A vibrant scene like Montréal’s requires a particularly keen eye and a round-the-clock cultural schedule. As a cultural reporter, that’s where Natalia shines, giving culture-seeking masses Montréal’s must-sees day after atypical day.
Follow her @NatWysocka
Could you describe what it’s like working as a cultural reporter?
The cultural universe is in perpetual motion, particularly in Montréal. Being a cultural reporter in this city is truly hitting the jackpot! As a curious person who’s interested in a range of subjects, I’m immensely fortunate to cover the entire cultural scene. Of course, there are constraints (space, time, my superiors’ demands), but I get to cover music one day and movies the next, comedy, literature, theatre, etc. There’s always something happening on the artistic front in Montréal. Always! On top of the surprises and the weekly launches, we have the regulars that return each season: the FrancoFolies, the Jazz Festival, Fantasia, Zoofest, the FNC, the Montréal International Documentary Festival (RIDM). There’s incredible variety.
Describe a typical day for you
What’s great about this job is that there’s no such thing as a typical day!
I do interviews and write reviews on an ever-changing list of topics. I attend press screenings (films or TV series) in the morning, then a concert or gala in the evening. I also plan the Friday weekend segment (the biggest cultural section of the week at Journal Métro), I organize the whole section and give out freelance assignments. I also handle the page layout (and I take this opportunity to give a shout-out to all graphic artists. Graphic arts is truly an art, one that I master, ahem, in moderation.)
What advice would you give to PR specialists?
PR people are critical to our work and there are some amazing and extraordinary individuals in that field. That said, hmm, it’s a personal thing, and it’s more of a suggestion than a piece of advice, but I’d say, try not to use too many question marks! (or exclamation marks, for that matter, lol) Receiving a message like, “Are you attending the conference?????” is almost as annoying as receiving a message all in caps.
I often get messages like, “I’m so disappointed!!! But it’s SO IMPORTANT!” when we’re not covering something. Unfortunately, the reality is that we’re really, really under-staffed. I find it’s often better not to cover an event than to cover it quickly or poorly, when you don’t have time to prepare or write the article properly afterwards. Both for the interviewer and the interviewee. A botched interview is worse than no interview at all. (No one wants to have a conversation like, “Have you seen my book? (heard my CD, seen my film)? We sent you a copy last week, I think.”
– Uh, sorry, I haven’t had the time. But let’s talk about it for 45 minutes anyway.”
What kind of stories do you prefer covering?
I love doing interviews! But I’d say my favourite moment came recently when Canadian reporter Naomi Klein came to Montréal. She was introducing her new book, This Changes Everything. We discussed so many things, especially movies. She was generous, brilliant, spontaneous… and funny! I absolutely loved doing that interview and writing about it afterwards, because of what she had to say and because of her book. I also remember all the interviews with Québec filmmaker/actor/poet Robin Aubert, who is one of the most genuine artists in the world. My list of favourites would also include my interview with director (and Monty Python alumnus) Terry Gilliam. He’s so kind and has that wonderful British wit. Uh, and then I had quite a surrealistic discussion with director Kevin Smith at TIFF that took place in his super-fancy hotel suite, in a fog of smoke from his cigarettes!
What would be your dream story to cover?
This may be really old school, but I would love to meet the Rolling Stones. Particularly Keith Richards. It’s just so amazing that he’s still able to play the guitar so well. Until very recently, I dreamed about talking with Edward Snowden, but John Oliver did such a great job on Last Week Tonight! He said it all! Other than that, a cozy chat with Joaquin Phoenix would be incredible (and unpredictable!). Or with the legendary Leonard Cohen. I’d also love to talk to Sofia Coppola. I love her movies. It doesn’t matter what a person’s status is, I find every interview fascinating. We learn so much, for so many different reasons. Sometimes you leave the interview shaken, sometimes it’s brilliant, other times, you laugh the whole time, and sometimes you just don’t click, you trip over your tongue or you crash and burn! You never know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to go. It’s like a blind date. Every time. Without the pick-up lines, of course, but still with some pretty strange moments 🙂
Coffee or beer?
Coffee. Vodka. White wine. Not necessarily in that order… 🙂