Five Years Ago Today…

By  · Published on February 16th, 2011

Anniversaries are important. An upbringing by a strong-willed, independently spirited mother taught me that. It’s more than appropriate then, that the same woman passed along to me a love of movies – chick flicks mostly, but movies nonetheless. I was the only kid in my high school who would rather sit around on a Friday night and watch movies with his mom than run around the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio doing whatever it is the primarily pasty suburban youths of Cleveland, Ohio did on a given Friday night. I suppose Film School Rejects was born there, in theory. Technically though, it was born on February 15, 2006. Exactly five years prior to this very day, depending on what time zone you’re in. And that’s the anniversary I’d like to spend a moment remembering. Because anniversaries are important, as they remind us where we’ve been and where we might go in the future.

Where we’ve been is an easy one. Five years ago today 112 people visited a grotesquely gray and blue blog called “Film School Rejects.” The name was born from its founder’s unrelenting love for the stories of Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez – those who had proven that you didn’t have to go through the system in order to make films. And not just make films, but make good films. Between the four of us who were around at the beginning – myself, Brian Gibson, Tara Settembre and Matthew Alexander – we had decided that we could take that same spirit and apply it to reviewing movies. You didn’t have to study film at an accredited university or earn a degree in journalism in order to put your opinion out there and be heard. So we did it. There was no one around to tell us that we couldn’t.

And we were heard, but not by many. At least not at first. In fact, only about 25 people even read the opening shot – my Rejects Credo, if you will. It was the mandate for what would come, as I saw it at the time. And oddly, it still stands today as the backbone of what we do here at FSR. Sure, we’ve grown and learned and fell flat on our faces on more than a few occasions. And the site today looks and feels completely different than it did on day one. But still, there’s something about those opening remarks that ring true today. If anything, I was far more poetic in those days:

“Welcome Rejects!”
Published: February 15, 2006

Film. Cinema. Movies. Synonyms that make their indelible mark daily on the fabric of our culture, and countless other cultures around the world. And while nations may disagree, political affiliations may create enemies, and cultures may collide in anger, we are all united under one consistent medium that seems to hold the ties of humanity together. No matter who you are, where you live, or what religion you follow, it is safe to say that you have, at one time in your life, been emotionally lifted or otherwise touched by the art of cinema.

They make us laugh, they make us cry, and they often give us insight into the lives of others. They carry our dreams, our fantasies, and so very often they tell us of our history. Whether based on a true story or the concoction of a creative mind, they always seem to reel us in, tell us a story, and solicit some kind of human emotion. And while some movies accomplish this in different ways, and on different levels, they all share that feature in common: they all move us in some way.

I believe that my love of movies began as a child, with the release of fantastic classics such as Back to the Future and The Ghostbusters. The belief that you could travel through time or fight off evil paranormal activity made childhood entertaining. And this lust for the fantastic and surreal is something that I have carried with me throughout my life, both as a writer and as a person. Movies have so often changed my life in small ways: Poltergeist ruined my tolerance of the dark, and caused me to swear off horror movies for a long, long time. Batman brought my favorite comic book story to life in all the right ways. Clerks ushered me into my love of independent and lesser known gems of film making.

All of these experiences have brought me closer to the world of film. And to this day I have sought out the most unique and entertaining films that our culture has produced. And like the Tragedies of Ancient Greece, these films will forever be looked upon as the stories of our times. And for anyone like me, it is an exciting time to have such a love of movies.

And possibly that is what has brought you here to Film School I know that is why I am here. To share my opinions, criticisms, and emotions with the world of film fanatics. To bring to you honest, humorous, and thorough reviews of Hollywood’s best and worst. My commitment is sincere, as the editor of this site I will track down the best writers, the best reviews, and deliver the best content. So with that I say to you: Welcome to my humble creation… I hope you enjoy.

Thank you for reading,

Neil M.

Back then, I had no idea what would happen. We just wanted a place to write movie reviews and maybe a means by which to procure a few free DVDs. Our first review was a look at the DVD release of Wedding Crashers, our first news post was about the trailer for Mission: Impossible 3. When you look at it like that, it doesn’t feel like so long ago.

But you think about all of things that have happened since, it feels like forever. Like the day in 2006 when I received an email from a guy named Cole Abaius, a young PA in Los Angeles responding to a Craigslist ad because he wanted to review movies (his first review was of Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, he gave it an A grade). Or the first time I read and edited a Rob Hunter review in the summer of ’07. Or the first time Robert Fure submitted a Boiling Point entry, still our longest running column. Or any number of firsts and bests from the long line of immensely talented individuals who have dedicated their time and words to this site’s success. Without them, there is no Film School Rejects.

There is also no Film School Rejects without you, the reader. From those 112 initial visitors, we’ve grown to having served our opinions up to over 63 million visitors since. And we appreciate and adore every single one of you. Even those of you who have been rough on us in the comments section. Every page view, every comment and every email have fueled a fire that still burns red hot today – a love of movies started this whole thing, and a love of movies is what keeps it alive. And growing. I was told once by another editor, whose site is far bigger than ours, that he didn’t understand why more people weren’t discovering Film School Rejects. “You guys really are something special,” he added. “You are almost like one of the web’s best kept secrets.”

Thanks to those of you who read our work, share our links and come back day in and day out for more, the secret is getting out. And as we celebrate our fifth anniversary, the future has never been brighter. Because the mission, at least for me, is the same: “I am here to share my opinions, criticisms, and emotions with the world of film fanatics. To bring to you honest, humorous, and thorough reviews of Hollywood’s best and worst. My commitment is sincere, as the editor of this site I will track down the best writers, the best reviews, and deliver the best content.”

My only hope is that like me, you continue to enjoy reading what we have to offer. Because five years later, with a million other places for you to go to read about movies, I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am that you decide to come here.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)