I first learned of In the Mood in 2020 when Sennah Yee, one of Peach Mag's poetry editors, let me in on what she and Gabrielle Marceau had in the works. The idea was to create a digital film recommendation generator that could survey your mood and tell you which movie to watch based on it, resolving the ubiquitous issue in the streaming era of spending more time browsing the hundreds of titles across platforms than watching the movie or show itself. I was so ready for it!
But when it launched in December later that year, I was delighted to find not just what you might expect from a recommendation generator—inquisitive, calculated, accurate—but something that, to me, felt personal. When the generator gives you your results—when it tells you what you're in the mood for—the suggestion is accompanied by a short vignette written by a poet, fiction writer, memoirist, musician, visual artist, or another creative person recounting what the movie means to them, when they first encountered it themselves, and why they think you'll love it. I love this You've got to watch this vibe—it makes the project feel like a conversation among friends.
But then (!), last year, the In the Mood team surprised me yet again when they released the first issue of In the Mood Magazine, a companion literary journal about the things we like to watch. Like the recommendation generator, the journal centers the personal in its approach to film criticism, and its contributions span a variety of artistic forms, from a comics art advice column to poems, short memoirs, and more. The editors are planning to release the fifth issue of In the Mood Magazine, the "Horror Issue," early next week..........and to celebrate, we're all teaming up for a Crossover Episode on October 13 with readings, movie trivia, and other performances by Cason Sharpe, EJ Kneifel, Emmalea Russo, Fan Wu, Ky Capstick, and Vannessa Barnier. Per usual, the reading is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. (Register!)
To find out more about In the Mood, I reached out to editor in chief Gabrielle Marceau, managing editor Sennah Yee, and creative director Kay Evans-Stocks for a girls roundtable on their own personal viewing habits, highs, and hang-ups—including the first movie that scared the sh*t out of them—as well as their desire to bring more of a personal vibe into film criticism. Look out for their new issue next week, and come thru October 13 for more. –Rachelle Toarmino
RT: In the Mood began as a film recommendation generator and has since grown into an online pop culture journal about “the things we like to watch.” Was it always the plan to launch a companion literary journal?
SY: The film rec generator was Gabrielle’s brilliant idea! I remember when you first told me about it at the diner near your place.
GM: I remember thinking it was an amazing idea, but also that it could be this gateway into rebooting The Fuck of the Century, which was a journal I started years ago. I felt like there weren’t places for criticism that were personal, poetic, ambiguous… The tone of film criticism can be so authorial and fatherly, which felt so far from my reaction to film. So I figured I should make a place for that kind of writing. Those years were probably the most unencumbered I’ve ever felt about writing, maybe because very few people were reading it lol.
SY: Haha same! I’m grateful that you created that fearless, fun space with The Fuck of the Century, and that it’s grown into In The Mood. We always knew we wanted it to be a journal, and the film rec generator was a great way to “soft launch” it and give people an idea of our playful, personal vibe.
GM: And introduce everyone to our girl, Evie. We’re the only film journal with a mascot lol.
RT: Evie is absolutely serving… Speaking of girlies on the team, how did you all meet, and when did you realize you wanted to work on In the Mood together? Who does what and why?
SY: Gabrielle and I first met in film school! G, you were in the year above me, so naturally I thought you were very cool haha. I remember being nervous to send you my work for your journal The Fuck of the Century. Then we ended up working together on that, and this :’)
GM: I was so blown away by your work and how it was exactly the kind of criticism I was trying to do. I think we both felt like the Fuck of the Century was unfinished and we wanted to bring it back in a more sustainable format and with a more user-friendly name lol.
SY: Haha yes! We love a comeback. Kay, do you remember our first unhinged chats during the peak of the pandemic? LOL
KE: Oh my I remember them all. There were so many. Sennah and I met through the web development bootcamp that I attended back in 2020, as she was working there on the marketing team. Also fun fact: I went to high school with Sennah’s sister!
SY: Such a small world! I feel like we clicked right away, and I was in awe of how accessible and eye-catching your coding and design work was. So naturally when Gabrielle and I realized we needed someone to make our film rec generator come to life, you came to mind immediately!
KE: I remember instantly vibing with you and we matched each other’s energy a tad too much… the amount of times we apologize to Gabrielle for derailing a conversation is rough.
SY: It's a wonder we get anything done at all lol. Kidding, we’re a dream team! Which speaking of, let’s talk team titles—I remember Gabrielle and I literally Googling what each meant together haha, trying to see what made sense.
