Critic, podcaster brings bold POV to TV and film

If you’re looking for a unique and compelling perspective on movies, television, and entertainment, you’re going to want to start following Carolyn Hinds.

As a child in Barbados, Carolyn grew up in a culture where media consumption was a community experience and movie and TV viewing was valuable family time. With the encouragement of her old brother, Sean, she developed a passion for cinema and television, especially science fiction, anime, Asian film and martial arts movies, and Korean dramas.

More recently, Carolyn’s childhood interests have blossomed into a flourishing career as a freelance critic, writer, podcaster, interviewer, and video host. She’s written for Atom Tickets, Comics Beat, SyFy Wire, and other online outlets, and covered such events as the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, San Diego Comic-Con, and press junkets and screenings hosted by Disney and Netflix.

Twitter is her platform of choice, where she interacts with an equally enthusiastic community of movie and entertainment buffs. With co-host @Caramind93, she regularly live tweets movies using the #SaturdayNightSciFi hashtag.

She also co-hosts a podcast, So Here’s What Happened!, with partner in binge-watching and pop culture soulmate LaNeysha Campbell. They’ve since expanded from geeking out over shows they love to conducting interviews and doing press coverage at film festivals and conventions.

For Carolyn, movies are a way of connecting with the world and writing is personal. She boldly relates her criticism and pop culture insights to her identity as a black woman, a Barbadian, an immigrant, and someone with the chronic illness of multiple sclerosis.

Carolyn  and I chatted about her job as a critic and what it’s like to work in a male-dominated field that still has a long way to go in terms of inclusion for women and people of color. I particular enjoyed hearing her thoughts on interviewing Matthew Cherry, long before Hair Love won the Oscar, and her glee over the success of Korean thriller Parasite. Also, she’s a Jane Austen fan! And she may have converted me to K-dramas.

This is a critic who deserves your support. Give Carolyn a follow on Twitter.

Carolyn Hinds

You’re a freelance film and TV critic who has written for Atom Tickets, Comics Beat, SyFy Wire and many other outlets, and co-hosts the So Here’s What Happened! podcast. Is writing something you’ve always done?

Professionally, no. I started out writing recaps and my thoughts on shows on Tumblr and decided to take it more seriously in late 2017.

What first sparked your interest in film and television?

I credit most of my initial interest in film to my older brother and Barbadian upbringing. Every Sunday, Sean would take my twin sister and I to the local CHUBBIE’S video store to select our own movies to watch, and they would be all genres, from all over the world. In Barbados, “TV watching” is a pretty big part of our culture. Everyone knew that during the week certain shows like Sesame Street, Brave Star, and Days of Our Lives were our family time.

On weekends, it was the same thing. The late afternoons and evenings were for watching action and sci-fi shows like Quantum Leap and Star Trek. TV was for entertainment, but it also provided time for my family to sit down and have fun together.

How did you get into writing reviews?

I began writing mini reviews for The Walking Dead and Scandal on my Tumblr page, as a way to get my thoughts out. My Tumblr followers thought the way I looked at the shows was interesting and encouraged me to reach out to an outlet, and I didn’t at first. I actually thought I wasn’t good enough for anything beyond Tumblr, but after a couple of weeks of doubting myself and angst, I said, “What the heck, why not try?” and it all went from there.

From experience, I know the best education for a critic is watching a lot of movies and TV. Is that what you did? Do you have any other training or background you draw from in your work?

No, I don’t have any professional or academic training in film or writing. I went to college with the intention of becoming a paralegal. Being a film critic is something I had secretly always wanted to do.

I do watch a lot of shows and films, and that’s where my experience comes from. I will admit that not having any professional or academic experience in film at times makes me question if I’m good enough to be a critic and journalist. I always feel as though I don’t know enough or haven’t watched enough of the “right” films to have the right to think others care about what I have to say.

What was your first official freelance assignment and what do you remember about it?

My first published article was about Olivia Pope and Scandal, titled “Olivia Pope: A Problematic Fave.” In the article, I addressed the many issues with the character of Olivia Pope, who ended up being more of a stereotype than she first started out being.

