Thursday, November 30, 2017

Patrick Versus the Volcano

by Patrick Bromley
You may have noticed there was no new podcast this week. Here's why.

Last week, I realized that I am at some bizarre crossroads in my life. I am in the throes of a pretty deep depressive episode and find myself paralyzed, unable to write, unable to get back in touch with loving what I do. After doing this for over a decade and running this site for almost eight years, I found myself more or less ready to give up on writing and podcasting about movies. I posted something to this effect on Twitter and was blessedly flooded with support from friends, from readers and listeners, from writers and filmmakers and actors who I have championed and whose work I greatly admire. It was humbling and incredibly moving and it reminded me that while we are just another little movie site, we have a voice and our voice hopefully still matters.

"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." - William Somerset, Se7en, quoting Ernest Hemingway

I wish I could say that it was this outpouring of encouraging words -- for my health above my writing in every case -- that shook me out of this funk and got me back to work. That would be the obvious happy end to this story. That it didn't play out that way is not to diminish the impact that people's words had on me, nor is it to suggest that I did not appreciate how kind and supportive everyone was. It meant a great deal to me. It meant so much to me, in fact, that it forced me to ask myself why it hadn't magically turned things around for me, since that's exactly how it would have happened if this was a movie. Without that support, I would have probably quit a week ago and would not be writing this right now. With it, I at least made myself look inward to try and see in myself what others saw enough of in me to offer a few words of encouragement. It's a process that's still ongoing and one without any clear answers. I've still been watching a ton of movies, but I'm having a hard time finding anything to write about because I feel like I have nothing left to say. Each time I try to write something new, I feel like a fraud. And I hate it.
But, again, I want to continue. I want to continue because I love talking about movies and because over the last seven years, I have been very proud of the way that I and all the other writers on this site have gone about doing that. I want to continue because of messages I got from people like Amy Coppage, a wonderful friend to the site who told us that FTM has helped get her through some health problems she's had in recent years. After the events of 2017, I no longer believe that, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, the world is a fine place. But I do agree with Detective Somerset that the second part is true: it's worth fighting for. If anything we've said or written over the last seven years has cheered someone up, or if our stupid "Mark Jones" character from the Leprechaun podcast made them laugh, or if we have helped someone through a difficult time, I'm not ready to give that up. I know that we're just one little movie site on an internet filled with thousands of movie podcasts and tens of thousands of movie sites, but to a small group of people, I think we matter. And that matters to me.

"I know it's almost impossible to succeed, but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt." - Celine, Before Sunrise

I never intended for F This Movie! to be my livelihood, because I'm smart enough to know that the model is broken and it's almost impossible to monetize a website or a podcast in a way that actually brings in an income -- especially without having to sacrifice your own integrity for some CinemaSins clickbait bullshit. I have never measured success by hits or by dollars earned, because that's a side of the "business" of running a site for which I have no propensity and because it's not why I got into this. I got into this to talk about the kinds of movies I want to talk about in the way I want to talk about them. At the same time, I have been feeling lately like all the writing and podcasting I do both here and at Daily Dead has gotten to be too much work for it to not actually be my work. I don't like feeling that way. It hasn't felt like work before, even when it was a lot of work. I'm not sure what's changed now, but it's a big part of the reason why I feel like something is wrong with me. I want it to go back to feeling like something I love doing and not just a non-paying job on top of all of my other jobs.
That's where the Before Sunrise quote comes in. Success, for me, has almost always been about the attempt -- in working towards the thing, not only in achieving the thing. Of course there is success in accomplishment. I look around at the husbands of Erika's friends and feel bad that they are all so much more successful than me. I admire the success of people like Heather Wixson, who just published a book, or Chaybee Barber, who has released multiple albums under the alias Brahm. It's not that I don't recognize success when I see it. And maybe it's just a case of me moving the goal posts to compensate for my own shortcomings, but my measure of success for something like F This Movie! has always been whether or not we are consistently putting out good, interesting content. It has been my guiding principle that if we just write cool stuff or do a podcast that's loose and sometimes insightful and entertaining, people would find us. Our success has always been the attempt -- the attempt to do better, to be better, to be a place where a certain kind of movie fan can come and talk about movies the way they want. It's the same way I often measure success when it comes to movies: it is in the attempt and not always in the execution. I appreciate a movie that's trying. We're trying, too. We all are. It's all we can do.

