20 Years of NewEnglandFilm
An interview with NewEnglandFilm.com Founder Michele Meek
Written by Amber Miller | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
NewEnglandFilm.com Founder Michele Meek talks about how the website got started 20 years ago and what she sees in its future.
Also take a look at the Visual Tour through the Past 20 Years of NewEnglandFilm.com.
Twenty years ago, Michele Meek first had the idea for NewEnglandFilm.com. She had graduated Emerson College and was seeking a job in documentary filmmaking. She came across the same obstacles many grads in the late 1990s did—film jobs weren’t always advertised in the regular newspapers, and the industry seemed to have its own word-of-mouth community that shared resources, events, and connections.
With her background in magazine publishing, Meek first thought of NewEnglandFilm.com as a publication with industry news, interviews, and, of course, job listings. The response to the website was fairly instantaneous, and it grew exponentially in a matter of months. By the end of the year, she was selling advertising on the site.
In celebration of NewEnglandFilm.com’s first twenty years, Meek is hosting a free Stepping Up Your Film Career panel discussion and party at her alma mater Emerson College on February 28. Although the event is now fully booked, Meek said she hopes to host future online and in person events with the community, and she looks forward to hearing your thoughts about the future of the website by emailing her.
For this interview, I had the chance to speak with Michele Meek to discuss the past, present, and future of NewEnglandFilm.com.
Amber Miller: What made you want to start NewEnglandFilm.com?
Michele Meek: After graduating from Emerson College, I was making a shift from working in publishing to working in documentary filmmaking so I was trying to figure out: what are the companies, how do I get a job, and what are the events that are going on so I can meet people? I realized that there wasn’t a comprehensive resource. Even though there were great organizations like BF/VF [Boston Film/Video Foundation] and CID [Center for Independent Documentary]; there wasn’t a place that you could look to find events, jobs, news, or articles — to find out what companies existed and what they were doing. It seems like everything happened through word of mouth — which seemed inefficient.
So at that point, I started getting interested in a print magazine, so I asked around and did some research. But the costs of starting something in print were prohibitive — you need to either have a lot of cash or have advertisers up front. But my boyfriend at the time (and now husband) Geoff Meek suggested that I start it as a website. In was the mid-1990s, and he had been working with some of the first Internet companies in Boston. A website as a business seemed preposterous at the time, but I figured if it became popular enough, I’d be able to convert it to a print magazine. But of course, then the response was so positive to the website, I realized it actually made more sense in that format.
AM: Did you ever have the aha moment where you realized New England film has finally set off successfully?
Meek: I guess it was the point when I quit my job at Somerville Community Access Television to work on NewEnglandFilm.com and other entrepreneurial endeavors full-time. There’s something terrifying and liberating about making that leap. When I started selling advertising, it started to click—this could actually not only be a great resource but a sustainable business.
AM: How has this journey been for you so far?
Meek: Twenty years is a long time to run a business. Honestly, I can’t actually believe it’s been that long. The online world has transformed dramatically in that time, and NewEnglandFilm.com has to change with it in order to continue to be relevant.
At first, no one could even imagine moving their advertising money from print to online, which of course happened. That said, another shift has occurred in that more users spend more of their time on social media, so we meet them there. In some ways, it’s unfortunate. Years ago, we had a thriving online bulletin board on NewEnglandFilm.com—there were threaded and moderated chats that people could subscribe to. Now, we have Facebook and Twitter—but it doesn’t feel as efficient as an a good archive—it’s not searchable, and you can’t just subscribe to one conversation thread that takes place over months or years.
I think we’re on the cusp of a new era for NewEnglandFilm.com. Part of the reason I wanted to host a panel and party for the 20th anniversary is because I wanted it to be an open and free event (much like the website) and for us to engage with our community directly to find out how we can continue to build upon this great resource for the next 20 years. I’m looking forward to what people have to say.
AM: What’s your biggest accomplishment with NewEnglandFilm.com?
Meek: Honestly, the thing that gives me the most pleasure is when people email me or come up to me at an event and tell me that they found their job or their recent role in a film or their writing partner on NewEnglandFilm.com. To me, that makes it all worth it—that the website helped foster someone’s passion and creativity and that it helped connect creative people to work together. That’s what I hope to continue to be able to do for the next twenty years.