My first assignment was an interview with Matthew Cherry about the Kickstarter campaign for Hair Love, just before it was launched in 2017. I had pitched both to the editor in chief of the site I wrote for at the time. Neither were paid, as the site was basically staffed by volunteers at the time.

Carolyn with a cosplayer at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

You’ve written reviews, recommendations, and features on a wide array of movies and TV series, covered events like San Diego Comic-Con, and done written, video, and podcast interviews with actors and filmmakers. Is your job as glamorous as it seems?

HA! I wouldn’t say it’s glamorous, but it can be quite fun. I really enjoy speaking with people about their work, their journey and process, and attending various events provides me the opportunity to see another side of the film industry. They can be hectic, but also fun, and I enjoy both elements.

Tell me about the hard work and the not-so-fun parts we don’t see. 

The majority of my work as a writer consists of me sitting at home in front of my laptop for hours, trying to take the thoughts swirling around in my head, and transposing them into something others would understand and hopefully like. And transcribing interviews can be quite tedious at times, but at the end of the day I’m happy with what I’m doing and that makes it worthwhile for me.

The parts I still struggle with are pitching and gaining access for interviews with talent. For me, pitching can be nerve-racking because there’s this pressure to take an idea I have and flesh it out into something that would interest and editor. Then once I hit that send button, I become riddled with angst on whether I make a spelling or grammar mistake, if they would like it, and why it’s taking days to send me a response, good or bad.

With regards to access to talent, it can be near impossible sometimes. As a freelancer, I don’t have a big named media outlet like Variety to use as leverage. When I’m at festivals, I’m A Black woman attending as accredited press on behalf of my podcast, which is not as well-known as some others who cover entertainment. Publicists see my name, don’t know it and ignore my requests. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ghosted by publicists.

I’m sure in their heads, only big media outlets and popular journalists are worth their time, but journalists like me are just as good and, as I like to say, “Coverage is coverage.” We shouldn’t be judged based on the amount of clicks our sites get. As long as we give good interviews and show interest in the projects, that should be all that matters.

Carolyn with Eddie Murphy at a screening for the Netflix movie Dolemite is My Name in Los Angeles.

Do you ever get nervous when you’re interviewing someone famous or who you really admire?

YES! I get nervous before every interview I do, doesn’t matter who it is. I’m always worried that I’ll say or do something silly, or my cog-fog will intensify, making it difficult for me to communicate.

What have been some of your favorite or most memorable interviews?

My interview with Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison, because they were the first I did when I started to pursue a career as a critic. I geeked out the whole time I was interviewing Ruth E. Carter about her work and Black Panther, and I really enjoyed speaking with Mindy Kelly about her experiences as a female stunt coordinator and fight choreography. I’m a huge fan of action films, so it was great to speak to a woman involved in that aspect of filmmaking.

“I also enjoy speaking with the cast and crew of The Expanse. They’re always engaging and open during interviews and press events.”

I’ve honestly enjoyed all of my interviews. I’m a curious person by nature and like talking to people about the things that interest them, so combining those with filmmaking means I genuinely find them all interesting and meaningful.

Why did you and LaNeysha Campbell decide to start the So Here’s What Happened! podcast, in which you talk about what you’ve been binge-watching?

LaNeysha and I met on Twitter by commenting on the same film and show tweets. We had been talking about doing a special recap episode for MCU films for a while and when Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War came out, we decided to go for it. We wanted to share our thoughts as Black women on the various nerdoms we belong to, and came up with a format that I believe is unique and very us.

Was there a learning curve when you first began podcasting?

I’m not sure if we ever left the learning curve (ha ha). We still make mistakes, but each episode provides a learning experience, and they’re always fun and entertaining, which I think is the most important thing.

Carolyn at Pixar for the Coco press junket.

What do you enjoy about it?

I love being able to freely talk about the things I enjoy with someone who gets just as excited as I do about the same things. There’s something special in knowing that LaNeysah gets me and understands why I geek out over K-dramas and cinematography.

We’re both learning new things about each other all the time. The way our show is formatted allows us to share new films, shows, and books/mangas that neither of us — and our listeners — may have heard of or maybe only vaguely know of. So Here’s What Happened! is about learning what the world has to offer in terms of entertainment, as it is about geeking out over fight choreography and thirsting.

