I first learned about Letterboxd two years ago at Cannes, when everyone I met at screenings would ask at some point, “Do you have a Letterboxd?” I didn’t, and felt embarrassed for not knowing what it was. One of them kindly explained to me, “It’s like Goodreads but for films — you have to get it if you call yourself a cinephile.”
I got the app after the festival frenzy and have been an avid user and advocate ever since. Like my friends, I started asking everyone who seemed vaguely into film, “Do you have a Letterboxd?” Co-founded by Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow, what started as a side project is now changing the landscape of cinephilia in the internet age. The platform is designed for people to share opinions about and love of film, and members can use it in a myriad of ways — one can log the films they’ve watched, write reviews and initiate discussions, as well as organize films in lists and create a watchlist. Each film can be rated, reviewed, included in a list and tagged with relevant keywords.
I disagree with fellow arts writer Zachary Lee that the best feature of Letterboxd is the ability to read reviews. You can read those everywhere — Twitter, New York Times, Filmmaker Mag and Hyperallergic, just to name my go-tos. David Ehrlich pastes his reviews from Indiewire on Letterboxd and calls it a day. My favorite feature is definitely the creation and sharing of lists. In last week’s “How I Letterboxd,” podcaster and filmmaker Dave Chen shared his weirdly specific lists, including one titled “movies in which a highly respected auteur filmmaker processed their own real-life divorce by depicting Scarlett Johansson in a deteriorating relationship with a man who is a content creator of some kind.” Some other lists from friends and critics that I follow are Art House online, at least 10 films (where my friend challenges herself to watch at least 10 films from every year), and Befriending the lyrical loneliness. I myself have a weird obsession with the imagery of burning down a house (amongst other things) in cinema, and I could definitely use some suggestions in my tiny database.
Another question I’m often asked at filmmaker gatherings is “Can I follow you on Instagram?” A lot of my friends curate their pages meticulously to present their craft to the finest degree, whether it be cinematography, set design or directing. Instagram branding is such a prevalent topic in the art world even when you are not an influencer. I’ve been taught to not post too much, to only release stills of my work when they’re completed and to never post photos of myself or friends if they are not aesthetically pleasing or professional enough. Unfortunately my Instagram is a mess of personal anecdotes; perhaps I should’ve used the free time before classes started to make an art page.
Lastly, if you have the time, I suggest attempting the most daunting and rewarding task: creating a personal website that puts all your work over the years, across mediums and topics, in one place. You can build it from scratch or opt for pre-designed templates from services such as Squarespace and Adobe Portfolio. I’ve always enjoyed stalking artists’ portfolios to understand who they are and where they come from as people and creators. And you have no clue how many people in my network have updated their sites already since the beginning of quarantine.
To sum up: Sign up for Letterboxd (especially if you already talk shit about Hollywood blockbusters on Twitter), curate your Instagram (or make an art-only account that only twenty of your sympathetic friends will follow) and build a portfolio site (be sure to write your bio page humbly and with humor). Bonus point if you can bring this persona into real life by carrying a film camera around (but never developing the film).
Ruby Que is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Escape runs alternate Thursdays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].