Last night Anne Thompson posted a new “Thompson on Hollywood” column that assesses the Hollywood blogosphere, and how bloggers (a term that I will never be fully comfortable with) are re-shaping film coverage. It’s a smart, comprehensive and fair-minded look at things, but I might as well take this opportunity to respond to (i.e., clarify) some of the things she’s said about myself and Hollywood Elsewhere.
“Such kudos bloggers as Oscarwatch.com‘s Sasha Stone have become factors in the Oscar race, because they are read by younger Academy members as well as the media,” Thompson says in paragraph #27. And right after this she says that “DreamWorks has accused outspoken blogger Jeffrey Wells of HollywoodElse- where.com of dive-bombing Oscar hopeful Dreamgirls with his negative postings.”
Wells response: In other words, former DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press has accused me of dive-bombing Dreamgirls in conversations with other journal- ists? Because she never said squat to me. I was not a huge fan of Dreamgirls but I always wrote about it with respect. I certainly never dive-dombed it. My dive-bomb target was Eddie Murphy, but I’m not going to get into that one again.
“A former trade journalist, freelancer and avid movie buff, Wells runs his independent website and blog,” Thompson continues. “His sources are many and his information is (mostly) solid. Wells ekes out a living off the ads the studios buy on his site. They also provide access to screenings, parties and talent. Wells respects studio release date embargoes because if he didn’t, he’d lose their invites.”
Wells response: “Ekes out a living” was a fair way to describe my income and living situation from the time I started HE in August 2004 until roughly a year ago. The numbers have surged since March ’06 when I went into the bloggy-bloggy format and dropped the two-columns-per-week deal. I’m not flush but things are starting to get a bit more comfortable.
“But Wells sounds off when he feels like it, which means that some studios deal with him gingerly,” Thompson observes. “Sony, for one, has taken him off its screening list (for the second time; he enraged a prior studio management team with a debunked story about a disastrous Last Action Hero screening).”
Wells response: I’ve given up trying to explain the Last Action Hero hullaballoo that went down in the summer of ’93. The story that I wrote in the L.A. Times Calendar section — about an alleged-but-ultimately-mythical screening of LAH in Pasadena — invoked the legend and the metaphor of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. I chose to invoke Serling and his show because the stuff I was hearing didn’t add up — it wasn’t hard or nail-able. But my hardhead editors — Claudia Eller, Kelly Scott –wanted to run a “bust” story and knew only about working within the journalistic strategems of big-city entertainment reporting as it was practiced in 1993 and therefore they couldn’t roll with whimsical or fanciful or quizzical, and so the story that ran didn’t quite have the right coloration.
I don’t think that The Twilight Zone and concepts of hard factual reporting reside on the same planet. If I had written that damn story on my own….if the internet and Hollywood Elsewhere had existed back then, that whole stupid episode would never have happened because I would have written it the right way and people would have responded, “Oh, some people think that an LAH screening happened, or at least they’re trying to convince others that it did,” etc. It would have been about certain people in this town wanting to take that movie down, rather than some purportedly fact-based, page-one, hard-news story.
“Wells falls somewhere between enthusiastic fan and dogged film reporter. In other words, he’s a blogger,” says Anne. Fair enough, although I will hate that word to my dying day.
“So is Nikki Finke, another refugee from the journalistic establishment. Her well-read DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com is loosely affiliated with the L.A. Weekly (which publishes her print column), but is owned by Finke. When the studios deal with solo owner-operators such as Poland, Wells or Finke, there is no editor-in-chief or publisher to approach. They are in complete control of their domain. All a movie company can use for leverage is the old threat of withholding advertising — or access.
“While lack of editorial oversight can yield some ‘facts’ that are merely hearsay or opinion, it also brings an often refreshing candor, a freedom of expression and a lack of politesse. With Poland, Wells and Finke’s burgeoning readers, some folks in Hollywood are finding it difficult to resist their siren call. They feed them and try to spin them.
“They are as much a part of the entertainment community as the rest of us. And be sure of this: More bloggers are on the way.”