New Screen Editor Wendy Mitchell Talks Future Challenges for the Venerable Brit Trade

New Screen Editor Wendy Mitchell Talks Future Challenges for the Venerable Brit Trade

Sure enough, Brit entertainment trade Screen International went in-house and promoted Head of Content Wendy Mitchell to succeed Mike Goodridge as editor. Mitchell, who started at the trade publication as a UK reporter in 2005, is Screen's first woman editor, and will run both monthly print magazine Screen International and Goodridge will become CEO of Protagonist Pictures in August.

Mitchell reports to Conor Dignam, managing director of Screen International.

Before her move to the UK, Mitchell was a respected New York journalist, holding gigs as staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, managing editor at indieWIRE, assistant editor at Rolling Stone Press, and news editor at CMJ New Music Report. 

Mitchell answered some questions about her plans for Screen going forward:

AT: What changes do you have in mind as you take the helm? I'm not planning any major changes for Screen at the moment. We're in great shape and have a strong editorial team. It's a leaner team than we've had sometimes in the past, but everybody on staff is really committed and working well together. Jeremy Kay as U.S. editor (in LA) and Liz Shackleton as Asian editor (in Hong Kong) are hugely important to the plan. And we'll hire a new news editor to replace the news duties I had been doing. That person will be based at our London headquarters.

As far as changes go, we've started a new ScreenTech newsletter that covers more 3-D technology, digital production and exhibition, and interviews with below-the-line creatives. There seems to be a real appetite for this so far, since we kicked it off about two months ago.

New talent spotting is big for us. On Monday our UK Stars of Tomorrow issue comes out, with 30 of the hottest British actors and filmmakers — these people quite often work in Hollywood (our past picks include Emily Blunt, Andrew Garfield and Robert Pattinson), so this list is important outside the UK too. I'd like for us to do even more new talent focuses in the future on other territories and sectors in the industry. For example, people responded well to our Future Leaders special in Cannes for rising sales and acquisitions execs.

How important are your film festival dailies? Our market dailies in Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, AFM and Hong Kong Filmart are pivotal to us and we'll continue to push them, as well as eyeing more festivals for dailies (either print or online).

How challenging is the economic climate for entertainment trades as you make the transition to digital? Yes, it's tough times for all the trades–in fact, the whole publishing industry–but Screen is in good shape in terms of subscribers and advertising because we offer something unique: that international perspective. Which as we all know is becoming more and more important. Even for the U.S. studios, the outlook beyond the U.S. is so vital. That's something that Screen was built on; we've got more than 20 international correspondents feeding into that knowledge of local markets. That also helps us covering international finance, especially keeping tabs on all the local tax incentives and soft money schemes around the globe.

What are the advantages of being a European trade? Being headquartered in London really works for us editorially. The UK is a hotbed of talent and production right now (in a wide-reaching way, not an insular British way), and obviously those close ties to Europe help us to stand out from the Hollywood trades.

Also our European film database ScreenBase continues to grow and our readers tap into that a lot.

One other thing I hope to do is to keep our key coverage of those major arthouse films that will be the top international titles of the year, but also try to do more coverage of industry-relevant genre films and documentaries (especially new funding models) and even short films (as relating to new talent). We've started to cover event TV more in the past few years, and with so much overlap in TV and film (especially in the UK) we're keen to keep that up and even expand coverage of those major miniseries and films for TV.

How would you compare your approach with Variety and THR? I think our approach contrasts with Variety in that international comes first for us, and the THR obviously has a more consumer-friendly slant now. That's not what we're aiming for.

How do you juggle the needs of the monthly with breaking daily news?  It's quite easy. That's what's great about our network of correspondents: they can be on top of that daily news, but they also know the right contacts for, say, an eight-page territory focus in print talking to the major players on the ground. And we do weekly print editions in awards season. But since we switched from weekly to monthly about three years ago, we've gotten great feedback from subscribers — they say that the monthly is a more in-depth and analytical resource and is something they save on their desk for the rest of the year, not something you recycle at the end of the week.

That also differentiates us from the other trades, that meatiness that comes with a monthly publication. And that is a nice complement to ScreenDaily's daily news and reviews (reviews are always free). With news we're not really concerned with this game of having a story up five minutes before everyone else — we are timely of course, but it's more important for us to have analysis/context as well.

How do you handle what is in front of and behind the pay wall?  You are not chasing traffic, right? Sometimes we do open up more of the content on the site in front of the paywall — usually around Cannes and awards season, for instance, in order to meet advertisers' needs, but it's also good for the brand editorially to ensure that more people are turning to Screen at those key times of year and our content is reaching the right people in the industry. That's good for our sources, too, when they are giving us exclusives.

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