Uses This

1212 interviews since 2009

A picture of Alissa Wilkinson

Alissa Wilkinson

Staff reporter, film critic (Vox)

in critic, mac, reporter

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a staff reporter and critic at Vox.com, where I (mostly) cover movies and the movie industry; I've been there since the fall of 2016. I'm also an associate professor of English and humanities at The King's College in Manhattan, where I've taught criticism, cultural theory, cinema studies, and other topics since 2009. So mostly what I do is think, talk, and write about culture, and specifically film.

What hardware do you use?

Being a film critic means you might have to be anywhere in town, most any time of the day, for a screening -- I have no real control over my schedule and every week looks different (and that's not even counting the month or so per year I spend on the road for festivals). So while I have an office at the college and a desk at Vox, I've adapted to carrying around my office on my back.

What that entails: A MacBook Pro from Vox (which is due for an upgrade!) and a charger wrapped around a Fuse Reel. Often, an iPad mini with a Bluetooth keyboard, which I use mostly to watch screeners and sometimes to answer email or even draft a review if I'm in a tight space (I work a lot in bars, which can get crowded) or am not carrying my laptop for some reason. My iPhone -- I'm still using the 8 -- and the Silk wallet case, which holds two work IDs, my driver's license, a debit card, a credit card, and my Metrocard. I have a very powerful external Anker battery pack that can recharge my phone and other devices all week on one charge, and also comes in handy if I'm staying in a hotel or AirBnb that doesn't have a plug near the bed but I need to have my phone nearby for some reason. I carry a Kindle Paperwhite most of the time, partly because I hate being stuck without a book and partly because I always buy both a paper and digital copy of the books I'm teaching from. I carry an iPhone charger, and a pair of Jabra 65t Elites (which I love), and a cheaper pair of regular wired earbuds with a dongle that converts from headphone jack to iPhone jack, in case I am doing an interview via phone, which I do fairly often. And I have an Apple Watch 4, which I like a ton mostly for alerting me to news headlines and when I have a text or Slack DM I need to answer without having to constantly look at my phone.

I have a big TV (that keeps breaking at home) with an Apple TV hooked up to it, and my desk at the college has a ThinkPad on it and an external monitor, which I use when I'm there. But otherwise this is my setup. And I can use it virtually anywhere.

And what software?

I actually majored in information technology and computer science, so it always surprises me how few software programs I use. Vox's CMS, Chorus, is excellent, and I (and all my colleagues) actually write straight into it, which makes people at other media outlets twitchy when I tell them but it works for us. I think in three years I may have lost a draft once, and it was my fault. That also means I rarely have to use Microsoft Word, which I hate, or Google Docs, which I hate more. I also use Gmail in the browser.

At the college we use an LMS called Schoology which does pretty much everything I need it to do, including letting me grade right in the LMS, so I rarely need extra software there other than the usual: PowerPoint for lectures, Word for quizzes.

For interviews I have a kind of complicated setup. In person, I just use the native iOS recording app on my phone. For phoners it's more complicated. Sometimes I can call or receive calls from an interviewee (or their publicist) on Skype on my laptop (I pay to have a phone number), and I pair it with eCamm's Skype Call Recorder, which automatically records audio of any call I make from Skype on my laptop. One of the best things about it is that it automatically splits my side of the conversation and the subject's, so I don't have to listen to my stupid voice when I go back and listen to the audio. Sometimes I'm not at my computer, though, and for that I can use my phone to record calls with Google Voice; you just hit a button and it announces the call is being recorded, and then an MP3 gets dropped in your Google Voice account after the call ends. Unfortunately it only works for incoming calls, but in the entertainment business most of the time they're calling you anyhow and not the other way around.

Obviously, I use Slack. I have a few Slacks, some more professional than others, but Vox Slack is where most of our business takes place (and means my work inbox is mostly pitches from publicists and friendly/angry reader emails). I am an avid Tweeter, so I used Tweetdeck to keep things under control and keep me abreast in particular of news events. And I stay on Facebook for the traffic, mostly.

App-wise, I love Fantastical (which I also use on my laptop) for my various calendars. After years of paper calendars/to-do lists, I've fully migrated to Todoist, which is great, especially for how it gives you the option of integrating with a Google Calendar. I don't have the Facebook app on my phone, but I do use the Twitter app and Instagram on occasion, and Slack constantly. I keep track of what I'm watching on Letterboxd and what I'm reading on Goodreads, and I use Overcast for podcasts. 1Password stores my passwords. I use the Apple News app mostly for sending me headlines from the big outlets and the trades, so I know if someone died or something else happened that requires me to drop everything and write a news hit. There's obvious apps for travel and car shares, but I'm also a big fan of TripIt for travel and ARRO for paying for taxis while I'm in them. I also play Two Dots on the subway while I listen to podcasts, because it seems to be the best way for my brain to absorb what I'm hearing.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love to have a MacBook Air instead of a MacBook Pro, because, frankly, it's really heavy! And some day I'd like to upgrade my tablet/phone/Kindle to newer and sleeker versions, but when you work in two semi-dying industries you have to watch the $$. Probably I should get a backup voice recorder at some point, and I'm plotting quietly to venture into podcasting, so I'll need some equipment for that soon, but I'm still figuring that out. I'd also like to have a nice big monitor at home, but I don't have a dedicated workspace to myself at home. So I get by just fine.

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