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Movie Mezzanine Relaunches: An Interview with Founder Sam Fragoso

Movie Mezzanine Relaunches: An Interview with Founder Sam Fragoso

Movie Mezzanine launched in January of 2013, and it has since become an outlet for up-and-coming film critics, editors and writers, from Kenji Fujishima to Charles Bramesco to Monica Castillo. To celebrate its second anniversary, the site is relaunching with a new design, a handful of new contributors (Miriam Bale, Angelo Muredda), new partners (Fandor, The Critical Press), and a new section of the site inspired by Slant’s The House Next Door. 

Criticwire spoke to founder Sam Fragoso about the site’s relaunch.

What’s the motivation behind the redesign and relaunch?

We felt it was time for a change, aesthetically speaking. Mezzanine is becoming what is becoming because of the guidance and support from a whole host of people, from Corey Atad to James Ward to Matt Zoller Seitz. But the main catalyst behind all of this is Tina Hassannia. She was the one who inspired me to take Mezzanine in a different, stronger direction. Her wisdom, intelligence, and occasional insanity is a key factor in the site’s evolution. And we couldn’t have made this happen without her.

How long have you been working on it?

The redesign has been in the works for a few months. That includes all the additional elements: the new rating system, more original illustrations by Alex Kittle and Krishna Shenoi, a reworked logo, myriad of design elements, etc. On the editorial front we’ve been making changes and additions all year, starting with Josh Spiegel, Tina Hassannia, and Kenji Fujishima. All incredibly talented individuals who bring a unique perspective to Mezzanine.

What new features are you most pleased with?

There’s quite a bit to be pleased with, but the opening of The Balcony sits atop that list. With The Balcony, run by Kyle Turner, we’re looking to do what The House Next Door and The Film Stage do on a daily basis: curate interesting, informative, topical pieces of writing that both entertain and enlighten. Moreover we’re aiming to strengthen our features section through strong editing. Hassannia and Fujishima have the abilities and experience to polish our writing, setting the editorial bar higher.

Do you think there’s anything people will miss about the old look?

Only time will tell. I’m sure someone somewhere will miss something about the old look of the site, but I can tell you that most people on our staff won’t. The blockiness of that design was pretty hard to get past. 

Why have you chosen to get rid of the Newswire section?

We gave it a shot last year in the hopes that it would drive in more traffic. It didn’t. That’s the honest truth. It’s also the only reason most publications have a hefty Newswire section. So we’ve decided to nix the Newswire because 1.) what we were covering is not terribly interesting to us, and 2.) we weren’t that good at. I admire resourceful sites like SlashFilm, Collider, and ComingSoon that have turned a profit covering and playing to that anticipatory culture, but that’s not us. 

You’ve brought on new partners with Fandor and The Critical Press? What new features are you hoping to bring with them, and will they affect other articles and features?

Our partnership with The Critical Press began a couple months, and has been fruitful (I hope) for the both of us. With TCP we’ll continue to promote the books soon to be published (many of which are authored by Mezzanine staffers) and republish relevant video essays and excerpts from their growing catalogue. 

We will begin working with Fandor in the next few weeks on a whole host of exciting ventures. All of these endeavors, big and small, will advocate the great services that Fandor has to offer. As far as streaming sites go, no one has been able to duplicate what Ted Hope and company are producing over there. 

You’ve also brought on a few new contributors. What do you hope they’ll bring to Movie Mezzanine?

As a young, burgeoning site we’re always looking for new voices to publish. And I believe since opening our doors we’ve done a good job of jumpstarting the careers of many. But our new contributors, chiefly Angelo Muredda and Miriam Bale, have been brought in for their experience and established talents in this field. We hope to add a few more seasoned journalists like them as the year goes on.

Is there anything you’d like to do with the new site that you weren’t previously able to?

Every writer, and by extension every site, is attempting to find their voice. A style or beat that distinguishes them from everyone else. Movie Mezzanine has spent the last 24 months attempting to do just that. Our search is not over, and perhaps it never will be. But I’m hoping this relaunch is the start of something I can’t even envision. Something that transcends even our wildest expectations. In other words, to quote Sinatra, the best is yet to come. 

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