized capsules—which I wrote for many years on my personal website and blog before moving them to Letterboxd a few years back—to be my best work. Not that I don't put a great deal of effort into my professional reviews, but there's something immensely freeing about this particular format, in which I assume that Ideal Reader shares with me a certain knowledge base, and thus merrily dispense with throat-clearing and table-setting and plot summaries and anything else that isn't pure, uncut personal reaction. These "drive-by" reviews, as I once dubbed them, are still work, but they're also a lot of fun, which is why I've spent the past 20+ years writing them gratis. It's just that the pro bono criticism was being underwritten by the pro criticism, which until recently paid well enough (barely subsistence level!) that it afforded me enough time to do both.

Lamenting this loss, I keep looking at my 10,000+ Letterboxd followers and wishing that I could somehow persuade each of them to send me just $1 per month. They wouldn't even notice that dollar missing, and I'd be richer than I've ever been in my entire life (by a significant margin; candidly, I've never made more than about 1/3 of $120K). Obviously, that's completely unrealistic—the vast majority of folks who follow me here probably haven't noticed that my reviews stopped showing up in their feed weeks ago. But even, say, 200 people willing to toss me $2/mo would buy me back enough hours (~33 at my current win rate) to maintain my previous output.

So what the hell, let's give it a shot. Can't hurt to try. Reviews I write will still show up here eventually—I'm thinking maybe a month's delay —but I'll be posting them first on Patreon, accessible to patrons at all levels. (Obviously someone could easily cut-and-paste everything elsewhere—to another Letterboxd account, even—but hopefully nobody will be that petty.) My thoughts on Dragged Across Concrete are over there right now. For fun, and because Patreon all but strongarms you into doing so, I've also created a few slightly pricier tiers that offer so-called "rewards," e.g. the ability to request that I watch/review some particular film. But I'm mostly just hoping that enough people will part with the price of a donut, or even a donut plus a cup of coffee, to make writing the fun, non-pro stuff financially feasible at this moment.

(No doubt some of you are thinking "Why should I pay you to do the same thing that I'm doing here for free?" And of course if you don't want to, you shouldn't. But if you're someone whose writing I actively enjoy, and I can keep said writing from disappearing by contributing a buck per month, you can count on me as a patron. That's not charity; it's strictly self-interest.)

((Oh, and if you're one of the handful of folks who still sends me a few bucks a month directly via Paypal, even though I announced years ago that I no longer needed reader donations except as a means of guilt-tripping me into writing: Thank you so much and please switch it over to Patreon, just so I have a clear sense of whether this will be feasible.))

Frankly, my expectation is that this won't work—that I won't attract enough patrons to make it worthwhile. (I say that not out of general pessimism or any lack of self-esteem, but after looking around at the Patreon accounts of some other film writers.) If that's the case, I'll shut it down pretty quickly. But if you enjoy my non-professional writing and would be distressed by its abrupt demise, here's a potential means of life support. Y'all surprised the hell out of me a decade ago when I asked for funds to attend Cannes, during a brief period of extreme broke-itude, and I (paradoxically) wouldn't be all that surprised if you surprised me again.

Regardless, thanks for reading all of this, as well as my other blathering over the years. Whether or not it can continue, it's been a pleasure.