‘Be Kind Rewind’ YouTube series host Izzy digs deep into the Oscars

Izzy debuted her first “Be Kind Rewind” video in 2018 and has amassed 116k subscribers since then. Her video series on YouTube explores the struggles and triumphs of Hollywood’s leading ladies with non-sensationalized narratives that erase tabloid exploitation and reveal how women and other marginalized groups have navigated the entertainment industry. 

Before I go into my interview with Izzy, I would just like to praise what she’s doing for film history, specifically the achievements of women. Her series “Be Kind and Rewind” focuses its lens on female Oscar winners over the years, but really it’s a lens on culture and Hollywood history. It bridges the gaps. Three episodes I’m going to recommend are Women And The Oscars: What’s Going On, Comparing Every Version of Little Women, and Harvey Weinstein and the Oscars: How Gwyneth and Shakespeare in Love Won.

REBECCA MARTIN: Where’d you grow up?

IZZY: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. 

MARTIN: What sparked your passion for film?

IZZY: I grew up in a household where movies were just always on, and that’s what we did together as a family. My parents loved watching TCM, so that was always on. I came to realize that I always wanted to know what was on the schedule, and check out what movies I could potentially see. 

My first moviegoing experience that I intimately remember, which led me to falling into the ritual of watching movies, was going to see “Gone with the Wind” with my Mom. She is obsessed with that movie. There’s a theater in Columbus OH that’s like this old playhouse. It’s a very old theater. During the summers they always play classic films, so she was all excited to see “Gone with the Wind”, and she would go buy Twizzlers-

MARTIN: Twizzlers are awesome.

IZZY: I just remember feeding off the energy of someone that is really passionate about film, and is really excited to see something that made her happy. When the lights go down and you can hear the screen come down, it’s a magical experience. I was able to feel that really early on because movie watching was encouraged in our household.

MARTIN: Did you study film? Or was it just something that you had a passion for?

IZZY: Oddly enough, I didn’t study film. I probably should have, but I had this not-so-smart assumption in retrospect that I couldn’t do anything with it. I thought film was just more practical as a hobby, although I was clearly so passionate about it–I’d go run home to watch a Katharine Hepburn movie. So I didn’t study film, I studied Political Science. Very shortly, within six months after graduation, I was ready to recalibrate my career path. Then I decided, almost immediately, that I wanted to do something with movies. I just didn’t know what, exactly. 

MARTIN: What got you started on doing YouTube content?

IZZY: After I decided that Political Science was not for me, I found myself getting into the digital media, the social media space, as a job, working with content strategy. I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to work with film programming, like film history, in some way, but I didn’t know exactly how to make that happen. I felt like I needed to find a way in with the skills that I had with content strategy and video making, and things like that. I basically decided if I wanted to work in one of these places, that I can work with a visual team, or do something like that. I started the Be Kind Rewind YouTube channel as practice. It was kind of like proof that I care about film in a way that is casual. It was basically just something to talk about in interviews, and I didn’t expect it to be anything I’d continue or find a community in.

MARTIN: When did Be Kind Rewind get started, a couple years ago?

IZZY: A quick two years ago. 

MARTIN: Did you start with “Be Kind Rewind”?

IZZY: I don’t think the name was that well thought out as it should have been. [laughing] Pretty bad for SEO I would say, but the Oscars thing I would say came about, the idea of a YouTube channel was brewing for awhile. I made a couple of other videos, some of which I haven’t actually uploaded, just a test of what it would be like making them, and what the process would be like.

It took a hot minute for it to crystalize into an idea that I thought could be a series. From there it was just kind of like, ‘how do I make this fun for me?’ What would I want to watch? And that’s my theory for going about all of this. 

MARTIN: Did it start with you focusing on one actress and their Oscar moment? What drew you to certain subjects for these episodes?

Katharine Hepburn

IZZY: I got into film through actresses. The way I would basically feed my love of movies is, ‘I like Katharine Hepburn in this movie, so I’m going to watch every Katharine Hepburn movie I could find. If there’s a person that grabs my interest, I’m going to watch all of her movies. 

It seemed pretty natural for me to talk about these women that I found so inspiring. From there I just found it a way to do a couple things. One was to show off research, and two my big goal was to keep stories alive. I just don’t want Hollywood history to become something only a few people know. It’s just better for cultural literacy if people have a good understanding of where we came from. 

MARTIN: Agreed.

Izzy staring at Oscar statuettes

IZZY: I felt that the Oscars were a good lens to do that. Mostly everyone knows what they are. And most people have opinions about them. It’s a way to get people attracted to the initial idea that you can sneak so many things into those stories. It’s so much more then what performance was best. It’s politics and culture, and obviously those things come into play, and those are the things that I find really interesting.

MARTIN: It is interesting. When I was a child, I would watch the Oscars every year. I looked forward to it. As a movie lover, I saw it as my Super Bowl. But as I’ve been interviewing women in film, and seeing so many films that are not on the Academy’s radar, I’m conflicted, yet I still have to watch it.