"Thank you for my life." - Joe, Joe Versus the Volcano

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite movies ever is Joe Versus the Volcano, the directing debut of screenwriter and playwright John Patrick Shanley (who has, it should be said, only directed the film adaptation of Doubt since). It's a movie I've thought about a lot in the last week or so -- specifically the scene in which Joe (Tom Hanks), diagnosed with a terminal brain cloud, rafts his way towards a remote island where he plans to sacrifice himself and hurl himself into an active volcano. Sun poisoned, dehydrated and close to death, a comatose Meg Ryan by his side, Joe sees the moon from his raft. It is luminous, gigantic and beautiful, and for the first time (maybe ever), Joe says "Dear God, whose name I do not know, Thank you for my life." It's my favorite moment in a movie full of favorite moments and it never fails to make me cry, because it's a scene about a guy who is willing and ready to die finally appreciating the gift of being alive. In my clearer moments, this is me.
Some days more than others, I have to remind myself to be Joe on the raft. It's not that I don't appreciate the important parts of my life even in my worst moments, whether it's my family or my friends or having my basic needs met, but there's always that damn brain cloud telling me to jump into the volcano. That the world won't miss me. It doesn't matter how much the rational parts of me know that isn't true or how many people flat out say they will. The brain cloud does not care. And then sometimes the moon is able to shine through and make me grateful for the time I have had, for the little bit I have contributed to the world, to the tiny mark I have made. Erika and Charlie and Rosie and my family are the moon. All of my colleagues here at FTM are the moon. This site and those of you kind enough to take the time to read it, to comment, to listen to the podcast, to share a good word somewhere -- that's all the moon. And movies. Movies are the moon. You all make me thankful for my life, especially when I forget how...big.

I'm not using this piece to announce some sort of hiatus. The podcast will be back next week, and hopefully every week after that for the foreseeable future. This is all just stuff I needed to get off my chest, like poison I need to vomit out before I can begin anew. In seven years of running this site, I have never experienced this kind of self-doubt or hit this hard a wall. Sorry if this is all too personal or too self-indulgent. It's just the most I can muster right now, and I'm afraid if I don't say something, write something, it's only going to get worse. For the time being, I will keep doing my best to fight for the world. To appreciate the moon and be thankful for my life. I can't promise I will always succeed, but for now the answer must be in the attempt.

39 comments:

  1. I must have checked the site ten times yesterday, hoping the new podcast would get posted, not so much because I look forward to it every week but because I was worried about you!

    I put on my first solo Fringe Show this year and I wanted to quit multiple times while working on it. And every time is was my moon - family, friends, and art - that got me back into it. Thankfully, after Fringe was over, so was the show, so I can only imagine how hard it would be to work on something like F This Movie, that is never really finished (like fashion and Facebook).

    Take all the time you need man - you've freakin' earned it - and know that I think what you write is excellent, and that you've made me a better movie fan because of it.

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  2. Thanks for checking in. I too checked the site a million times for a new show. haha

    I can't really pretend to know exactly what you're going through, but I do know what it's like to be overworked and burned out. If I may offer an attempt at advice, maybe it feels like too much work because it IS. Maybe you don't have to do it every week. I'm sure many on the fthismovie crew would be happy to take over sometimes. I'm sure Adam or whoever would be happy to guest host. All I'm saying is, it sucks to get burned out and maybe it's a sign that you need to cut back a little. There's no shame in breaks and vacations. Take care of yourself!

    And once again, thank you for your work. It really means the world to me.

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  3. I think you explain (very well) vastly common feelings regarding self-doubt and fatigue. I would even call them ubiquitous. I am in a profession that is typically deemed “successful” but I am constantly searching for why I don’t feel this way. I look to your site and podcast and see the joy and integrity that you and your writers bring and think, “Oh that’s it. That is success.” I know I don’t only speak for myself, but the enjoyment I get from reading and listening to you all is inspirational. As “just another little movie site” this is a monumental achievement. It is odd, and humbling, that success is so hard to quantify.

