Updated: Sep 3, 2022
by Elizabeth Gracen:
I’d like you to meet Derek May—a good Texas boy who happens to write extremely insightful film and television reviews. I’m thrilled to have him on board to write reviews for Flapper Press!
EG: Derek, we haven’t known each other that long, but in that time, I’ve been impressed with your varied talents as a writer, martial arts aficionado, and stop motion filmmaker. I first became aware of your writing from reading your movie reviews on Facebook, so I couldn’t resist inviting you to write for this site.
When did you start writing reviews and why?
DM: I’ve probably been reviewing movies in one form or another my entire life. I’ve always loved film and television - it’s been one of the surest constants of my life. In 2003, I started writing reviews for movieweb.com. After a couple years of that, I really just wrote for myself or my friends (I used to get a lot of positive feedback from my end-of-year Best/Worst lists), and would often be asked my opinions on films, and I've always tried to give my thoughts freely, honestly, and without agenda. I never liked reviews that were 90% summary, with actual opinion being reduced to blurbs meant to eventually grace a DVD jacket. I tried to offer a straightforward opinion based on the merits and intent of the film itself.
EG: I once had a friend say, “Everyone has two businesses – their own - and show business.” It is so true! No matter what line of work a person is in, and no matter where they are from… people always have strong opinions about film. I know several filmmakers who lament the day when rottentomatoes.com became so incredibly influential and the gateway for movie audiences to pick and choose what they will watch from the vast amount of content that is out there for our entertainment.
What real function do movie/television reviews serve in this day and age? Do you read them too? Or, do you just write them?!
DM: I rarely seek out movie reviews anymore, other than as an aggregate. I find that too many are self-serving for the writer or an agenda rather than the film. As you said, with so much content on the internet, movie reviews are too often salacious, or overly jaded, judging films against impossible and unrealistic standards. I always believed that a film should be judged on its own terms, not necessarily against another (unless we’re talking franchises). As a film writer/maker myself, I can appreciate a variety of aspects that go into creating content (and can acknowledge that some may work where others don’t). I try to address them all from the perspective of what the creators were trying to accomplish with the resources they had—and whether they did so—more than what my own expectations or desires for the film might have been. I think that’s what hopefully sets me apart.
EG: My family and I went to see ISLE OF DOGS this past Sunday, and I was just amazed at the artistry of the film. I also couldn’t stop laughing – which totally embarrassed my 12 yr. old daughter! I’ve seen your terrific work in stop-motion animation in your HIGHLANDER VERITAS series. I’m a mosaic artist, so I understand the appeal of working to bring order to ‘tiny objects,’ but what you do is one of the most painstaking mediums I’ve ever seen. How did you get interested in the arduous art form of stop motion animation?
DM: I sort of fell into it, really. I’m a big kid at heart and had been collecting toys and figures all my life. Several years ago a company produced a limited line of Highlander figures, which I, of course, collected. That led me to discover this unknown world of customization, where people were creating figures about anything they imagined. I eventually decided to expand my Highlander collection by customizing characters I knew were never going to be released. I’d also been struggling in live action as a writer, director, or occasional actor for a number of years, creating things mostly for others. After a number of near misses with breaking through, I was starting to get burned out. So I decided to recharge my batteries with a project that, succeed or fail, I would enjoy having for myself. After talking to my friend Dan Shaw, who had dabbled in stop-motion animation, I figured why not combine the two? Three years later, he and I released VERITAS.
EG: Tell me about the area of Texas that you’re from. Do you consider yourself a ‘good Texas boy?’
DM: I’m probably a “Good Texas boy” on paper, but in reality I’m not so sure. I moved around a lot as a kid, including all throughout Texas, but it gave me a more national (and international) perspective than I might not have otherwise ever had. I ended up settling here in San Antonio, which I love for a number of reasons: I got my Spurs, my hometown feel, the best tacos and Tex-Mex in the country (yeah, I said it), and it’s perfectly situated for any environment you could ask for - from the Hill Country to Canyon Lake to the big-city excitement here or just up the highway in Austin. I can also ride the hell out of a horse and muck a stall—so yeah, maybe I fit the bill after all!
EG: You’ve been a HIGHLANDER fan for quite some time. Why are you drawn to that franchise? What are some of your other favorite scifi/fantasy books, films, television series?
DM: Initially it was the swords and the history. I’ve been involved in martial arts since I was eight years old, and have always had a fascination with the sword. Learning about the lives and cultures of peoples long ago always intrigued me, especially from a genealogical standpoint. So HIGHLANDER just grabbed me from the start. But as I continued to watch, I also got sucked in by the depth of character and the morality tales we were exposed to. What fascinates me most about any story is how it makes it you think and feel, and HIGHLANDER always made me question my own viewpoint about a certain situation or quandary, or made me feel along with the hopes, desires, fears, or pains of the characters.
HIGHLANDER is so unique in that its premise allows for exploration of any tone, genre, question, or character across the entire span of human history. That is a marvelous playground for storytelling and introspection of the human condition and why I’ve modeled my own storytelling on the same willingness to mine the depths of humanity in all its forms.
EG: You’ve chosen an interesting angle for your movie review blog—YIN/YANG MOVIE REVIEWS. Can you tell me about how and why you came up with this approach?
DM: Part of it stems from my martial arts background, especially my study of Tai Chi. But more than that, it ties back to the idea that not all films are alike and should never be judged as such. I hope that with YIN/YANG MOVIE REVIEWS I can give readers a look at two properties that are very different in nature, that tell stories from very different points of view, but are both equally valid. I love all movies, from big-budget tentpoles to micro-budget indies, from sappy romantic comedies to blood-spattering action. I don’t want to judge Meryl Streep against Dwayne Johnson, but I want to show that you can enjoy (or not) each equally and fairly on their own terms based on whether they succeed or fail at their intended story.
EG: Thank you for jumping onboard Flapper Press, Derek. I’m looking forward to your reviews!