What better place to hang with online movie reviewer Peter Rallis than Hollywood, California- where movies are made! We met up with the Movie Buzz host who showed up in his dashing suit attire (I swear that man is always camera ready), walked in the Avenue of the Stars, conversed with the local characters, and had some popcorn. Check our this weeks feature as Peter not only shares how he got into movie reviewing from his dorm room at Emerson College, but also how he’s using New Media to make Movie Buzz a hub for movie reviewers and fanatics alike.
- What takes up most of your time right now? Watching movies. I usually watch 3-5 movies a week. I’m either catching up on new releases on the weekend or watching older films that I’ve missed. I try to gain as much knowledge as possible by drawing parallels to other movies. When a new film gets released, I can say, “This is good but this is kind of like this other movie.” For example, “The Artist” is a great movie but the premise is like the 1952 film, “Singing in the Rain.” That’s kind of what I’ve been doing — consuming knowledge. It’s a great job.Do you have any guilty pleasures? One of my biggest guilty pleasures right now is the Hearty Bowl from Jack In The Box. It’s the most disgusting yet most delicious thing ever. Basically it’s a combination of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, cheese, and hash browns all mixed together. It’s probably one of the worst things for you but sometimes I’m sitting at home and all I crave is a Hearty Bowl. Jack In The Box serves breakfast 24 hours a day which is terrible for me but great business for them.
- Pet Peeves? Simple broken promises. I was with a couple production studios and they told me, “Hey, come in and we’ll get you subscribers and advertisers.” I entrusted my business with these other companies and they ended up putting me and my business on the backburner. I just see that as a sign of disrespect. If you can’t help me out, then just tell me you can’t and I’ll go somewhere else. I was shelved for 8 months and I’ll never let that happen to me again.
- What is your favorite film as of 2012? “12 Angry Men.” The reason I like it so much is that it’s so simple. The entire movie takes place in one room with 12 jurors deciding the fate of a boy on trial for murder. The dialogue is very engaging so you never get bored with it. It’s my favorite film just because it didn’t take a whole lot to tell a great story. I’m a big fan of simple but classy things. I haven’t seen the remake but my dad said it was awful and to avoid it. The hard thing about remakes too is that producers try to change elements to make it different. For example, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I saw the original Swedish version and it’s so much better than the American remake. Like crazy better. If people saw the Swedish one, they would not be hyping the American version so much. In the Swedish movie, the main character finds out that the woman who was murdered was actually his old babysitter so he was really interested in solving this mystery. In the remake, it was just some random family and some random girl and it completely disconnects him emotionally to the investigation where it becomes more of a job for him instead of him caring for this woman that died. That just changes the entire tone of the movie when you do something like that.
- What movie are you most hyped for in 2012? Well, I would say “The Dark Knight Rises.” The thing about that though is that people already know that story. This is the conclusion to this trilogy and I’m excited to see how this whole thing wraps up. “Prometheus,” I’m actually really looking forward to. It’s a new Ridley Scott sci-fi film. It was confirmed through photos that it was going to be a prequel to “Alien.” It’s been a while since we’ve had a big space adventure movie so I’m excited for that again. Especially since it comes from Ridley Scott as opposed to some random guy doing it. “The Avengers,” too, should be good. It’s weird because in 2011 there were so many big movies that came out that was all a result of a lag from the writers strike. With all those big movies that came out last summer, it was a bloodbath at the box office. You had to have an awesome opening weekend because the next weekend an even bigger movie was coming out. This year seems like there’s a handful of big movies. You have “The Dark Rises,” “The Avengers,” “The Hobbit,” “Prometheus” and a few other scattered ones. But last summer was insane.
- How many hours per week do you spend watching films? At least 10-12 hours. A lot of times I’ll go to the movie theater all day and do double or triple features. When I’m not working or sending e-mails back and forth, I try to catch up on movies that I haven’t seen yet.
- What’s your go-to movie genre? I like action movies because of the spectacle. But at the same time if I’m having a bad day I can take my aggression out by watching other people take their aggression out. Like, “Oh, that guy shot that guy’s whole face off! Awesome.” Second to that, a genre that I really respect and movies that I really enjoy are thrillers. I like movies that makes you think more than, “Oh look how big that explosion was!”
