One day back in September of 2006, I met three people that would drastically alter the direction of my life: Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and James Israel.
At the time, they made up pretty much the entire staff of indieWIRE (as it was then written), and they had been looking for a local writer to help them cover the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on the recommendation of a friend of a friend (thanks, Brad Horvath and Basil Tsiokos!), they chose me — and I can’t really fathom what my life would be like now if they hadn’t. The following year they hired me on permanently, setting my initial task as going to Cannes to cover the festival, no less (which will always remain the exceptionally glamorous reason I got my first passport). I’ve been employed in some capacity ever since, which makes saying goodbye pretty daunting.
Over the past nine and a half years, Indiewire has become a considerable part of my professional and personal identity. Back in 2006, I was an extraordinarily awkward 21-year-old just out of undergrad with maybe a dozen writing samples to my name, most of them from my college newspaper. I’d wanted to write about movies since I knew what movies were, but I never expected to be able to pull it off as a genuine career.
Eugene, Brian and James — who I’m sure some people reading this are themselves lucky enough to know — not only gave me what will probably always remain the biggest break of my professional career, they also offered themselves as pretty awesome mentors for someone just starting to figure things out. Moreover, they were either directly or indirectly responsible for a near-decade of experiences that will be very difficult to top going forward.
I mean, seriously: If it wasn’t for Indiewire, I wouldn’t have camped in the Scottish Highlands with Tilda Swinton.
If it wasn’t for Indiewire, I wouldn’t have attended the freaking Oscars.
If it wasn’t for Indiewire, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility or encouragement to pursue side projects like a short film that became bizarrely successful in China or a Tilda Swinton-inspired film festival of my own or, well, this.
It was an insanely spoiled way to spend my twenties and I’ll always be incredibly grateful for it.
What I’ll be most grateful for, though, is the sense of community I experienced over these years. Which sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s the truth. Brian, Eugene and James welcomed me into a world of smart, fabulous, passionate people that I’d see time and time again on the film festival circuit, one that became a sort of mobile home. I learned so much from those folks, and have never quite felt such a part of something.
And that ultimate notion — of art as community and community as art — is certainly something I’ll be taking with me into a very different world when I start a new job next month.
Beyond Brian, Eugene and James, I should definitely also thank the many other fine people who I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Indiewire over the years, particularly Anne Thompson, Eric Kohn, Dana Harris, Nigel M. Smith and Bryce J. Renninger, but also certainly Jason Gonzalez, Paula Bernstein, Austin Dale, Ryan Lattanzio, Alison Willmore, Kate Erbland, Melissa Silverstein, Jay Fernandez, Eric Eidelstein, Ben Travers, Liz Shannon Miller, Steve Greene, Devin Lee Fuller, Sophia Savage and Andy Lauer (sorry if I’m forgetting anyone).
I’d also like to send serious gratitude to the many folks who helped me over the years with The Lost Boys and /bent, two Indiewireian side projects: Matthew Hammett Knott, Sophie Smith, Alice Lytton, Oliver Skinner, Joe Ehrman-Dupre, Brad Horvath, Toby Ashraf, Stephen Dunn, Pedro Marum, Jose Gallegos, Hayden Wright, Gregory Rosebrugh, Les Fabian Brathwaite, Gary M. Kramer, Kyle Turner, J.D. Borden, Helen Lee and Jeremy Staley, I heart you all.
Finally, I guess this is the part where I offer some sort of advice for people trying to find their own path into this world. I’ll keep it simple, and throw things back to the three most important things Eugene, Brian and James taught me right off the bat back in 2006: Work hard, be nice to — and make friends with — those that came before you and those who come after you (not to mention your contemporaries), and don’t take yourself too seriously (though I realize I just kinda did). It goes a long way, I promise.
Thanks for reading my words all these years, and happy sweet ’16s to us all.
Peter Knegt was Indiewire’s Contributing Editor and awards columnist (among other things). You can still follow him on Twitter and contact him by e-mail at peter dot knegt at gmail dot com.