Ultra Culture is a movie blog run by me, Charlie Lyne. You can find out about some of the other, even less exciting things I do here. I started Ultra Culture as a ‘cultural review podcast’ (hence the awful name) in February 2008. The first episode featured a trip to that year’s BAFTAs, by which I mean I went and queued up at 7am to stand behind the barriers with a load of autograph hunters. The endeavour proved worthwhile when I managed to acquire a recording of Ryan Seacrest saying, “yes, I am Ryan Seacrest”.
Soon enough, I realised that the music, book and theatre (!) sections of the podcast were of little interest to me or anybody else, and over the next few months Ultra Culture slowly mutated into a movie blog. I went about this by sending actual, printed letters to all the studio marketing departments I could find addresses for (this was mostly before the days of online-focused PR agencies), begging them to let me attend the press screenings for such hallowed offerings as 27 Dresses and 10,000 BC. I used big words like ‘diversifying’ in an effort to sound more smarterer.
Eventually, a few replied (I’m forever indebted to PRs like Luke Windsor, Sanam Jehanfard and Sheena Patel who helped out when they really didn’t need to) and I slowly ingratiated myself into London’s shady cabal of film critics, several of whom I’ve inadvisably feuded with over the years. (Don’t worry, the Tookey beef is over.) The readership was small, but a few things helped Ultra Culture to grow, notably: the blog’s first press mention, in a lovely piece by Johnny Dee for the Guardian Guide; the encouragement and support of your favourite website on the internet and mine, Popjustice; and my Review of the Year 2009 zine, which somehow amassed contributions from Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Matt Edmondson and Dan Meth, amongst others.
In the spring of 2010, then-programmer of the ICA David Cox sent me an e-mail suggesting that we organise some kind of monthly film night there. He dubbed it Ultra Culture Cinema (“we’ll think of a better name later”) and for our first event, Lionsgate kindly agreed to let us show an advance preview of Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant — Port of Call: New Orleans. Since then, we’ve sold out a dozen other previews at the ICA (including the two-screen UK premiere of Spring Breakers), welcomed guests including Harmony Korine, Edgar Wright and Grace Dent, and put on an all-day teen movie festival at the Hackney Picturehouse. I’ve met some of the best people in the world at these events, and you can do so too by joining our 2000-strong mailing list.
Today, Ultra Culture takes a number of forms — live events, print stuff, the podcast — but first and foremost it’s just a blog, and I feel honoured that a bunch of you will take the time to read whatever ill-thought-out ideas I cough up onto its surface. I’ll try harder in future, I swear.