Following advance ballyhoo, Variety‘s Anne Thompson (a.k.a., “Thompson on Hollywood”) today became an official hotshot IndieWire columnist. Same column name, fresh redesign, different URL…and it’s off to the races. Her first IndieWire column is about how Hollywood is playing it safe, but Thompson says she’s now planning on being a bit more of a freewheeling, let-the-chips-fall reporter/opinionator.
As Thompson admits, this was not entirely her signature style when she wrote her Variety column as well as her previous “Risky Business” column for the Hollywood Reporter. She told it straight but with an eye toward political ramifications. “I had to write within the realm of the trades,” she says. “I had to write within the box. But that no longer exists [for me].”
Everybody who works for a trade (or any mainstream print publication) does the same. Movie critics included. This doesn’t mean staffers necessarily pull their punches as much as occasionally sand off a story’s edge with carefully sculpted prose (i.e., phrases like “remains to be seen”) rather than laying their cards totally face up and blunt-ass.
Nonetheless, Thompson’s statement about being a bit more of a come-what-may candor dispenser at Indiewire reminds me of a story that James Farmer once told about a conversation he had with Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office. Farmer told Johnson he’d never been much of a civil-rights advocate when he represented Texas in the Senate so what accounted for his passionate support of civil-rights legislation as U.S. president? Johnson replied by quoting a famous line by Martin Luther King: “Free at last, free at last…thank God almighty, I’m free at last!”
Thompson also said, however, that she’s not quite the stand-alone, self-propelling entrepeneur that others are in the online realm. She’s happy about “not being in this entirely all by myself. I own the site and I designed the site myself, yes, but the guys at IndeWire really know their stuff. I know I couldn’t have done it as well without them. And I think it’s going to work.”
Here’s a David Carr/Media Decoder piece about Thompson in today’s N.Y. Times.