One of the things I’m extremely proud of is how we’ve expanded the podcast beyond our typical recaps, to doing interviews and press coverage for film festivals and conventions. I always get the biggest smile when I’m at the Toronto International Film Festival or, more recently Sundance, and I say I’m representing my podcast when people ask me which outlet I’m covering for.

LaNeysha and I have achieved a lot with the podcast, and I wouldn’t change a thing about what we’ve been through so far.

What are some of the unseen challenges and effort that goes into creating So Here’s What Happened!? 

Technology has a tendency to be petty whenever we have to record. LaNeysha and I live in different cities. I’m in Toronto and she’s in Chicago, and sometimes our connection may not be that solid because our individual WiFi signals are spotty. We don’t have the best equipment for recording (I use my Samsung S7), and until we can afford better tech (fingers crossed we get sponsorship), we have to work with what we have and do the best we can with it.

We both work, so sometimes setting up time to record takes finessing, but we always find a way to make it work.

You do a lot of tweeting and live tweet movies regularly using the hashtag #SaturdayNightSciFi. Why is Twitter a good platform for you, especially when it comes to discussing films and TV?

Twitter is great for me because it allows me to not only connect with different film fans, but allows us to share our different perspectives. Being able to get other’s opinions, whether we agree are not, helps me to appreciate it more because that’s how film is. Our experiences and thoughts shape the stories we create. Twitter has also been a great way for me to introduce new films to people from all over the world and they do the same for me.

Because I do my writing at home, my days can be quite solitary, and Twitter gives me the opportunity to interact with others in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s not a completely judgement-free zone and can be a nightmare at times, but I’ve grown my career through the platform. I’ve met people who love and, at times, hate the same films, music, TV shows and books as I do with the same fervor, and that’s amazing.

How did you come up with the idea for #SaturdayNightSciFi? Why the focus on science fiction?

#SaturdayNightSciFi was started by @GeekSoulBro a while ago. I and my co-host, @Caramind93, took over the live tweets at the beginning of 2018, when GSB wanted to take a break. Because of how engaging we were, we would be the best people to replace him.

Since we took over, we’ve been doing special live tweets, like our #SciFiShorts series, where every quarter we present a curated list of shorts by and starring People of Colour from all around the world, as a way to provide visibility for the creators, but also to show audiences that good content is out there waiting to be seen.

Science fiction is a great genre because it can encapsulate the human experience in new and imaginative ways and has different subgenres like horror. There’s the classics, like Terminator: Judgement Day, or newer projects, like The Expanse and The Dragon Prince animated series. But not all of the shows and films we tweet can be classified as strictly science fiction. We occasionally give ourselves a little wiggle room for special occasions.

Carolyn and the hosts of the Thirst Aid Kit podcast after a live recording at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

What are some of your favorite personal fandoms?

I’m not really a “fandom” person per se, in that I’m not fully dedicated to the thing I’m interested in. If I see an issue, like anti-Blackness, I’m going to point it out and not turn a blind eye just because I’m a fan. That being said, I’m a huge geek for Korean dramas. I’m all about the drama, angst, fashion and swoon-worthy leads. I’m what I call a binge watcher, so I can do an entire 16-episode drama in one day or weekend. They’re my go to when I need to take a break and decompress.

If you were to open my playlist on any given day, it would more than likely be either a K-drama original soundtrack or a K-pop album.

As well as being deeply into Korean cinema, dramas, and K-pop, you’re into anime and Asian cinema in general. Tell me more about how you developed this interest.

As I mentioned earlier, I got into liking films as more than just entertainment because of my brother, and the same goes for my interest in Asian cinema. Sean is the one who introduced me to old-school Shaw Brothers and Jackie Chan films. Whenever we went to pick movies, I would always have at least one Asian martial arts film in the bunch.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that my love for all things action and Asian cinema stems from being Barbadian. Martial arts films are extremely popular amongst the Bajan community — going to the cinema to watch one is literally a community event — and Hong Kong and Japanese action films were the biggest part of that. That eventually grew to include the occasional anime, but I was more into Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing as a teen (and no one seems to have watched Big-O, which is criminally underrated by the way), with a milder interest in Dragon Ball Z.

