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article imageProfile of a Digital Journalist: Sarah Gopaul's life in film Special

By Michael Thomas     Aug 25, 2015 in Internet
Writing is a way of life to some people, but arguably few people spend more time on the hallowed art than Digital Journalist and Film Editor-at-Large Sarah Gopaul. If she's not working her day job, she's typing away whenever she has spare time.
Gopaul joined Digital Journal in January of 2012, and has since contributed nearly 700 articles, of which most are film reviews. Her deep knowledge of genres and the art itself led to her promotion to Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film in 2014.
On a weekly basis she reviews many films, from mainstream releases like Inside Out to more niche offerings such as Final Girl. She's been accredited to review films at Toronto film festivals such as the Hot Docs Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. She also finds the time to write about each week's new releases on DVD, touching on hot new movies to entire seasons of television series.
Born in Toronto, Gopaul, 32, now spends almost all her free time watching and writing about film, but up until about the age of 15, she wanted to be a veterinarian.
Sarah Gopaul outside the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sarah Gopaul outside the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Courtesy Sarah Gopaul
"When I was growing up I always loved animals,” Gopaul says in an interview at a College Street Starbucks. “I was one of those kids that when I saw a dog I wanted to go up and pet it. I thought it would be great to have a career in helping [pets] so up until grade 11, I was taking all of the science courses, the math courses I had to take." But then she had to put down her cat.
"Just being in that room and being in that atmosphere, I realized I would never be able to do that for anybody," she says. Luckily, her teachers recognized she had an aptitude for writing, and she ended up becoming the managing editor of her school's just-launched newspaper.
Digital Journal s Film Editor-at-Large Sarah Gopaul with Nothing Left to Fear producer Slash (left) ...
Digital Journal's Film Editor-at-Large Sarah Gopaul with Nothing Left to Fear producer Slash (left) and director Anthony Leonardi III
Courtesy Sarah Gopaul
That set her on the path to writing, and she studied journalism at Ryerson University at the same time as Digital Journal co-founder Chris Hogg. She found she liked broadcast journalism from an editing standpoint (but not being in front of the camera) and focused on newspaper writing.
She set her sights on entertainment reporting when she learned of a press conference featuring Charlize Theron to promote her 2003 film Monster — a film about Aileen Wuornos, one of the first female serial killers to make headlines.
She quickly found out who to contact, and while she couldn't attend the premiere screening, she attended the 20-minute presser.
"Apparently Charlize Theron comes from a violent childhood,” Gopaul says. “So before she came into the room they did the whole 'Don't ask any questions about that, that's completely off the table.' She gave some really smart answers about doing the film and getting into that headspace."
Sarah Gopaul with The Walking Dead s Norman Reedus
Sarah Gopaul with The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus
Courtesy Sarah Gopaul
She interned at Tribute (a Canadian film magazine affiliated with Cineplex Cinemas) though she didn't do as much writing as she hoped — her work consisted of putting together pre-movie trivia questions and updating the website's actor bios.
In her final year at Ryerson she was entertainment editor for the Ryersonian student newspaper and decided she wanted to devote herself to film. To truly get into that world, she studied film for two years at York University.
"It was cool to learn the terms of film writing,” she remembers, giving an example of learning the difference between a long shot and a zoom-in. Most helpful for her was "just being exposed to the history of film and going back to stuff I might have never accessed on my own, because I wouldn't have known what kind of stuff to look for."
Sarah Gopaul beside the Turbo character from the film of the same name
Sarah Gopaul beside the Turbo character from the film of the same name
Courtesy Sarah Gopaul
She watched a great deal of film, of course, and also learned how to analyze films by studying film criticism and reading about major directors thanks to the York library's extensive film section.
While at York she wrote for a pop-culture journalism site aptly named Popjournalism, for which she eventually took on editorial duties.
In January 2012, Digital Journal's Hogg noticed Gopaul was writing articles for Examiner and invited her to contribute to Digital Journal, which she has been doing ever since.
During the day, she works as a web editor for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and devotes almost all her free time to writing about and watching film. She credits getting a convertible tablet with drastically improving her writing capabilities on the subway.
"That was like a godsend," Gopaul says, laughing. "I was actually doing my writing on my phone up until that point.
"As soon as I can get a seat on the subway I'm pretty much pulling out my laptop to start writing. And then I do it at work during lunch, or if I have a screening that's starting in the evening, I'll stay at work for a little bit and do some writing before I have to head over there. It's basically just writing all the time."
Sarah Gopaul sitting atop a pyramid at Coba in Mexico
Sarah Gopaul sitting atop a pyramid at Coba in Mexico
Courtesy Sarah Gopaul
Gopaul has an active social life, and has also been living with her partner of three-plus years, Joe Zipeto. She can be quite busy with her full-time job and film-reviewing life, but she still finds time to see her family and friends frequently. They also enjoy some of the perks of Gopaul's passion: "My mom is regularly my plus-one for advance screenings, so I see and speak to her frequently."
Her devotion to film has led to her amassing quite a collection — she estimates she has over 5,000 DVDs in her collection, and has completely lost track of how many movies and TV seasons she's seen this year (she was at about 150 in April).
Gopaul offers some succinct advice for those wanting to be film critics themselves:
"Like any art, film is subject to personal tastes. However, as a reviewer, your analysis cannot just be based on whether you liked a movie or not. It's important to look beyond that and be able to recognize a filmmaker's influences, measure the film against others with which it has something in common, capably critique actors’ and directors’ performances and so on, and most importantly be able to back up your opinion. You’re not just rehashing the film’s plot for 300 words. You can be a reviewer without being a 'film snob' — you can like/appreciate Truffaut and still enjoy superhero movies or popcorn comedies — but you need to extend your 'watched list' beyond the local Cineplex. While a formal education is not necessary, an 'education' in film via watching and reading is."
And finally, some personal advice: "Even when I think a movie is bad, I still try to find at least one good thing to acknowledge in my writing of it. And of course, no spoilers!"
See previous Digital Journalist profiles:
Marcus Hondro
Karen Graham
Justin King
More about profile of a digital journalist, Digital Journal, sarah gopaul
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