- Give us a fun fact about yourself. From an early age, my friends became aware that I was “the movie guy.” In high school whenever a project came up, I would always choose to make a video. My friends would always say “I’m in Peter’s group! Yeah! We’re going to get an A!” It was cool and I didn’t mind that because I loved making short films. I enjoyed that respect from my friends that they trusted me to do a great job.
- Give us a funner fact. My first job ever was working for Microsoft. The owner of this Microsoft small business company came by my high school and asked around for an editor. My TV/Video teacher recommended me for the job. So I ended up editing promotional videos for them. It turned out to be a great first job and an even better thing to add to my resume.
Walk us through a typical day for you.
Peter Rallis: It’s funny because after college I thought sleeping in was going to be the best thing ever. But now I see myself losing my days so now I’m getting up earlier and it’s like, “Oh! There’s a whole day I have now!” I try to get through all my e-mails and catch up with my work. The CEO of Walmart was in Fortune magazine and one of his secrets to success was making sure at the end of the day he had responded to everybody. Not to be, “OK, I will get to that tomorrow.” So every day, I make sure that I’m caught up with everything. But my show days, that kind of takes up my whole day. I do my shows the day of; that way I have the most recent news to talk about. That whole process takes about 6-7 hours between collecting the news, formatting it, shooting, editing and uploading. Then it’s back to e-mails, e-mails, e-mails and what movie can I see next?
I know you’ve answered this in a few other interviews before but could you re-elaborate for our audience? How did your father’s love of cinema make you go from Seattle to the School of Visual Arts to “I want to be in front of the camera” to Emerson to “Actually, I could do this in my room!”
The thing that got me really inspired to get into filmmaking in the first place was when I was eight and the high school basketball coach invited me to go scout a team with him. When we got there he said I could either write down the stats for all the players of where they take their shots and keep track of their points or I could film it. The stats thing seemed way too hard so I filmed the game. About a week later I got a letter from the basketball team saying, “Hey Peter, thanks for filming the game. We actually ended up winning the game against that team in the video.” So I thought, “This is cool!” Even though it was just filming a basketball game, I felt rewarded doing something that affected other people and they were appreciative and thankful. I wanted to keep doing that because it was a great feeling. I started filming stuff with my friends. Lots of funny skit things. When I got to high school, I joined the morning broadcast team, which was my first introduction to being infront of the camera. I also started Movie Buzz as a monthly column in the school’s newspaper. After high school, I went to film school in New York City at the School of Visual Arts. When I was there, I had a lot of free time so I combined the movie news and my broadcasting experience and I uploaded the first “Movie Buzz” episode on December 6, 2007. By the end of my first year of college, I realized that I wanted to be in front of the camera instead of behind it. Then after one more year at SVA, I transferred to Emerson in Boston for Broadcast Journalism. After my first year there, I was making enough money where I was living off of the show. So I thought that if I’m living off of it, I might as well stick with that. I was at a tipping point with my show where I could either move to Los Angeles and take advantage of opportunities or have this just be a hobby. It took a lot of convincing but I explained to my parents that this was the trend of new job markets. So I left school, moved out to LA and it’s been working out ever since. It’s crazy because the amount of knowledge I’m gathering through social media, that other companies are asking me for help to build their brands. So now I’m doing more consulting work for other companies. Business has been really booming. It’s fantastic.
“Movie Buzz is the one and only sexy show that gives you the latest news and movies.” What makes your channel so sexy and what separates your from other movie sources?
I had to throw in the sexy part because of the suit. I just think suits make everything better. It makes the show more professional and me better looking. I think I give perspectives on movies that other people may not realize themselves. I think it comes from all the movies that I’ve seen. I try to create an environment with the show where my users can talk to me and if they have a question about something they can message me and I’m pretty good with answering stuff back. People know I’m not going to sell out and I’m really honest with my reviews and opinions. Nothing will sway me like, “Such and such movie gave me a bunch of money so it’s awesome. Go check it out.” I don’t allow that to happen in the show. Someone can sponsor it, run an ad or a clip or whatnot but in no way will I allow a studio or movie to sway my opinion on a film. I think people recognize that and respect that. That’s part of the reason that makes it slightly different. There’s no crap behind it. I honestly think these things.
