A LITTLE HISTORY
Bright Lights began life as a nominally quarterly print publication in 1974, published and edited by Gary Morris. In 1995, the magazine went online exclusively as brightlightsfilm.com. The London Times called us a “superb film journal,” and Green Cine Daily says, “Anyone who doesn’t love Bright Lights doesn’t love life.” Bright Lights is one of the most widely read, quoted, and respected movie sites on the Web, mixing savvy pop reviews with in-depth analysis of current and classic, edgy and indie, international and experimental cinema – with wit and a political edge. We average about 50,000 unique visits per month.
We are interested in short pieces (reviews of single movies, DVDs, books) and more substantial studies of directors and other key production figures (cinematographers and producers, for example), analyses of genres, studios and studio style, and topics like gender and minority contributions to film. We always need overviews of international and minority cinemas, in-depth director interviews, discussions of the impact of multimedia on film, breakthrough technologies, animation, and studies of neglected or misinterpreted figures in film history. We have no set taboos and prefer passionate, opinionated, even ranting pieces that are intelligently and engagingly written. Political, anti-capitalist, pro-sex tirades always welcome. Typically, we have no particular theme, preferring a potpourri made up of what your editor, our regular writers, and other contributors are thinking and writing about.
Much of our material comes from students and professors, but enthusiastic, educated, smartly written fan pieces are always welcome. Bright Lights is not an academic ghetto, and looks more for idiosyncratic style, and the ability to make ideas available to the widest possible audience, than bone-dry scholarly analysis. We are most interested in bringing ideas to a readership hungry for information but put off by standard, navel-gazing academic writing. If your submission is creaking under the weight of Lacanish, psychoanalytic, and other specialist hermetic jargon (e.g., words like “semiotic” and “transumption”), please reconsider submitting. We greatly value wit and look for literary value in submissions.
Some sample paragraphs from back issues show some (though obviously not all) of the kinds of writing we appreciate:
Beatlemania had swept the country with the Beatles’ first American tour the previous year. Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) documented the Fab Four’s screeching, groping reception in a swinging, flash-cut mod style with a profit to match. In the Village Voice, Andrew Sarris deemed A Hard Day’s Night “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals.” Seeking to meld the pop frenzy with Lester’s feverish style, Bob and Bert conceived a comic TV series about an American Beatles rip-off band. The possible success of a self-lampooning improvisational rock quartet was legitimized by way of Liverpool by way of Hamburg. Raybert sold their idea to Screen Gems. In September 1965, they advertised an open call in the Hollywood trades for “4 insane boys, 17-21.” They wanted personalities large enough to charm the lunch money off of every 14-year-old in the nation too wet behind the ears for Pet Sounds, musical prowess be damned. 437 shaggy hopefuls swarmed the Columbia lot. The most frequent comment on the evaluation form beside the names of teenyboppers who didn’t make the cut is “Too old.” (from Selen Ozturk’s “How the Monkees Birthed New Hollywood”)
“But while Cohen rounds up personal scandals, it is his depiction of the professional Hoover that contains the most surprises. His Hoover is no rogue or loose cannon or unscrupulous “godfather.” Rather the opposite: this Hoover rules with judgment and probity in his “crime fighting” and domestic contra operations. He is the Pope of cops. As a centrist organizer of bureaucratic rule, he opposes the episodic and subjectively motivated spying and dirty tricks perpetrated by presidents. He opposes Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of West Coast citizens of Japanese descent; the film portrays this obscenity as the reactionary land grab it was, with FDR and Earl Warren gloating over the spoils. In a later scene, he chastises Senator Joseph McCarthy as an unprincipled opportunist for his irresponsible red-baiting. Hoover fears these tactics will eventually discredit a witch hunt originally organized by Roosevelt and continued by Truman as they prepared their wars of imperial plunder and sought to eradicate any antiwar sentiment in the labor movement.” (from Jay Rothermel’s, “The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover “)
“Screwball Squirrel (1944) is in fact a virtual paragon of obnoxity, launching Avery’s most single-minded attacks against cute-little-animal schools of cartooning. Where audiences were tickled pink by such smart alecks as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, enjoying these characters’ slick resourcefulness in outwitting the hunters, the wiseacre Screwy Squirrel is conversely calculated to upset audience composure, shatter audience complacency with his snot-nosed sniffling and unpleasant grating chuckle.” (from Greg Ford’s “Tex Avery: Arch-Radicalizer of the Hollywood Cartoon”).
Submissions should be sent to [email protected]
NUTS & BOLTS I
1. We exist only as a Web page, so keep that in mind when you submit articles. We are in this for the pleasure not the profit, and since we don’t make money off it, neither will you. That is, we don’t pay writers for submissions. (We take the phrase “free marketplace of ideas” literally.)
2. We do not accept previously published material except in very rare cases (this includes videos on YouTube etc.), and please don’t send us something you wrote for your personal (or somebody else’s) blog.
3. Read at least a few articles in the magazine to see if you think it makes sense to submit something. We are extremely selective and can only publish a handful of the submissions we receive.
