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How did A&F website/forum begin?

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How did this forum get started? I'd love to know a bit about the history of the A&F website/forum.

Sara

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Posted · Report post

Well, first came the dinosaurs...

Oh, no, wait. You don't want the WHOLE history, do you?

Well, I'll get the ball rolling.

It started, if I recall correctly, with Doug C. and a site called Chiaroscuro.

He started a discussion board attached to that.

A few of us climbed aboard, some migrating from a discussion board attached to... IIRC... The Phantom Tollbooth's site.

Then it grew and grew and many of us got to know each other.

Eventually, we moved to a newer site moderated by Alan... I can't remember exactly why. Maybe because Doug didn't want to continue hosting the dialogue at his site, maybe for the advantages of the features of new discussion board programming....

Someone want to jump in?

There were some extremely tough times. I was an administrator for a good while, but grew weary of spending my time trying to put out fires, calm down tempers, and break up disputes. I wanted to ENJOY the board.

Things have improved a lot, and I think we've all learned lessons and grown. Not that we don't still stumble into paintballing from time to time, but I am much more comfortable here this year than I was last year.

Alan does a tremendous job staying on top of the details and organizing this thing.

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Posted · Report post

Well, first came the dinosaurs...

Oh, no, wait. You don't want the WHOLE history, do you?

Well, I'll get the ball rolling.

It started, if I recall correctly, with Doug C. and a site called Chiaroscuro.

He started a discussion board attached to that.

A few of us climbed aboard, some migrating from a discussion board attached to... IIRC... The Phantom Tollbooth's site.

So did Doug's group and the Phantom Tollbooth's site meet to discuss religious films? What was the thing that brought you all together?

Sara

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Posted · Report post

No, not literally.

An internet discussion attached to Doug's site grew when some of us chatting on an e-mail list (connected to the Phantom Tollbooth site) decided that there was more action and better discussion over on Doug's site.

None of us have regularly met together in person. (Although many of us have met each other.)

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Posted · Report post

Yeah. I think we have to congradulate Alan, because, man, I wouldn't want his responsibility to keep these boards running smoothly! Thanks Alan. Also, to the "old-timers." Guys like Doug C. have to be congradulated for even starting this in the first place. Thanks to you as well.

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What was the Phantom Tollbooth all about? I'm drawing a blank. Was it a movie or a book or what?

Sara

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Posted · Report post

What was the Phantom Tollbooth all about? I'm drawing a blank. Was it a movie or a book or what?

Sara

link

I just followed your link, Alan. So the Phantom Tollbooth is a magazine and still going strong.

Sara

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Posted · Report post

Well, it's been a while since I visited PT. They really need a visual refresh. There are so many new and easy-to-use tools out there, like Mambo, that would make PT really cutting edge. (And I just noticed--I'm a "former" staffer (under the name w-i-l-l-c-o-x, not the pseudonym Thomas--but apparently Google hasn't indexed that page!)

I looked on Amazon. The Phantom Tollbooth is book for people 9-12. (Anna Quindlin said at age 10 she wrote in a book report that this was the best book ever.)

I think one of my girls read it. But it sounds like it is a boy's book. There may be a co;y somewhere in this house!

Why were you all drawn to PT?

Sara

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I can't remember who contacted who first, I think I did. I stumbled across the site, really liked it, and then told them they could reprint my reviews whenever (and I think they still do - like Alan, it's been awhile since I've been there, and yes they do need a redesign). I met some of them at Cornerstone one year (I think I also met Peter). Around that time, I discovered the Film Forum list, which led me to A&F.

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The Phantom Tollbooth created the OnFilm YahooGroup (or was it still an eGroup then?) discussion list in August 1999; I don't know how others got involved, but I was invited to join by one of the PT editors, who had probably seen me go on and on and on about film at rec.music.christian. The discussion list still exists, but the traffic has been REALLY slow the last few years.

Doug Cummings, who created the Movies & Ministry website (which used to be here) in 1998, subscribed to OnFilm for a while, but he felt it was a bit too lowbrow, or something. He ended up leaving the group and ditching his original website in favour of the more vaguely and artsily named Chiaroscuro: Spirituality in the Cinema. This new website had a message board, which I believe Doug Cummings co-founded with Steve Lansingh of The Film Forum (now renamed The Joy of Movies). Lansingh, too, was a former OnFilm subscriber, and he had created the 'Film Forum' column at Christianity Today's website in November 1999 before passing the reins to Jeffrey Overstreet (another OnFilm subscriber) in February 2001.

