Bright Wall/Dark Room is currently accepting submissions for our monthly online magazine. Each issue is built around a particular theme, and we open up the submission process for each new issue on or around the 15th of the month, with a three-week submission window.
We’re looking for thoughtful analysis and wholehearted engagement, as opposed to standard reviews, clickbait, or hot takes. We publish interviews, profiles, formal analysis, cultural criticism, personal essays, and humor pieces. We're looking for writing that is savvy and insightful about filmmaking, but that also grapples in some way with the business of being alive.
We tend to publish critical essays between 2,500-4,000 words, though we’ve certainly been known to publish pieces in other, longer formats. Creative approaches are always encouraged.
For our August issue, we’re looking for essays on movies and TV series about characters who seem doomed to fail, backed into a corner with one impossible route out, written off by society as losers. Sometimes those characters stay stuck and stay losers. But sometimes—sometimes!—they beat the odds.
Of course, the first underdog narratives that come to mind for so many of us would be those athletes or teams that everyone bets against, the Davids going up against their Goliaths—think Rocky (1976),Rudy (1993), Dodgeball (2004), or The Way Back (2020).
Then there are stories about artists fighting to pursue their craft, no matter the odds, and no matter how many people tell them they won’t succeed, from Opening Night (1977) to My Left Foot (1989)to Sound of Metal (2020)
There are characters clawing their way out of dead-end situations—Straight Time (1978), The Handmaiden (2016),Kajillionaire (2020)—and there are characters who persist, even as society has written them off—Jerry Maguire (1996), First Cow (2019), even Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021).
Documentaries are filled with stories about underdogs, like recent stunners Time (2020) and Shirkers (2018), modern classic American Movie (1999), or foundational underdog doc Salesman (1969).
And last but not least, there are those movies where the production fell so behind schedule that telling the story at all seemed impossible, movies written off before they were even finished…but then came out and proved everyone wrong: the soggy production hell of Titanic (1997) and the dry one of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), the audaciously uncommercial Dances with Wolves (1990)—so predetermined to be a bomb it was labeled “Kevin’s Gate”—and the seemingly constant setbacks that resulted in Jaws (1975).
They say it’s darkest before the dawn. Whether characters make it to the dawn or not, it’s the one who dare to try–down but never out–who often end up making for the best stories. And what better time than the dog days of August to celebrate them?
We've recently updated our guide to pitching and submitting, so please take a few minutes to consult that. In the meantime, as always, we’re looking for thoughtful analysis and wholehearted engagement, as opposed to standard reviews, clickbait, or hot takes. We’re a home for film writing that you won’t find anywhere else on the web—we’re not afraid to go long, to dive deep, to look close, to dig into filmmaking and film theory, but also to get messy and vulnerable and human, to explore nuance and mystery. We’re looking for writing that is savvy and insightful about filmmaking, but that also grapples in some way with the business of being alive.
We tend to publish critical essays between 2000 - 4000 words, though we’ve certainly been known to publish pieces in other, longer formats. Creative approaches are always encouraged!
We pay $100 per essay upon publication. Please be aware that our acceptances are based on the presumption of the writer's good-faith engagement with our collaborative editorial process; a refusal to participate in this process may result in rescinded acceptance.
In order to be considered for the issue we’ll need to receive a complete first draft of your essay via Submittable by July 7, 2021.
Please be advised that given the high volume of interest for what’s typically 8 - 12 publication slots in a month, and to level the playing field between emerging and established voices, we rely primarily on Submittable in finding essays for each issue, and we do ask for full first drafts for consideration (pitches sent to Submittable are often seen too late to be considered). We completely understand that for many writers, working on spec is too much of an expenditure of time and energy for an uncertain result. For that reason, we’re happy to accept e-mailed pitches via [email protected] Please include a rundown of the idea, a projected word count (we usually publish work between 2,000 and 4,000 words), a sense of what makes it a great fit for BW/DR (usually some distinctive form or offbeat focus that would set it apart from outlets more focused on news and reviews), and a few links to pieces published at outlets with editorial oversight. On pitches, we will offer a solid yes or no, and a rejection may represent a range of reasons unrelated to the quality of your work—given our roster of regular contributors and our desire to save a few slots each month for Submittable discoveries, pitching is, for better or worse, a fairly competitive prospect!
Before submitting, please check our archives to make sure we haven't covered the film you hope to write about within the last calendar year (we even have an alphabetized database of every film we've covered under the "Films" tab for extra convenience).