How and where do you find the movies you review and cover
Well, just because of the market on YouTube, I try to stick to the big blockbuster stuff so it’s hard for me to review independent films and be like, “Hey I’m reviewing this movie no one’s heard of!” It’s hard for people to find my videos that way. It turns out great because my audience is 80 percent male and I don’t have to worry about seeing the new chick flick movies. I was thinking about getting a female correspondent who could review more female oriented movies.
Let’s talk production. From what we understand, you are still a one man show. You film in your living room with a green screen. How do you prepare your content on film days and has there ever been any technical mishaps?
I got a great green screen kit from Amazon for $140 that came with the green screen, a stand and some lights. When I record the show, I look at myself in the viewfinder so it gives me someone to talk to as opposed to staring into a lens. The biggest mishaps that I usually run into are when I mispronounce someone’s name or I’ll get a date wrong or I’ll say another movie instead of a specific movie. I have no one there to catch me and say, “Oh, you said that incorrectly” so it’s not until I start editing where I see that I made a mistake. Part of the reason that happens is because I don’t have a script for my show. I just have a sticky note with the headlines and then I’ll ad lib what I remember from the story. I’ve become really efficient when it comes to editing the show. I have the whole work load down. It becomes automatic. I try to edit other projects in between shows to keep my creativity and knowledge of other parts of the software as opposed to doing the same kind of same green screen effects every time. I try to just throw in other things for me to practice with.
Glowing lights and Olivia Wilde. What was it like interviewing them?
Back in early November of 2010, Disney contacted me because they were trying to get into the whole social media thing. They found my show and said, “Hey, we’re doing the press junket for Tron Legacy. Is that something that will work for your show?” “Uh, yes! Absolutely yes! Thank you!” I got to see the movie a month ahead of time and I got to go to the junket afterwards. It was funny because when I went there, there was a waiting room before you go in and talk to the celebrities. I was kind of tired because it was a long day. But there is nothing that wakes you up more than, “OK, Peter Rallis, you’re going to be talking to Olivia Wilde next.” She was my first celebrity interview ever. It was pretty cool. She was really nice and made me feel really comfortable. When I first started I was really nervous about it but when I sat down it was like she’s here for this and I’m here for this. This is my job now. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. What helped me through that was I told myself, “Of course I’m here. I’m supposed to be here.” I got to talk to some of the other cast too. They were great people and I’m pretty sure they have to be nice because they knew it was going to be aired somewhere. But it was a great experience and a lot of fun.
Do these interviews add anything into the movie after you watch them?
It’s weird because after I did the junket, I had a personal connection to the actors in the movie. If I didn’t talk to them beforehand, I would usually just look at the movie as a movie. But after doing the junket, I now look at Tron: Legacy as a movie with people I met in it. So I feel more connected to the film.
In a prior interview, you said you didn’t want to be to dependent on YouTube because if YouTube ever decides to shut down then…uh oh! What do you think lies in the future of new media users?
With Twitter and Facebook it’s really easy to promote yourself and gain a following from nothing. With YouTube it’s become more and more hard to do that because when YouTube started and you started a show, you were the only content on the website. The YouTubers that have been around for a while, part of their success is that no one else was around, what else are you going to watch? At the time, when I signed up, Smosh was the number one most subscribed channel with 120,000 subscribers. Now you have Ray who has like five million subscribers. There was an article about how 70 percent of the YouTube’s audience comes from outside the US. So when the advertisers see videos with a million hits and think it’s great for their product, well 70 percent came from not America. Especially when you promote movies. You’ll get 100,000 hits from Indonesia but the movie isn’t going to Indonesia. Even though Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all different in what they do, the fact that they are all so well-integrated is amazing. It’s quite easy to jump platforms. If you know me on Twitter, then you know me on YouTube. If you know me on YouTube then you know me on Facebook. It kind of cross promotes itself in a way. I think it’s important to have a presence on each one just for the sake of sometimes your audience is at a difference place at a different time. Most of my views don’t directly come from my subscriber list. It comes from clicks on Twitter or clicks on Facebook. It may seem silly but do it anyway. It’s just how things are now and if you don’t take advantage of it then you’re going to get drowned out. You can’t just close yourself off and wait for things to show up. It’s who you know that gets you in and it’s what you know that keeps you there. You can’t just disappear. Be respectful to the community because everything is very public now.