GM: Sennah calls me the editor-in-chief which I like! I select and commission the pieces with Sennah and do the structural/stylistic edits. I also like to look at big picture stuff: if we’re going to have a theme, what the editorial direction should be, events and offshoots… things that would crumble into dust if it weren’t for Sennah and Kay.
SY: LOL and we’d be lost without you, too. I’m the managing editor! So lots of ~friendly reminders~ and workback planning on Notion haha. After Gabrielle and I select the pieces together and she does her editing magic, I copy edit and upload them to our site! I also run our Instagram and Twitter.
KE: I was the last to join the crew!
SY: But in many ways, you were always part of it :’)
KE: We had a great time working together on the film rec generator, and then you two lovely people asked me to join the team permanently as ~ Creative Director ~ responsible for the website, the issue covers, and other art needs (which are heavily dictated by Gabrielle’s amazing mood board talent).
SY: We all balance each other out really well—lots of Libra energy on the team lol.
RT: Your fifth issue, which launches next week, is horror-themed. First things first: What was the first movie that really scared the shit out of you? (Mine was The Ring.)
SY: Oooh, good choice. For me it’s Princess Mononoke. I was pretty young, and it was on at a family friend’s house. That bloody demon boar terrified me to the point that later that night, I asked my dad to stay with me until I fell asleep! Now it’s one of my favourite movies haha.
GM: The graveyard scene from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer (the ‘30s one) was the first time I saw someone get killed on screen. It’s not a scary scene, and you don’t even really see it happen, but I was very young and it was so shocking to realize that people murdered one another that I started hysterically crying and could not be consoled.
KE: Probably wouldn’t be considered a horror movie by any means, but as a kid I was terrified of the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But I also remembered loving the feeling of being scared. Lots to unpack there.
RT: Not to be an annoying interviewer but can we actually try to unpack that? Why do you all think we like watching horror movies??
GM: Because we want to feel something!
SY: Haha yes! I think even if you don’t like watching horror movies (like me, I’m a scaredy-cat lol), that safe-yet-very-real rush is just so unique.
RT: Seems like an okay time to reveal that I lied: the first movie to scare the shit out of me was actually The Nutty Professor. The dream sequence in which he blows up to the size of Godzilla… really fucked with my five-year-old brain… nightmares, chills, etc. But we have to move on! Whenever Peach opens for submissions, we get this question: “Is there a theme?” What made you want to start theming your issues? Why horror this time around?
GM: I love that Nutty Professor image being scary! There’s often some fragment in non-horror films that can really terrify. We initially said no themes, I was trying to distinguish us from another Toronto-based, female-led online film journal that had a theme each issue. But now we do one when it feels right.
SY: Yeah, like we did a Love & Sex issue for our Valentine’s Day launch in February, and of course our Horror issue for this spooky October. It’s fun seeing how people interpret a theme, and it’s also fun having no theme and seeing what pops up.
RT: What are some ways people interpreted horror for this issue that really surprised you?
GM: It was interesting to me how many people don’t watch horror movies. Some of our regular contributors had trouble thinking of something to write for this issue. We actually have an interview with the hosts of the podcast, Too Scary, Didn’t Watch, who discuss horror films they are too afraid to watch. People are fascinated by horror films, even if (or perhaps because) they are too afraid to watch them.
RT: Is there anything else you can hint about the issue—contributors, vibe, individual pieces, etc.?
GM: This issue is good. We have pieces on underrepresented millennial horror films, and pieces that are looking at well-known horror films from a very novel angle. And there is a very special piece, in which the writer, Lucy Talbot Allen, visits famous horror movie locations in Northern California, that’s unlike anything we’ve published yet.
RT: Any upcoming themes you can tease?
GM: I think we might do a Comics theme in the summer. I want to explore the cool, dynamic, libidinous energy comic book movies have had and still could have.
RT: What are your viewing habits, highs, and hang-ups? What have you freaks been in the mood for lately?
SY: Habits: Sitting in the last row in the theatre in a cross-legged position, going to the washroom a million times before the movie starts because I’m paranoid about missing anything lol. High: Seeing a frame or a gif of a movie online and knowing that someone loved that exact moment, too. And lately I’ve been in the mood for anything corny and/or horny… I blame Elvis! Hang-ups: Movie trailers revealing way too much arghhhh, I’ve stopped seeking them out past a teaser!