I was just watching the Harvey Weinstein episode you did a year ago, about the 1998 Oscars, with “Shakespeare in Love” winning Best Picture, and Gwyneth Paltrow winning Best Actress in a Leading Role. I really appreciate you highlighting the problematic issues of the Oscars. I love what you say in this episode, ‘All of this for an eight and a half pound gold man.” That is so right, why is the industry so obsessed with this specific awards show, and this specific award? Could you comment on what draws you to elevating the Oscars, but highlighting the problematic issues?

IZZY: I feel very conflicted about the Oscars in a lot of ways. First of all, one of the big misconceptions to start dismantling is that when people come to see my channel, I don’t want them to think it’s just me standing the Oscars, you know what I mean?  I don’t want people to think I’m fully endorsing this ceremony. I think the reason I find it interesting and, I read this in article, so I’m paraphrasing, the Oscars are kind of a mirror of how Hollywood sees itself. If you want to understand where Hollywood is going, and what the film industry finds interesting, and what’s doing well, and what’s not, you can look at the Oscars. It’s not that I actually see the Academy as the metric of quality. I don’t think most people would say that, but I think it’s interesting that it’s seen as the highest award honor that you can get in film. And it says so much about who wins and who doesn’t. It says more about us, and who we are as an audience. I’m interested in breaking that down, understanding it’s biases, understanding how we’re choosing to represent ourselves. 

MARTIN: I so agree.

IZZY: I guess I like the Oscars because I do think the idea that elevating the people that mean a lot to you, and do really good work is good. I think everybody likes to see someone they admire take home an Oscar. It’s a great feeling. But it’s also really disappointing when it has glaring inequities. I think I’m optimistic enough that if we talk about it and if there are institutional changes that things can get better, we’ll start to feel more represented by this body that has a lot of respect.

MARTIN: So true. I want to thank you for shining a light in one of your latest episodes on why no women were nominated for Best Director this year. There is an issue about women not getting the opportunities for long-term careers, which in effect impacts the Academy’s nominations. Are you hopeful for the future of female filmmakers and people of color?

IZZY: They haven’t really given us much reason to be hopeful. I also feel like change is tediously slow. Unfortunately, this might be one of those cases. I do think with changes in Academy membership, and younger filmmakers that we are starting to see nominees that are so exciting to watch, like Greta Gerwig. I think she’s going to have this long career where she is considered an auteur of her own sorts. And filmmakers like Jordan Peele, who are so exciting to watch. I have faith that people love them enough, and are inspired by them, that they’ll be honored. And filmmakers like them will be honored as well. I think we’ll get there, but it’s just frustrating, and it’s frustrating that it happens year after year. 

MARTIN: I’d like to be excited about the Oscars again. Of course I’m going to watch it, and I’m going to be excited about certain people. Regarding the actress category, which ones are you excited about, either nominated, or not?

Lupita Nyong’o in “Us”

IZZY: To be honest, I felt like it was kind of a slow year for actresses in terms of ones that feasibly would earn Oscar nominations. Lupita Nyong’o probably gave my favorite performance of the year in “Us”, for women. And Florence Pugh in “Midsommar”, and Awkwafina in “The Farewell”, Alfre Woodard in “Clemency”. 

Awkwafina in “The Farewell”

MARTIN: Oh my god! I’m so glad you mentioned Alfre, I feel like she was robbed. I hate to say it, but with how little it was campaigned, and the availability of screenings for critics-

IZZY: It was almost impossible to see in New York, which is unheard of. 

Alfre Woodard in “Clemency”

MARTIN: I mean you watch Alfre Woodard’s performance and you’re like, Oscar-winner! And the Academy, if it’s not on their radar, they’re not going to nominate.

IZZY: It’s also a very hard film to watch. It’s challenging in a way that the other nominees aren’t this year. Maybe it’s to be expected. So yeah, that was disappointing. 

MARTIN: I appreciate how the episodes pick up on the trends. Like when “Little Women” came out, you took a look back at all of them. I hadn’t seen any of the ones before the 90s, and I loved how you connected all of them in what made them stand out, and what choices were made for each film based on the status of the culture and the industry of that time. What gets you excited about doing these episodes?

IZZY: Most of the time I don’t know until I get into the researching. I try not to go into a video with an idea of what it’s going to look like. I’d like to just read as much as I can, and watch the movies before I start getting excited about it. Before I find that kernel of a thing that’s almost that journalistic expedition, which becomes the script for the video. It varies, for sure. 

MARTIN: What kind of impact do you want the series to make? What’s your biggest takeaway that you’d like the viewer to get?

IZZY: I’m most interested in people having context for the conversations we’re having now. I think a lot of times people think that these controversies are the first time that they’ve popped up. Like we’re just noticing them now, and that’s absolutely not the case. There are so many efforts that people have tried to make in the past that they just haven’t landed. For some reason we’ve forgotten about them, and then I think rather than forgetting about them, we should build upon them, and learn from them about what went well and what went poorly. I think we can learn so much from the words that we use, the way we talk about women, the way we employ women. All of these kinds of things that if we just have one anecdote from history, it might just change the way that you think about the decisions you’re making in day to day life. My hope is that the stories that I tell have an impact in that way. 

MARTIN: And you do. It’s nice to have someone like you that connects the dots for us. I really appreciate you and that Be Kind Rewind exists. It’s so important. 

Channel art by Alex Kittle, follow her on instagram @panandscan

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