Look over to the right side of this page (for the moment) and you’ll see an advertisement for a website called BlueSeat.com. It’s a new multi-million-dollar effort by Landmark Cinemas and the Samsung Corporation to promode indie films. Over at BlueSeat.com, you can currently read several in-depth articles about the making of Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” — written by me. So, is this crass marketing and promotion? Or a real effort to support the artistry of moviemaking? And does the fact that they’ve hired me as a writer helped sway that argument? Or am I just a big hypocritical sell-out?
Over the years, I’ve dedicated myself — in blog posts and print — to exposing how corporate interests raid indie films. Frequently, I’ve criticized the corporate-sponsor-fueled new independent film scene and basically staked my reputation on indie-sell-out stories such as the acquisition of Good Machine by Universal Pictures in 2002. I’ve railed against Cablevision and the studios’ sometimes disregard for the so-called independence of their “indie” divisions, and complained about bullies like Harvey Weinstein and Mark Cuban, who I believe have made things more difficult for the little indie filmmaker as they try to grow their media empires.
But now, with my participation in BlueSeat.com, Mark Cuban is, in a roundabout way, supplying me a paycheck. Am I biting the hand that feeds me by continuing to criticize some of his more onerous business and dancing practices? Can a freelance journalist stay completely independent in today’s marketplace? How do reporters do it at the Wall Street Journal anymore, if they’re owned by one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world? How do any of us do it when publications pay the same fees to freelancers as they did a decade ago? I don’t know.
One thing I can say is that the folks at BlueSeat.com have good taste in film. “Into the WIld” is a strong, complex movie, with a talented crew that went to the ends of the earth for Penn and his vision for the film. Because it was made for millions of dollars and has the support of a major studio, does it really need BlueSeat.com behind it? Perhaps, but any movie that uses Eric Gautier as its cinematographer, gives Emile Hirsch the chance to finally breakout, and brings Hal Holbrook back to the big screen deserves all the attention its getting.