GM: Gonna steal Sennah’s format! Habit: Watching kind of blurry torrents of old Will and Grace episodes while I fold laundry (I like to think of myself as a Grace, but my friend keeps comparing me to Karen). Highs: I’ve been watching some surreal 70s animations from Suzan Pitt and Sally Cruikshank (our illustrator, Aidan Jeans, put us onto her). I’m really feeling their cool, psychosexual vibe. Hang-ups: Being unable to not look at my phone during a movie. I have to put it in the other room!
KE: Oh wow I am with you, Sennah, on the movie trailers. Habits: Going on IMDb to read the Trivia after each TV show/movie I enjoy. Highs: Music is a huge factor for me - when the soundtrack and/or composing is really strong it will stay with me for years (shoutout to you, Hans Zimmer). Hang-ups: Actually watching stuff! Over the years, movie viewing has become such a social thing that I struggle to watch things independently or making the time to watch movies if I am alone.
RT: Okay but what are Evie’s…
SY: Omg. I think Evie’s habit is snacking loudly during movies. And her high is her dreamy celeb crush, goopy Leonardo DiCaprio. Her hang-up? Maybe her friends ignoring her amazing, personalized film recommendations, harumph!
RT: I want to call back to something Gabrielle wrote earlier in our chat: “I felt like there weren’t places for criticism that were personal, poetic, ambiguous… the tone of film criticism can be so authorial and fatherly, which felt so far from my reaction to film. So I figured I should make a place for that kind of writing.” Could you say a little more about your approach to film criticism—your interest in the personal, poetic, ambiguous—and how you see it departing from more mainstream expectations?
GM: Maybe I’m interested in the personal or poetic angle because I feel some anxiety that I am not qualified enough to be an authority. I haven’t seen as many films as most film critics, I haven’t read as much criticism or scholarship; I feel like I’m perpetually trying to catch up. But I can be an authority on my own feelings, even if they are unruly and mysterious.
SY: I feel the same way. And for me, I also just find the personal and poetic approach to criticism more enjoyable and inviting, both to read and write! I didn't get much of that in film school, where I often felt very intimidated by academia and terms I always had to repeatedly Google in shame lol. So this other approach was like a breath of fresh air to me.
GM: I have a lot of respect for traditional criticism, and there are many critics out there doing the kind of personal, expanded approach we go for: Michael Koresky, Durga Chew-Bose, Nick Pinkerton’s Substack. But we wanted to make a platform for the writers and artists who have never thought of themselves as critics to write about film.
RT: I find that this is often what happens when I do these interviews with people. I’ll ask, sort of stupidly at this point, “Why’d you make this?” and people will say, “Because I realized something could be better, or different—so I did it.” What else do you wish there was different about the independent publishing world, the film world, the criticism world, etc.?
GM: When we started In the Mood, there were already a number of journals that were explicitly about feminism and film, which featured mostly female/ trans/ non-binary writers and were quite careful about what films or subjects they approached. These were admirable aims for a period of, let’s say, adjustment; but we wanted to make something where people could write about problematic directors or problematic feelings.
SY: Mmm yes, I feel those journals were doing great work amplifying unheard voices in the scene, and we wanted to make our own new kind of contribution to these conversations. There can be so many conflicting feelings about what we like (or don’t like!) to watch, and why: joy, pleasure, shame, confusion… we’re interested in poking and prodding at this a little more, rolling around in its messiness.
GM: We have a piece in this issue where two men discuss the 1942 and 1982 Cat People and basically how horny they (and the films) are. I’m not going to call it subversive lol… but we want to be a place for people’s real, unfiltered feelings.
SY: Like you said about horror movies earlier… because we want to feel something!
Gabrielle Marceau is a writer, film critic, and editor based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Cinemascope, Sight and Sound, Reverse Shot, and Leste Magazine. She is the editor in chief of In the Mood Magazine.
Sennah Yee writes poetry, prose, and film criticism. She is the author of the poetry collection How Do I Look? (Metatron Press, 2017) and the children’s book My Day with Gong Gong (Annick Press, 2020). She is the managing editor of In the Mood Magazine.
Kay Evans-Stocks is a creative developer and graphic designer based in Toronto. She is a graduate of Juno College of Technology's Web Development Immersive Bootcamp and has a BA in Media Communications from the University of Guelph-Humber. She is the creative director of In the Mood Magazine.
"We Want to Feel Something" is part of our interview series spotlighting the creative, experimental, often brief, often shoestring, and always underreported-upon projects in the independent publishing community. Read more Indie Lit conversations here.