By Ryan Clagg
It was the end of 2004. I was at a party, and I overheard a friend discussing her movie review for the Charleston Gazette. Immediately I stopped whatever it was I was doing and badgered her for more information. That year I had seen "Pulp Fiction" for the first time and was convinced that I wanted to make movies. Naturally, I wanted to write about them, and within a week of that party, I joined FlipSide.
My first review was for "Napoleon Dynamite," a film I considered essential viewing for my generation. I eventually branched out and wrote a variety of pieces for FlipSide. It's hard to remember every article and review, but there is one that never leaves my mind.
Around the time I joined the staff, the movie "Sideways" was getting a lot of attention at film festivals. When theaters in West Virginia finally released it, I jumped on the opportunity to review it. The film is rated R, and being 16 at the time, I had little choice but to see it with my mother. (Quick side note: don't see this film with your mother.)
The film was great, and I excitedly wrote my review. This was a big deal for me because "Sideways," was a film for an older audience. I enjoyed writing reviews of teen-oriented films, but with this review, I sought to transcend my age barrier. I wanted to entice other teens to expand their cinematic tastes, and perhaps, reach a few adult readers in the process.
FlipSide posted the review on the Gazette website before printing it. Soon after, a disgruntled reader wrote in to the paper, harshly criticizing the fact that an underage teen would review such a mature film. If that wasn't bad enough, he sent his letter to all the principals at my school. This assignment had nothing to do with school, yet I was still called to the principal's office to clear up the controversy.
This was extremely embarrassing. I had tried to be one of the grown-ups, and someone exposed me immediately. It didn't matter, though, because FlipSide ran the review anyway and made no apologies. To them the review was a legitimate opinion regardless of the writer's age. I rarely find that kind of respect even now at 22.
Before joining FlipSide, I would have never thought my teenage scribbling mattered at all. Flipside truly holds reverence for its writers, and this is what I valued most during my time on the staff. FlipSide editors Marina Hendricks and Amy Robinson recognized my journalistic interests and actually encouraged me to explore them further. Here I was afraid that I would never write another review, and here they were feeding the fire.
It's been six years since I last wrote for FlipSide. My path has not led me to a life in journalism (yet). However, I still consider my time at the paper extremely valuable, if for nothing else, then at least for that movie review. I was trying to find my voice, and when someone tried to squash it, FlipSide made it loud and made it matter.
So happy 20th, FlipSide, and thank you, Marina and Amy, for taking me seriously and treating me like the adult that I hope to one day become.
Ryan Clagg graduated from Cabell Midland High School in 2006. He now works as a research technician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.