4. Don’t send us your term papers or dissertations, no matter what grade you received or how much your adviser or teacher loved it. We get many such submissions and find they are rarely publishable in Bright Lights. We also will usually reject articles that are stitched together from quotes by other writers. Obviously some quoting is fine, but please try to limit it. We want your ideas, not somebody else’s.
5. Don’t send us elaborately formatted documents with different fonts, point sizes, etc. They should be straightforward Microsoft Word files, 12-pt Times New Roman (or similar font) and double-spaced. No PDFs or RTFs or google docs or HTML files, please. We won’t read them. Footnote/references style can be MLA or any other style as long as it’s consistent. However, a Works Cited approach (avoiding footnotes) is generally preferred, if possible. Please always include enough information for readers to find the reference: minimally, the author, date, title, edition (if not first), publisher (city of publication not necessary).
6. In your submission email, you must include some text explaining who you are and what you’re submitting. We get too many emails that simply have a document attached, and we won’t read them.
7. We once prided ourselves on publishing works of any length, but a recent submission in the 40,000-word range had our head spinning. Keep the reader in mind and keep it reasonable! Straightforward reviews (single film, DVD, book) might be in the 1,200-2,500 range; profiles of individuals, production histories, and think pieces can run as long as the material dictates (within reason). Anything under 1,000 words would be considered too insubstantial to consider.
8. You own the copyright on your work, but you must be willing to let it be reproduced without charge in course packets or other teaching uses. We get quite a few such requests, and with the culture in obvious intellectual freefall, we want to do anything we can to make it easier for people to engage with ideas.
9. Do a typo/error check before you submit. It’s also wise after you’ve finished a piece to ignore it for a day or two and then revisit it afresh, to see if it’s still as brilliant as you thought.
10. With any submission, please include a statement that it has not been published previously. If we accept your submission, we will need a short bio and (optional but strongly encouraged) a face pic, to help personalize your work and the site.
11. NO PLAGIARISM! It seems ridiculous to have to say this but we must, since it is “trending” in the culture and is easy to sniff out thanks to tools like google search.
12. If you submit images with your post, please either use screenshots or make sure the images are public domain or qualify as fair use. Copyright trolling is increasingly common, and we prefer to err on the side of caution in using illustrations.
13. Alas, we do NOT review short films, so please don’t send such.
14. No simultaneous submissions. If you’ve submitted the same piece to us and other venues, we won’t read it.
We do not formally peer-review submissions, though occasionally and informally we send articles to one or more reviewers for reaction. Examples would be pieces that seem promising but are heavily theorized, outside our area of expertise, or written by someone whose native language is not English (to determine if it’s worth being made intelligible). If your CV depends strictly on formally refereed credits, you’re better off approaching one of those (few) journals that do that, e.g., Scope or Cinema Journal.
NUTS & BOLTS II
1. You retain the rights to your articles. And you are free to recycle them into other publications three months or more after publication in BL. We particularly encourage this for print publication, but ask in any case that you let us know if one of your pieces is being reprinted, and mention that it appeared first in Bright Lights.
2. You are in good company. We publish the best writers in the field. We accept a very small percentage of submissions – only the best.
3. We respect your work. We present it as appealingly as possible, as a quick glance will show.
4. You will be read. Bright Lights is one of the most popular sites of its kind on the Web, with an average of 75,000+ unique visitors per month (as of November 2022). We’ve been on the Web since 1995. We spread the word about your appearance in BL by the usual social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Apple News, etc. – and encourage you to do the same.
5. Response time. For new authors, we try to respond within two to four weeks; could be sooner or later depending on the existing pile. Feel free to nudge us if you think we’re taking too long.
Early in 2014 we began the process of transitioning from a combination of quarterly magazine (the original approach) and timely blog (with ever-changing content) to strictly the latter format. This involved a major redesign. The look is cleaner, the structure more organized, and we can post submissions in a much more timely manner. Redirects were embedded in the previous articles, so that anyone trying to access a piece from the original online quarterly magazine will be redirected immediately to its reformatted version on the new site.
A SIDE NOTE
Please visit our side project: The Ivy Compton-Burnett Home Page. English novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) was one of the most innovative writers of the twentieth century, and our personal favorite.
PRAISE FOR BRIGHT LIGHTS
» “Superb film journal” ~ The Times (London)
» “Anyone who doesn’t love Bright Lights doesn’t love life.” ~ Green Cine Daily
» “One of the best film journals on the Web” ~ Images Journal
» “Smart and eclectic” ~ About.com
» “A savvy journal which loves to go off the beaten track. Essential.” ~ Kinoeye
» “An intelligent journal of film criticism. Equally compelling with popular film and the more esoteric.” ~
Pacific Audio Visual Institute
» “Excellent, eclectic film journal that manages to nicely blend a scholarly yet readable approach to a
variety of subjects ranging in equal measure from the horror genre to experimental cinema.” ~
» “This great site is devoted to exploring film in all its glory ~ from indie, obscure and underground
flicks to the great classics from cinema’s past. A serious and amazing site.” ~ Australian Broadcasting Corporation