    Take all the time you need. You have tremendous support from all of us.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, and you should never feel weird about sharing the personal stuff from time to time. True FTM fans keep coming back because we love that connection.

    I've been an on again off again fan, but in the last month or so, I can confidently say that this has become my favorite movie podcast. For the first time, I found my self yesterday yearning for the Wednesday update in my feed.

    Take your time and get refreshed... we'll all be here waiting and supporting you.

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  5. as others said, take all the time you need. i'm sure we'll all support whatever decision you make now, or in the future

    i've said it before and i'll say it again, your podcast is the last one i'm still listening to. it's the smartest, down to earth, most interesting movie podcast i've ever listen to. you don't overproduce it and yet is always fun and clever. i've yet to find an annoying part, where you all get overexited, start shouting nonsense or play dumb music

    as for the site, you have a great crew of writers that are smart and interesting. i consult the site hundreds of times a day. and if there's no new article, i'll read an old review.

    take your time, do what you need to do, we'll be here waiting.

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  6. Very cool of you to write this. Wow. I'm a big podcast listener (Don't worry, F this Movie is still my favorite), and NO ONE creates content of such high quality and consistency as you guys. Also everyone else besides you takes breaks! I know I speak for all F-Heads: we'll be here when you get back.

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  7. I’m a little teary eyed now. Thank you for posting this. You connect with so many people through your words, and this isn’t remotely self-indulgent. Please keep communicating with us, pace yourself however you need to, and know that we’ll be here.

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  8. Replies
    1. Agreed. Thankyou and we all love you good sir!

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  9. We'll be waiting. Take as much time as you need and we'll still be here on your return. <3

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  10. Thank you Patrick! You are incredibly brave, much love & support!

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  11. Thank you for your openness and willingness to speak, Patrick. Your words have the power to heal others as well.

    As others have mentioned, this is THE site for movie content. Pure movie love. Checking for updates multiple times a day, re-listening to older episodes and reading comments are part of the daily routine. You make all of this possible. The personalities of everyone at FTM are able to shine through and it feels like family.

    We're all here for you.

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  12. “I don't know if there is anything wrong, because I don't know how other people are.” -Barry, Punch Drunk Love

    As someone in a different situation who relates to so much of what you said, this is the real deal. We’re here for you no matter what.

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  13. Your honesty and openness are refreshing and commendable. As someone who has looked to this podcast during some tough times, I know that external wonderfulness doesn’t necessarily get the brain chemicals flowing correctly. I so appreciate this post and hope that you take whatever time and energy is needed to feel better. Thank you thank you thank you.

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  14. I second what everybody else already said. FThisMovie is an awesome community. You've been generous with your time and effort and love of movies, and all the F-Heads have been lucky to be on the receiving end of all that. Thanks for all you've done to bring movie lovers together. I hope you feel better soon, and I'm in full support of however you can get that done. Friends, family, and the movies (and other things) that bring us together aren't going anywhere.

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  15. I have nothing profound or clever to add, just praise and thanks for the site, and a seconding of the suggestion to take whatever time off/slow down you may need to recharge. If I know you, and I don't, but I kinda do, partly, you'll reconnect with your enthusiasm soon enough. :)

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  16. Thank you for being so open. You do what's best for you, because that's what's best the whole FThisMovie community.

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  17. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

    You definitely have the first part covered, and you have accomplished so much with this site and community.

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  18. Thank you for writing this, Patrick. You continue to be my podcasting hero. :)

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  19. thanks for the show,the podcast stops me (and plenty others im sure)from going loopy!
    Good work Patrick

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  20. Not having gone through something like you have, it's hard trying to say anything helpful. So here's hoping that me wanting to say something that helps, helps just a little bit.

    The podcast and the site are important to me, but they're not as important as you are, Patrick. I've never met you, but through hours upon hours of listening to your voice, I've come to think of you as a friend. So while I do hope the site and the podcast go on, more than that I hope you find the strength to go on. You don't owe us anything.