Eventually, technical problems with the Chiaroscuro message board led us to create the Film & Spirituality Conversation message board at Novogate in March 2002, which was eventually renamed The Promontory Film & Spirituality Conversation, after an organization that Jeffrey was associated with at that time. The renaming happened partly because Doug had grown increasingly disenchanted with religious film criticism; he eventually scuttled Chiaroscuro in 2003 and replaced it with his new website Film Journey. Chiaroscuro's place as one of the board's three sponsors was taken by Decent Films, the website run by Steven D. Greydanus, who had joined us in the Chiaroscuro message-board days.

I can't remember why we moved exactly, but in the summer of 2003 we started a new message board at PromontoryFilm.com, which then became PromontoryArts.com, and then eventually became ArtsAndFaith.com. Fortunately, all the posts made at PF and PA are incorporated in the archives at A&F, whereas the posts that were made to the earlier message boards now exist only in fragments, whether in personal archives like my own or in sites like web.archive.org.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Posted · Report post

before passing the reigns to Jeffrey Overstreet (another OnFilm subscriber) in February 2001.

While I'm flattered by the implication, I think you mean "the reins."

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[1] Oh, whatever.

[2] Ha! smile.gif

BTW, in writing that account, I was reminded of a chart that a friend of mine has -- I think it came from a Yes CD boxed set? -- showing how all these various prog-rock bands were related to each other, by virtue of certain musicians playing in multiple bands.

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Posted · Report post

Yes, I came in during the Lansingh / Doug C. conglomerate. Soon after, JO took over Steve's spot at CT and became a moderator. Months later, Steve left.

Kennedy came in at the same point as me.

Let's list the "oldies." Those here at least since the novogate days.

JO

PTC

Alan

Russ

Darrel

Stef

DanBuck

Kennedy

Doug

MLeary

MattPage?

Others?

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Posted · Report post

That you forgot about me, Dan, I'll chalk up to the year or so that I spent on a much-needed sabbatical from the forum. wink.gif

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I've been around since the early days of the Novogate board, which I discovered through the Film Forum (via Christianity Today).

And my life was forever changed (no sarcasm)...

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I should probably be smarter than I am, for when I came to the boards it was me, Doug, Peter and I think one other guy. It was in the fall of '99, which I remember well, for I had just moved back into the Chicago area. It was at the Chiaroscuro site, a word I still enjoy trying to figure out how to spell.

Peter, when you speak of Doug do you purposefully try to antagonize him or is it just your built-in nature?

Doug C., who created the Movies & Ministry website (which used to be here) in 1998, subscribed to OnFilm for a while, but he felt it was a bit too lowbrow, or something.
Edited by

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Posted · Report post

Peter, when you speak of Doug do you purposefully try to antagonize him or is it just your built-in nature?

Isn't family WONDERFUL????

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Those dates! Was Novogate REALLY in '02? Bronz Age, right? It's hard to believe that I've known y'all so long! I guess, that put's my entrance at Fall '01 when the film sites merged.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: I'm not quite as sure about Doug's motivations. Maybe it had something to do with

: personality conflicts.

Well, I was just going by what I remember him saying in posts to the various message boards themselves. I tried to keep our private e-mails out of it.

FWIW, I could have also mentioned that Steve Lansingh dropped out some time during the Novogate era because ... um ... as I recall, I think he just got interested in Other Things. It was not too long after he and Amanda moved to Seattle. I remember him saying how much he was enjoying his new cooking class.

stef wrote:

: I should probably be smarter than I am, for when I came to the boards it was me,

: Doug, Peter and I think one other guy.

FWIW, I didn't start posting to the Chiaroscuro message board until Jeff pointed out its existence to me.

: Peter, when you speak of Doug do you purposefully try to antagonize him or is it

: just your built-in nature?

Let's just say I long for healing. As I recall, the moment I began posting to the Chiaroscuro message board, he expressed misgivings about me being there -- which, of course, goes back to the way we found ourselves butting heads on the OnFilm group.

It is a fact, because Doug himself stated this fact, that he did not like the way I (and perhaps others) quoted Entertainment Weekly articles and top ten lists at OnFilm (along with all the other things we wrote or quoted there; the fact that we also quoted mags like the Chicago Reader didn't help, alas, because we apparently quoted critics that he didn't like). That is what I mean by "lowbrow". Doug publicly expressed his disapproval of those things, and he has continued to do so ever since. So I don't think I'm saying anything controversial here.

(Of course, as Ebert might say, it's not WHAT you say but HOW you say it ... but whatever.)