Hypothetically, you’re reviewing a movie with your most favorite director, producer, actor, with a bad story. How do you go about giving an honest review without a bias?
I have favorite actors and directors, but if Tom Cruise were to make a bad movie I wouldn’t necessarily put it on Tom Cruise. The number one thing I look at when I see movies in general is the storytelling structure. Did you tell a complete thought? That’s just how I see movies because of the things I learned in film school with screenwriting. I don’t see entertainment first. I see how well you tell the story first. Then I go into if it was a lot of fun or if it was boring. But the Transformers movies are my only expectation to that rule. Those films are not trying to win Oscars, they are for turning your brain off.
You’re one of the few online that’s been able to use new media to build a revenue stream. Do you think there’s a special formula in succeeding in new media as a creative?
What I’ve noticed that is very successful is when people do work that they are really passionate about. I think the reason why “Movie Buzz” is such a success is because I’m really passionate about movies. I love movies. I love the whole thing. I think that comes across in the show too. New media has taken a form of finding out who are the experts in various fields. Even if it’s just someone who is good at painting or drawings. Perfect example: someone uploaded a fan video of some title sequence for “The Adventures of TinTin.” Steven Spielberg saw it, loved it and then hired the guy to do his next project. I think the real secret to success with new media is that it has to be something that you love doing or you’re going to find yourself not keeping up with it and finding less inspiration to keep at it because the hard thing about new media is that you have to stay consistent. If you start disappearing, you’re done. When I move to a website, I still want to have a YouTube presence because I don’t want to lose my audience. It’s important to be passionate and to reach out to others in the same field. You create a great network that way. If you have some kind of talent, record it, or do something with it. You never know who’s going to see it.
Aside from incoming revenue and channel views, what were the other signs that pretty much gave you the go ahead and do this full-time?
While I was going to school in Boston, I saw that more and more YouTubers were moving to Los Angeles to grow their brands. After seeing their success, I knew that I had to do the same thing. I felt like the YouTube community was about to boom, and I didn’t want to be left behind when it happened.
Do you think some time in the future you would want to work more behind the scenes with writing or editing?
That’s what I kind of want to transition to. It’s tough working on a movie show that’s only two times a week. Sometimes I’d do a show Tuesday and there would be breaking news Wednesday when I can’t say anything about it until my Friday show. I mean, I could tweet about it but I can’t make it part of my show. That’s kind of what’s been happening. I’ve been drifting more and more behind the scenes of producing a website. I see myself slipping into the business side of the movie news than being a talking head. Even though I still enjoy that, long term, I want to be behind the scenes. Doing the videos is only going to last so long. I don’t want to be that guy who’s still making YouTube videos when he’s 40.
Can you tell us what’s in store with “Movie Buzz”?
I just joined Machinima and they’re supposed to be helping me grow my show and build my website. Right now, the show is kind of “news-y.” I want to keep that for the website and change the show to be more of an entertainment spin and look on things. That way I can focus on one trailer or one big piece of news. It’s hard to market a news show on YouTube with all the other fast paced entertainment videos. So that’s the transition I want to make with the show.
Any words of wisdom for any aspiring content creators?
If you have any content at all, you have to put yourself out there. Getting a “no” is better than not knowing at all. Sometimes those “no’s” motivate you to get “yes’s” down the road. If you have a talent or are passionate about something, you have to put your content on the web because it’s literally free advertising. If you put it out there, anyone can come across it. It’s crazy how powerful a retweet is all of a sudden. It’s very important to stay on top of social media stuff and it’s important to be social on social media. Through Twitter, I met Jon Hurwitz, who’s the writer and creator of the “Harold and Kumar” movies and he’s apparently been watching my show since the beginning. It’s crazy the connections you create by sticking with it. You can’t just expect to create a Twitter and have millions of followers. It’s a process like everything else. It’s a fun process which can get people antsy. You never know when something is going to work out. Especially with old companies who don’t know a thing about Twitter and Facebook and they’re hiring new people who know that stuff. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the different social network sites so you have some kind of knowledge because that is how the world is being run now.
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Photography By: Melly Lee
Header By: Melly Lee
Interview By: Melly Lee