July 19, 2010: New York, NY -- A couple of weeks ago, on a quiet mid-week afternoon in California, I sat in a booth at the Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge with our CEO Rick Allen, indieWIRE's ad sales director James Israel and famous filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. In between stories about Orson Welles and Cary Grant we also spent some time talking with Bogdanovich about new and old films, laying the foundation for a new relationship that will grow to showcase criticism of classic movies.
As I chatted with Peter Bogdanovich and my colleagues, I flashed back to a conversation I'd had six month earlier, hanging out upstairs at the Cinetic Media & YouTube party at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Screenwriter Anthony Deptula, whose "One Too Many Mornings" was released during the festival via a unique online strategy, shared a personal philosophy I agree with wholeheartedly: "Work with nice people and be passionate about your ideas."
I have some news to announce this week that links cool people with strong ideas, so I'll just dive right in...
Welcome Bogdanovich. Welcome Back Spout
Bogdanovich, currently teaching film in North Carolina, was spending a few weeks in L.A. He'd been introduced to me and my colleagues by former Variety film critic Todd McCarthy, who joined indieWIRE just before the Cannes Film Festival this spring.
Over the course of that meeting we made a deal and now, we're thrilled to announce that Peter Bogdanovich will soon launch his own site as part of the growing indieWIRE Network of blogs and websites. We'll have more on that soon. Also exciting is the news that Chris Campbell has just joined us as the lead writer for the new Spout.com, a site that we acquired earlier this year. Chris worked alongside Karina Longworth in the former incarnation of Spout.com and now it's great to have him at Spout as we bring it back in a new way.
Timed to the Warner Bros. release of Christopher Nolan's latest, "Inception," we've relaunched Spout as a sort of water cooler where movie fans can gather and converse. It's a work in progress that's already generating a lot of readers. We hope you'll check it out frequently.
Bogdanovich, Spout, Todd McCarthy, Sydney Levine, Leonard Maltin and Anne Thompson, not to mention a blog by our lead film critic Eric Kohn, make up an exciting roster that we're proud to have assembled here at indieWIRE in just the past year.
During the recent trip to California, I was in Palm Springs for a weekend serving on a panel with Variety's Peter Debruge, the Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday and my colleague Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. Chatting with filmmakers at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, we pondered and discussed how dramatically the media landscape has changed for Hollywood in recent years.
"The greatest challenge facing the entertainment industry," explained The Reporter's sharp film editor Kilday, "is the conversion from analog to digital."
Indeed, it's a challenge that continues to instigate dramatic shifts in the entertainment industry, from how movies and TV shows are produced, distributed and exhibited all the way to the world of the once dominant daily printed trade papers. Now, just as filmed entertainment is available anywhere, anytime even on portable devices, news and information about the same movies and television shows can also be gleaned around the clock and on the go.
The changes are driving our own business here at indieWIRE as we pursue an aggressive approach to creating and building a publication and fostering a community of filmmakers, industry insiders and movie fans.
At indieWIRE, we're excited to now make it easier for our readers to access our growing network of content. Today, we're formally unveiling a number of new and enhanced ways to read our content anytime, in the office, at home or on the go.
Whether on the iPad or an iPhone, a Blackberry or an android device, we invite readers to get the latest from indieWIRE.com as well as some of the other sites from our network.
Our new mobile site can be found at www.mobile.indiewire.com. Folks on the iPad, for example, can now experience a site that is optimized for use specifically on that device. The mobile experience for indieWIRE will continue to evolve in time and we invite your input as we develop these new platforms.
Also, we invite you to connect with indieWIRE via our email newsletters, RSS feeds and on Facebook or Twitter. We can deliver breaking news alerts and updates to you any way you prefer. In the coming months we'll hone these delivery systems and also revamp our homepage to make it easier to find the content you're looking for.
Last Thursday, on yet another warm summer evening in New York City, we celebrated indieWIRE's anniversary. iW turned fourteen last week, clearing the way for a milestone that was once unimaginable. It's official, indieWIRE is now in its fifteenth year!
All of us are quite proud of what we've built at indieWIRE and excited that we are able to continue growing and expanding even at a time of considerable change in the worlds of film and media.
We toasted our anniversary with a joint party (with our parent SnagFilms and our friends at Rooftop Films) featuring an outdoor preview screening of Kitao Sakurai's new American indie film, "Aardvark," ahead of the movie's debut at the Locarno International Film Festival next month. It was a fun night (on a very hot NYC summer evening) with new and old friend alike, and by showcasing a new work from an emerging talent, we wanted to reiterate indieWIRE's own commitment to discovery. Now entering our fifteenth year, we remain focused on showcasing new faces and new films, as well as fostering smart, informed conversations about movies.
July 15th -- indieWIRE and SnagFilms' anniversaries -- was an eventful day for us.
Earlier in the afternoon, photographer Ozier Muhammad from the New York Times was in our SoHo office to snap photos of our team for today's NY Times profile by Michael Cieply.