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  21. What a beautiful article about something that is anything but. Thank you for entertaining all of us throughout the years Patrick. I, like everyone else, was refreshing the podcast app all day waiting for the new episode. Hands down the best podcast on movies available, and so nice to be able to check in with people I have never met, but consider friends, on a weekly basis. Your choice of film quotes in the article portrays your fantastic taste in film and why we all come here on a daily basis to hang out.

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  22. Thanks for sharing. You clearly are facing struggles that I cannot really understand but I know the feeling of self-doubt and of being ground down. This website and the podcast brings me, and by the looks of it, many others immense levels of joy (and philosophical insight into movies and by extension life). Its value and positive impact on the world is immeasurable and so I'd just like to personally thank you and the other writers/community here for everything. If you and your family ever come down to Hobbitton (New Zealand) know that you already have a friend and place to stay down here, so don't hesitate to reach out

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  23. You are the moon to your listeners, Patrick. Keep going ❤️

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  24. I think if you manage to inspire and positively impact even a single persons life, you have accomplished the ultimate goal in this world. I can say with out a doubt, that you, Patrick, and everything you've done with this site has inspired me and has had a positive impact on my life.

    And for that, I am thankful.

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  25. Depression is a real fucking dick, and I’m sorry it has a hold on you right now. I wish there were words to cut through it, but I fight the disease too, and I know that just isn’t the case. That shit just sits on you. This is just one comment among many, but my heart goes out to you. I’m sorry you’re fighting it, but it’s awesome that you’re fighting. Thanks for sharing real stuff with those of us you may never meet or even know you had a positive effect on.

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  26. The analogy that comes to mind when reading through some of this is that it's like when an athlete starts thinking about actions they grown to rely on muscle memory for. Depression (getting an unfortunate assist from our society lately) has thrown you off your game and while it would be naive of me to think that I know how you can get back on track I can at least take comfort in knowing that you've got a ton of people in your day to day life who are there supporting you.

    As someone who own's Heather's book, some of Chaybee's albums, the book Steph's short story is published in, and ordered the one Anya's story is published in, I agree that they've all gone out there and made cool stuff. Not only have you also made something cool and worthwhile (look no further than the Podcastathon which actually helped support an important charity and cause), but you've created a space where the rest of your amazing contributors can share their voices that might not have otherwise been heard.

    We'll all be here for you, even if you decided to take a break or to never write about movies again. If you realized that your true passion in life is to make art out of seashells I'd be more than happy to purchase a piece provided it fits on a fireplace mantel and the shipping costs are reasonable. That's just an example of course, and might prove challenging since Chicago is next to a lake as opposed to the sea but I know a guy that could probably hook you up with some shells.

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  27. This is the best piece. I'm HAPPY you're going to take care of yourself, Patrick.

    You know "Thank You (God) for my life" are words that means a lot to me. What you wrote reminded me of my dad. Although he has some different circumstances than you, I always wanted to hear him say that. He was (is) a very beloved person. Everyone always loved him, everyone thought the most of him, and he had every blessing in life. But being his daughter, knowing the parts of him other people couldn't see, I always knew that inside he felt like he had nothing. The blessings and people's love were like paintings on a wall, or trophies on a shelf, things he knew were there but couldn't feel. He seemed so unreachable. I wasn't mad at him just sad for him. I wanted to hear him say Thank You, God, for my life. He really didn't have to be anybody or prove anything - especially not to me. I just wanted him to feel that for him.

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  28. I can't blame you for feeling the things that you feel Patrick. They don't shock me in any sort of way. They are all very reasonable feeling to have. What you've accomplished here with the site is an absolute victory at this point. The dedication, the consistently strong content, and the undying love of your subject matter is felt everytime I visit to read or listen. While you've had a lot of contributors and a rotation of guests on the show over the years, at the end of the day this site and community begins and ends with you. I hope that you don't feel any sort of pressure or that you owe something to your fans or community. You've done more than enough for all of us and we all love you for it.

