Adios, Cinefex

Cinefex magazine issued a statement today that finally broke the silence on a sad revelation, after more than four decades in print: “You hold in your hands the final issue of a magazine that has documented and celebrated one of the most vibrant and exciting art forms in entertainment history.”

Keeping this a secret reminded me of the title of the novel that inspired Hitchcock’s Vertigo – in its original French, D’entre les mortes roughly translated as ‘From Among the Dead,’ or ‘Between Two Deaths.’ This has been a weird airless limbo for me, caught between two major life events. As I was wrapping up last Cinefex stories, my Dad passed away, December 31, 2021. The Cinefex team then waited discreetly for subscribers to receive their final issue, Cinefex 172. And now that word has gotten out, it is finally hitting home. After 41 years in print, this is it, Cinefex has also gone.

Like a lot of cinema fans, I bought and treasured the early issues. My first was Blade Runner (Cinefex 9) followed by all the Spielberg films. I remained a reader while I struggled to make my own films and began to work in the industry. Then, I decided to try to parlay my work experiences into a fledgling writing career. I pitched my writing to Cinefex publisher Don Shay, and scooped my first freelance articles in 1999 (Cinefex 77). Meeting Don, and his wife Estelle, I instantly knew I’d found kindred spirits. When the opportunity arose to join them full time, I joined the staff as ‘associate editor’ in January 2001.

For the last two decades, Cinefex became a huge part of my identity. I had an almost uninterrupted run on staff with the magazine through to the end of January 2021. During that time, I conducted (with sketchy math) around 2,000 interviews – with filmmakers, producers, visual effects, makeup and creature effects folk, fine art and computer graphics artists, special effects personnel, stunt coordinators and production designers – resulting in (another sketchy guess) approximately 1.5 million published words. The magazines I contributed to, lined up in a row, stretch 32 inches across my bookshelf.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic did us in. 2020 was rocky, with movie release dates constantly slipping and sliding and evaporating in our hands. After a fast pivot to deliver an all-TV streaming issue in June, the editorial team spent four months on furlough last summer and then we returned for our last big push, a return to normalcy, we hoped.

Unfortunately, film releases refused to stay put, the world had changed around us, and our lifeblood financial support of advertising revenue vanished. With a heavy heart, Gregg Shay – who, since 2015, had taken on the mantle of publishing the magazine since father’s retirement – had to make the call and admit defeat. Gregg valiantly chose to publish one last issue to honor his dad’s creation, and he kept the editorial team running through January.

My friend and sister-at-arms Cinefex editor Jody Duncan often reminded me we were like Joe Friday, ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ That is why we elected not to make a big deal about our own demise in the pages of the magazine. We did at one point brainstorm notions for a farewell editorial. One of my ideas was a bit esoteric. I proposed to Jody that Cinefex could be summed up in a quote from a TV series from the year that Cinefex was born, although it was not featured in Don’s luminous journal of cinematic illusions.

This is from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, where Magicam dropped Dr. Sagan into a miniature of the Great Library of Alexandria, the ancient Greek edifice of all learning that was tragically lost to ruin. Carl’s words resonated with me then, and seem poignant today:

“This library was a citadel of human consciousness, a beacon on our journey to the stars. It was the first true research institute in the history of the world.

"And what did they study? They studied everything! The entire cosmos! ‘Cosmos’ is a Greek word for the order of the universe. In a way, it’s the opposite of ‘chaos.' It implies a deep interconnectedness of all things. The intricate and subtle way that the universe is put together.

"Genius flourished here.”