In trying to to set things straight yesterday about that Len Klady MCN remark about an alleged “film industry emissary” being part of the discussion or dialogue regarding the New York Times deciding to change the way it covers the New York Film Festival — i.e., no more pro forma reviews of films on the day they “open” at the festival, and in their place running a kind of “Times portfolio” with little critical quips inserted — even more feathers have been ruffled, so let’s review what happened and try to calm this thing down.
Times film critic Manohla Dargis said Klady was in error for saying than an “emissary” had something to do with the change, adding that she “resent [s] the implication that we would ever change our coverage based on outside pressure.” I was later told and subsequently wrote that NYFF publicist Jeanne Berney “passed along an opinion on this matter”, but I certainly didn’t mean to characterize her presenting a view on the merits of the new Times policy as anything constituting, much less approaching, outside pressure.
The effect of this litttle item, in which I mentioned Berney’s domestic ties to Picturehouse Films honcho Bob Berney, has cast, I’m told, a certain five o’clock shadow upon Berney’s neutrality as a NY Film Festival rep. I’m very, very sorry to have brought this matter up and/or caused any discomfort, especially since I’ve never detected anything unsavory in any publicist having discussions with this or that party about reviewing of films exhibited under the publicist’s purview. Merely articulating a sensible-reasonable view about the manner in which the Times reviews or otherwise covers NYFF movies didn’t seem questionable to me. We’re all in the same boat and people with certain interests tend to voice those interests whenever changes in the rules are being considered…big deal.
It should also go without saying that Berney, like any sharp and savvy publicist, has always been mindful of all the political undercurrents and always plays the game accordingly, by which I mean she’s a total pro.
Can we all let this go, please? The Times is going to cover the NYFF in a different fashion…fine. It may or many not help the case of certain distributors of NYFF films to have them reviewed on the day of their commercial release rather than the day of their NYFF debut, and perhaps there’s more than one valid way of looking at this situation. The only reason I stepped into this swamp in the first place was an implication in Klady’s column of political persuasion upon the Times, which seemed strange so I said so. And then in seeking to explain a reasonable basis for this item appearing in the first place a whole other kettle of fish tipped over and splattered all over the kitchen floor. Apologies to all offended parties.