As I got older, my interest in film grew from just being entertained to paying more attention to the storytelling, acting, direction, cinematography and fight choreography. For me, Asian cinema went beyond East Asian. I became more interested in films from Thailand, Vietnam and India (Bollywood for the win).

For K-pop, I would watch the videos when they came on in between K-dramas back in the day, but since we didn’t always have access to that particular channel back in the day, I wasn’t able to really get into it. But I knew I liked what I heard when groups like Girls Generation and SHINee played. I would say I got back into K-pop around four years ago, the same time I started back watching dramas.

For me it doesn’t matter what language a film, show or song is in. If it catches my interest and I like it, that’s all that matters.

What was your reaction to Parasite winning the Oscar a few weeks ago?

I was ecstatic. I had seen it at TIFF and wrote a review for it for So Here’s What  Happened! I loved it from the first scene (not ashamed to admit it was partly because the first person on screen is Park Seo Joon, one of my favourite K-drama actors). I’m a proud member of #BongHive and was elated to see the film, cast and crew win so many awards. Parasite is my favourite film from 2019.

Carolyn with Baymax at San Diego Comic-Con in 2018.

You’ve said you write about your “love of film and how it shapes and helps us to connect with ourselves and the world.” Could you elaborate a little on that connection and how film has shaped you?

Film has given me the opportunity to learn about the world. We get to see people and their cultures in a more personal way. This could be through regular films, biopics or documentaries. Yes, the way stories and characters are presented can be subjective, as they’re being shown from the perspective of the writer, director and actors, but how we — or I — see them can pique my curiosity to research and learn more.

For example, one of the reasons I’m so drawn to Asian cinema is that, in some aspects, the cultures are very similar to Barbadian culture and the African diaspora in a larger sense. When I see characters taking off their shoes at the front door, using food as a means of communicating or even the way respect is shown to elders, I can identify with them because it’s the same way I grew up.

Films like Black Panther inspire me so much because it meant and still means everything to me to see dark skin Black women in prominent roles where their blackness is a strength and cherished.

As an adult I’ve a deeper appreciation for my identity as a Black woman and Barbadian, especially now that I’m living in North America.

It’s true what they say about the language of cinema being international, it’s true. While you may not understand what’s being said (READ THE SUBTITLES, PEOPLE), you can understand what’s being seen. Emotions don’t need translating.

When you write about and discuss film, you often address issues relating to your identity as a black woman, a Barbadian, an immigrant, and someone who lives with the chronic illness of multiple sclerosis. Why is it important to you to speak up about these issues?

I’ve always been an outspoken person, which is funny because I’m actually pretty shy by nature, and you’d never guess it from reading my Twitter feed, but it’s true.

When I feel very strongly about something I’m able to overcome my shyness to speak up. My mum used to say that I always took up “other’s fire rage,” meaning that I was always quick to defend others, even when the situation had nothing to do with me. I think that comes from being bullied as a child in primary and secondary school. I hate to see people being treated unfairly.

It was my MS diagnosis in 2017 that pushed me to send in my first pitch. I felt like receiving a rejection for that couldn’t be worse than hearing the neurologist tell me I had Multiple Sclerosis. I think being a critic has made me more confident, because it helps me to get my thoughts out. When I write a film review or record a podcast episode, I tend to get very personal because that’s who I am. Having MS — and all the not so fun things that comes with it — and being dyslexic are just as much a part of my identity as being female, Black and Barbadian.

I shouldn’t and don’t feel ashamed to talk about those things, and I believe it helps others understand them more.

Have you encountered any pushback or negativity from your outspokenness on these topics?

On occasion, I have received comments that were derogatory, but I usually pay them no mind. There will always be people who believe Black women shouldn’t be vocal about racism, colorism, sexism — basically all the isms. I won’t let that stop me. They want us to stay silent, while they get to say whatever they want, but I refuse to be silenced. I’ll use what platform I have to speak about things that matter to me. Plus the block and mute buttons are fun to use.

