Freelance Journalist Interview with Stuart Brumfitt
Sure, being paid to pal around with Richard Gere at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in LA is pretty sweet, but writing for Wonderland, i-D and Attitude has taken freelancer Stuart Brumfitt even further than where Vivian from 'Pretty Woman' ended up. In today's interview, he shares those experiences and others, as well as the kind of things he would – and wouldn't – like to write about in the future.
About your work
What do you write about, and where are we likely to see your work?
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
A series of three travel features on California for Attitude magazine. I explored the desert at Palm Springs, paddle-boarded in San Diego and caught The xx at the Hollywood Palladium. I spent a week cruising round LA in a drop top trying to get a sense of the city, from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where 'Pretty Woman' was filmed) to Watts Towers (a moving piece of outsider art in the middle of Compton).
What piece are you most proud of?
I was probably most proud of my first national feature – about gay ragga clubs – in The Observer Music Monthly back in 2006. I was still doing my post-grad in journalism at the time, so it was a big deal. I went out and bought ten copies of the paper that day. But my most fascinating interview has to have been with Dian Hanson, the editor of Taschen’s Sexy Books titles. She’s smart, dry and warm and proves that an intelligent person should be able to segue from one world into another without restriction. She started out in the porn world before making her mark in art publishing. There’s an abridged version here.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I would – and wouldn’t – love to interview Frank Ocean. I love his music, style and what he stands for, but he seems wary of journalists.
Are there any media outlets you’d love to write for?
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles usually?
I check what’s coming up on Red Pages, follow leads from blogs/social media/articles and keep in good contact with PRs across the board.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve gotten inspiration from?
I bought a t-shirt with "WET" written on it, because I liked the logo. Then I saw in the small print that it was copyrighted to WET magazine. When I looked into it, I found out it was a cult LA "gourmet bathing" fanzine from the 70s, which had pushed great graphic design, and had had a young Richard Gere on the cover. I tracked down the old editor and interviewed him for Wonderland’s Leisure issue.
How can PRs be useful to you and how and when do you like them to get in touch?
PRs know what’s coming up before most journalists do, so it’s great to get tip-offs about new talent, films, shows, etc. I like it when a PR gets to know what kind of work you do and tailors what they send to you, rather than just bombarding you.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
When I was on staff I rarely got the time to go to such things, so now I'm freelance I hope to do more. It’s essential to see and experience something that you might write about, but again, you hope that the PR is only going to get you along if they know it’s something relevant. I went to one press conference at the World Travel Market and had to sit through an hour of tourist board statistics. The PR had sold it as a lunch with representatives of the country, so I was imagining stories, descriptions and recommendations, but all I got was cold, hard facts. Fine for a travel trade journalist, but not so great for me.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d love to open a men’s clothes shop.
Is social media important with your work?
It’s good for snippets of research and to get a sense of what people are interested in, but I don’t like to rely on it too heavily and hope to go deeper with my work.
You recently tweeted that “the thought of Frank Ocean being exposed to Robbie Williams’s music at #BRITs2013 makes me feel very sad indeed” – what UK music would you play to Frank to wash that sonic stain from his poor (and beautiful) ears?
Radiohead. He's a fan.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Books by the bedside: Edmund White's 'Jack Holmes & His Friend', Brian Sewell's 'Outsider. Almost Always: Never Quite', Carson McCullers' 'The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter', and Jenny March's 'The Penguin Book of Classical Myths'.
You can get in touch with Stuart on Twitter @stuartbrumfitt.