Likewise, I don't think there is anything all that controversial in noting the progression from "Movies & Ministry" to "Chiaroscuro: Spirituality in the Cinema" to "Film Journey". There is a definite movement away from something explicitly Christian, or at least explicitly ecclesiastical ("ministry"), to something "vaguely" spiritual (or perhaps even non-spiritual!), as well as a definite movement away from pop-culture terminology ("movies") to terminology that is, well, "artsier" ("cinema").

Since Doug himself publicly said he wanted to move away from the sort of thing he had done in his earlier years, that seems fair enough.

: This is an aspect of the forum that has haunted us for years, and I have to say that

: Doug has done a very good job lately of not responding to your personal attacks.

He is evidently not above initiating them, though.

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Dan (and others)

FWIW I joined the old Novogate board in the summer of 2002, so presumably just after it started relatively. (I only just realised that. It seemed pretty well established at the time).

Matt

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Peter.

Your response was about as predictable as I thought. Talk about past problems, post many words to justify your opinions and beliefs, and finally, post a link to where Doug has supposedly previously offended you.

I think you have a lot to offer, Peter, and I want you around. This is just something that I wish would depart from these boards forever. I am sick of it.

For the record, Ebert was right. How you say something is as important as whatever you are saying.

-s.

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Thank you Alan for moderating this thread so well. I will not post regarding this again. I appreciate your work, and hope to see you moderate even more in the future.

-s.

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stef wrote:

: Your response was about as predictable as I thought. Talk about past problems . . .

Sorry, stef, but someone asked how this board came to be, and like it or not, those disagreements and evolutions in our personal thought are a part of our story. I actually wrote out the details about Entertainment Weekly etc. in my initial post, and then deleted them, because I didn't want to bog us down in all that stuff. But apparently my reliance on mere adjectives (e.g. "lowbrow") didn't help either. So, whatever.

: . . . and finally, post a link to where Doug has supposedly previously offended you.

FWIW, I made a point of linking to something Doug had posted "lately", to use your earlier term. As in, I linked to something he had posted just last week. Whether or not I am offended is a subjective matter, and possibly irrelevant. The objective question is whether what he posted there fits the definition of the term you used ("personal attack").

Still love ya, though. I still think back fondly to that moment, three message boards ago, when we discovered that you were the guy who had written a letter to the editor in response to my friend Byrun's blistering review of that band you'd been in ten years ago. That was one of the great "it's a small world" moments. smile.gif

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Posted · Report post

Well, Peter, if the whole Christian media thing doesn't work out, you should have a fruitful career ahead of you writing selective history textbooks for totalitarian regimes.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Sara... why TELL you the history when we can DEMONSTRATE it so succinctly?

One person presumes to speak for another, and, upset that this has occurred, others decide to throw fuel on the fire by responding with their own volatile terms rather than trying to cool things down or understand each other better.

And even saying that, I realize I'm probably throwing fuel on the fire myself. Crap.

And (probably for the best) Doug is showing remarkable restraint here, not taking any bait (intentional or otherwise).

Since Peter has used the terms he has, I'll just say that I totally understand Doug's choice to focus his efforts on other circles of dialogue. Arts and Faith encompasses the most wide-ranging dialogue on the Web I've ever seen, and I love the fact that we can talk about Entertainment Weekly AND Film Comment here. But there is a lot to be said for specializing, and what Doug has cultivated at FilmJourney is an admirable, focussed effort on raising awareness for international cinema and film that doesn't get widely distributed. His choices have paid off.

I can't blame Doug for having an aversion to "Entertainment Weekly"-style reviews (if, indeed, that is how he would still characterize his view), as such reviews are often tainted with commercial interference and trivialities (although I do still think EW does a better job than MOST mainstream publications). And I think that his aversion to such stuff is a necessary aspect of his hunger for more academic and intellectual dialogue about film... something that we should encourage.

Sometimes, I envy Doug his opportunities, but I feel that I personally am better suited to working more in the "bridge" area, trying to help "specialized" cinephiles enjoy the finer points of mainstream cinema, and trying to help the larger mainstream audience discover that they are missing out on some of the world's best filmmaking... not to mention helping them discover that there is a lot more to film in general than meets the eye at the multiplex. I know many of us here have benefitted greatly from knowing Doug, Darren, and others here who spend most of their time in material that the mainstream public will never know about or appreciate. I would never have seen Werckmeister Harmonies or even Ordet, probably, without those relationships. Similarly, I would have missed out on a great deal of my education about bringing deeper, more productive dialogue to the arena of mainstream filmmaking if I had missed out on cultivating a close friendship with Peter.

Like the church, I see A&F as one large body performing a variety of functions, and when we clash, it's often because we don't understand or fully appreciate the vasty different functions, capabilities, perspectives, and specializations we provide.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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