In the last few years, there’s been some discussion about the lack of representation of women and people of color in film criticism. And there’s been some small movement to correct this. For instance, I noticed you’re on Women in Hollywood’s list of women who are film and TV critics. Do you feel like this situation has improved? What change would you still like to see?

I’ve been a film critic and journalist since 2017, so I’m relatively new to this field, and I came in when there seemed to be a more concerted effort to give space and opportunity to critics of color, but that movement seems to have ground to a standstill. Critics who have been at this for years are still facing the same issues and stumbling blocks they faced when they began.

There has been progress with diversity inclusion initiatives for critics from marginalized communities by organizations such as TIFF and Time’s Up, but they only seem to go so far.

We’re still asking for access. We’re still asking for support during the festival season. We’re still applying for staff positions and getting rejected while they go to white writers. It’s great to see celebrities like Brie Larson acknowledge the challenges that we face, but the industry as a whole needs to do the same.

Publicists have to stop acting as gatekeepers, approving only of who they believe is worthy of speaking to the client, whether it be for one-on-one interviews or the red carpets. Publications have to give more women of color freelancers opportunities for interviews and publication space, and be more open to ideas for articles that they may think are too niche or maybe even critical.

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue film criticism is that, despite my own personal doubts, I believed (and still do) my perspective was important and may help others look at things differently. I wish editors and publicists thought the same about what I and other Black women have to say.

When you’re working, do you encounter a lot of other women who are freelancers or is the field still pretty male-dominated?

The field is still very much dominated by white men. When I go to film festivals and industry events, the people of color I encounter are predominantly the same ones I interact with on social media, and the percentage gets even smaller when applied to women of color. It’s great to see them, but numbers are greatly disproportionate. It’s basically being able to count the amount of Black people in the room at any given party on one hand, and they’re all your family.

A panel Carolyn attended at San Diego Comic-Con.

What are some of your future plans, hopes and dreams for your career?

My hope is for the podcast to grow and get sponsorship so we could attend festivals and possibly do live recordings. I want to be accredited for more international festivals, like Cannes and the Busan International Film Festival. I want to continue what I’m doing for as long as I’m physically able to do it.

I read somewhere that you’re a Jane Austen fan. Whenever I find out someone is a fellow Janeite, I have to talk to them about it. How were you introduced to Austen, what do you love about her, and how does this fandom manifest itself in your life?

Ah, yes! Dear old Jane. I am a fan of Jane Austen and her acerbic wit. I think the first Jane Austen book I read was Pride and Prejudice in 1st Form at secondary school, so I was 11 at the time. Because the Barbadian education system is based on the British system, we read a lot of the British classics for English Literature in primary and secondary school.

I can be very sarcastic and my humor is a bit off-kilter at times, which I think was influenced by reading Austen and Bronte and being Bajan. I’ve always loved how Austen never shied away from exposing hypocrisies and, at times, the stupidity of the upper class or “ton,” as they would say back then. Though her female leads, like Elizabeth and Emma, would be considered heroines, Austen had no issue showing how they themselves were blind to their own faults, but were willing to admit them once confronted.

Another thing, I think, that makes me such a fan of her writing is that they truly are timeless because society itself has barely changed since those stories were written. It’s 2020 and the world is still mostly run by white men who have no idea what they’re doing, but think by virtue of being white and male they have the right to rule, everyone else be damned.

I have all of the books, BBC adaptations on DVD, and every year my sister and I rewatch all of them. It’s our own Christmas tradition to watch the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. If you follow my Twitter you might see me use a GIF from P&P every now and then.

When you’re watching something for the purpose of writing about or reviewing it, whether in the theater or at home, do you have any special viewing routines or rituals that you observe?

If I’m able to, I take notes. Sometimes I can’t read what I wrote because the muscles in my hand have gotten a bit weaker, so it all looks like chicken scratch sometimes, but the act of writing helps me to remember specific things, especially when I’m experiencing cog-fog.

So what should we be watching right now?

I’m not sure when you’ll publish this, but I recommend Kingdom. It’s a Korean drama of the horror genre, and Season 2 premieres on March 13. I also recommend Altered Carbon. I really enjoyed the second season. Both shows are on Netflix, and I would say give Hunters on Amazon a look, but be warned, it has some very intense scenes.

 

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