    Maybe a Doug show is needed? We haven't had a Patrick and Doug show in a while (just a thought)

    Kind of random side story: So at work this week, I was told to come to my 1 on 1 meeting with my boss with an answer to the question: 'If you could be any character from any movie who would you choose to be and why?'

    I sat down with my boss and told him to his face that out of all the movie characters that have every existed that I would choose to be...Marge Gunderson from Fargo

    I would be lying to myself if there wasn't a little Patrick influence to my answer.

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  29. Take as long of a break that you need. :) You're podcast has gotten me through sooooo many depressive episodes its ridiculous. And I always fine myself laughing so hard. Thanks for the joy your podcast has brought us. Look after yourself. We need things like this esp now more than ever. And again thank you :)

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  30. I hope you feel better getting this off your chest

    As a fan of the site and community I can go quiet for a few weeks like recently when I have been dealing with illness in my family but the site continues fine without me, but without You there is no site, you can't take back seat, I can feel the pressure of that on top of trying to provide money for the family, being a good father and all the other life stuff, I understand how you feel and we are there for you as you get through this, sometimes you just need a break from responsibility, I known I do

    Love from Xtroman

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  31. You truly are 1 in a 1000000000 Mr. Bromley, I am still so glad that in mt quest to find a positive review for The Mangler I came across F This Movie! I've listened to each podcast I don't know how many times and feel that even if it is just through a mutual passion for cinema got to know you and the FTM collaborators... Without wanting to belittle the excellent work you all do, this is my comfort food and my happy place... I hope things come back to you, you get back on the tracks, take all the time you need and stay safe!! You are a great man, no doubt (no doubt for one second) a wonderful husband and father... Much love from the British shores, Richard Tasker.

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  32. You're a part of my Moon and I'm sorry you're going through this so hard - as someone frequently in awe of your accomplishments it gives me an idea of how bad the brain cloud must be for you to see things this way. Do whatever you need to do to take care of your self.

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  33. I have a bit of a weird mental relationship with F This Movie. I listen to a lot of "casts" as I like to call them, because I'm cool and awesome and really pretty. But this one, which I only started listening to a couple of years ago, reaches me in a way that no other podcast does. The reason, you ask? Okay, you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway. The reason is Patrick. I love this man. I've never met him, I'm unlikely ever to encounter him, but dear god if I don't worship the guy. I would listen to a Bromley podcast about the phone book, because I know he and whatever guests he had on would make it funny, informative and insanely entertaining. His humanity is the key; true wit and insightfulness only comes from a genuine understanding of the human condition, and your man has that in spades.

    I'll stop gushing now.

    A couple of people have included movie quotes in reference to P-Brom's own Se7en Morgan freeman quotation, so I'll give you one of my favourites:

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness."

    Fondest regards from the frozen south to Patrick, Erika, Charlie, Rosie, the boy Riske, JB, Doug, Erich, Triple Aitch, Mike, Adam Theta, Alex, Mark and all other contributors, commenters included, to the best podcast in the history of this medium. You're legends, the entire lot of you.

    We all love you, Mr B. Don't ever doubt that for a second.

    P.S. If you want to take a sabbatical, that's cool. None of us is going to abandon the site just because you're not a regular presence for a bit.

    P.P.S. It looks like Donald Trump's days are numbered, which is enough to cheer any thinking, feeling person up!

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  34. Having experienced depression as well as many severe periods of life reevaluation, I can understand the funk you are in. Just getting out of bed, let alone thinking about articles to write, can become difficult. Sometimes the passions that animate our lives are called into question. (That is my particular dilemma these days.)

    I am sure you will find something meaningful again in writing and podcasting about movies, Patrick. Stepping back from a task, even if it generally is something you love, is required at times to figure out why loved doing it in the first place. As we change as people, our motivations and interests evolve and can alter considerably. Give yourself time to figure out what is going on in your life and what you want to do with it.

    Whatever you choose to do, there is a community at FThisMovie! that will support you.

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  35. This is a wonderful article. It hit me hard and I cried a little as I really feel you put into words what I have been feeling also. I know I can't know what you are experiencing individually but I really love and appreciated this honesty and openness.

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