Dana Harris | Journalist
Everyone has a dream job in mind. For Dana Harris, it’s reporting on the intersection of entertainment and culture. She is a veteran digital journalist based in Los Angeles who’s love for writing goes back as far as she can remember. Like many great careers, hers has been built on a foundation of practice and perseverance. Cutting her teeth at The Hollywood Reporter–then spending 11 years at Variety Magazine in roles that included film reporter, creating the lifestyle section ‘Variety Weekend’, and editor at Variety.com. She is now the Editor-in-Chief at IndieWire.
When we had the chance to catch a glimpse into her world–and how she worked her way into this competitive and sought after career–we jumped on it.
What originally drew you into journalism? Was there a particular experience or personal calling?
I always wanted to write. I think my first published article was in the fifth-grade newsletter, and I used to walk around the neighborhood wearing my dad’s fedora, with one of his business cards tucked in the brim (I turned it over and wrote PRESS on the blank side). Also, nosiness.
To what do you most attribute the development of your craft? Did you have a mentor or formal education?
I had a very weird career track. Briefly: Corporate communications, prep cook, line cook, sous chef, restaurant critic, food editor — and then I decided I was tired of writing about food. So I started using my weekends to PA on indie films, and finagled a press pass to go to Sundance on my vacation time, on the idea that I’d find an assignment once I was there. That’s how it started, but the biggest leap happened when I left New York for Los Angeles to take a job as a trade reporter. That was boot camp, forcing me to become fast, productive, and a lot more aggressive than is my nature. Those skills remain invaluable.
Have you encountered any risks or challenges over the years working in the entertainment journalism industry?
Who doesn’t have challenges? I think the biggest ones now stem from the sense that journalism, and journalists, are under siege. I don’t want to sound too grand here, because I’d put a Washington Post or New York Times reporter much closer to the crosshairs than anything than I’d likely experience. But at the same time, I feel like complacency is the enemy, and anyone whose job is delivering information to the public has to take that responsibility seriously.
When thinking about the future of your work, what are you most excited about?
I feel incredibly fortunate to lead a team in creating a publication that demands we pay attention to everything. It’s the greatest reason to be a journalist: You get paid to pay attention to the way the world works, and then write about it so more people can understand it. Our corner of the world is entertainment, but we’re dedicated to finding the best and smartest TV and movies — and finding intelligent ways to write about the stuff that isn’t.
What are some of your favorite unnoticed / underrated films that deserve to be in the spotlight?
One of my favorites is “Sun Don’t Shine,” directed by Amy Siemitz. Now she’s best known for co-creating “The Girlfriend Experience,” but this quiet and creepy road-trip thriller blew me away when I saw it at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival. Last year, I really liked “Hell or High Water,” “Author: The JT LeRoy Story,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” and “Captain Fantastic.”
Los Angeles is teeming with movie theaters, ranging from restored vintage to sleek and modern. Where is your personal favorite go-to theater and why?
Probably the Cinerama Dome — it has great sightlines. But I can’t wait for Alamo Drafthouse to finally open downtown.
Who are some emerging ‘behind the scenes’ creative forces (costume designers, screenwriters, composers, etc) we should keep an eye out for?
Mica Levi. She’s not exactly unknown — she composed for “Under the Skin” and got an Oscar nomination for “Jackie” — but damn, there’s a talent. Whatever she does next, I want to know about it.
Dana wears the Madison in Cerulean Blue.
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