"The little business of documentary film just got bigger," Cieply began in his profile of SnagFilms and indieWIRE today, digging deeper to explore, in his words, "a company that has been assembled in the last two years around nonfiction movies and news about the often wobbly world of independent film."
Two years ago, indieWIRE was acquired by SnagFilms, a start-up aimed at creating new distribution platforms for documentaries. As the company is announcing today, Snag has a growing library of more than 1500 docs that can be seen online and will increasingly also be available on cable VOD and on devices like the iPad and iPhone.
In profiling the overall company, Cieply emailed me the other day to ask an important question.
"How you keep editorial integrity and balance in a company that both reports on and reviews films and also distributes them?"
As we celebrate indieWIRE's 14th anniversary and SnagFilms' 2nd birthday I spent some time thinking about this crucial question, one that will become even more important as platforms for watching and reviewing movies merge.
The key point, as I explained to Michael Cieply, is that we've set up this company in a manner that fosters our integrity and we continue to work hard to maintain it. Our editorial integrity is the foundation upon which we've built and developed indieWIRE. Sincerely, we take it very seriously.
indieWIRE is a distinct unit lead by myself and Brian Brooks on the editorial side and James Israel on the advertising side. With the support of SnagFilms' management we have established complete editorial autonomy and are fortunate to work with so many strong, respected contributors.
Maintaining our publication's integrity was a crucial element when we, with the help of CAA's Micah Green, began seriously exploring opportunities back in '07. And when we sold the company to SnagFilms two years ago, we established a distinct separation between the two sides of the company.
As SnagFilms' Ted Leonsis and Rick Allen reiterated throughout our six months of negotiations leading up to the sale of indieWIRE, the moment indieWIRE's editorial autonomy is compromised is the moment that we lose the credibility we've worked so hard to establish over the years. We take this issue very seriously. There is an incentive to maintain that credibility because if it were to be damaged, then it would damage our viability as a company.
Earlier this month some colleagues and I spent a few days making the rounds in Hollywood, meeting with studios and companies to talk about indieWIRE and its future. In each meeting we asked each participant, high level executives and lower level staffers, to share their own opinions and insights on the current state of entertainment media and also to offer suggestions for our own business. We talked about the trades, new publications and blogs that have emerged and others that have waned (and why). We considered the sometimes toxic climate that can grow as outlets compete for traffic and my colleagues and I reiterated indieWIRE's commitment to smart, informed, quality content that has both a point of view and also respectability. The conversations were all informative, constructive, and incredibly valuable.
Fourteen years after starting this company and two years after selling it, I'm proud of what we've accomplished and excited about indieWIRE's future.
Credit where credit is due
A growing team of folks are responsible for indieWIRE on a daily basis. In addition to the talented roster of folks who are part of the indieWIRE Network: Peter Bogdanovich, Chris Campbell, Eric Kohn, Sydney Levine (with Peter Belsito), Leonard Maltin, Todd McCarthy, and Anne Thompson, we have a terrific frequent contributors including Kim Adelman and Anthony Kaufman.
Of course, my greatest thanks go to the whole current indieWIRE team, including our longtime managing editor Brian Brooks and roving associate editor Peter Knegt, upstart editorial assistants and contributors Bryce Renninger (NYC), Sophia Savage (LA) and Nigel Smith (NYC), our veteran advertising director James Israel and our newcomer ad manager Jason Gonzalez, as well as our tech team from SnagFilms including Albert Lai and Jeff Douglas, our biz dev dealmaker David Karp, and of course general manager Stephanie Sharis, CEO Rick Allen and Chairman Ted Leonsis.
As was reiterated in today's New York Times, Ted -- who recently wrote a biography called "The Business of Happiness" -- is focused on just the sort of thing that Anthony Deptula was talking about back at Sundance in January. Good people and good ideas.
"Mr. Leonsis’s plan to build a company with what he calls 'a double bottom line'," Michael Cieply wrote today in the Times, "Essentially, that means doing well by doing good."
With that in mind, special thanks to our ever increasing readership as well as the growing number of loyal advertisers who are working with us. Please keep offering us your thoughtful, important feedback and input as we continue to grow.
PREVIOUS WEEKLY COLUMNS:
07.12.10: The Social Network | 05.18.10: Six Down, Six To Go | 04.15.10: Cannes Roster Reveals Great Divide | 04.12.10: (Re) Introducing Eric Kohn | 04.05.10: I want it, but what do I *do* with it?? | 03.29.10: “Breaking Upwards”. Breaking even? | 03.17.10: 5 Hot Topics at #SXSW | 03.03.10: The *new* Miramax | 03.01.10: Megabucks v. Made on a Shoestring or “Avatar” v. “Hurt Locker” | 02.10.10: Before Berlin Begins, The Ten Best from Sundance 2010 | 01.11.10: The Doctor Is In | 12.21.09: New Year, New Model | 12.14.09: Tracking the Critics | 12.07.09: The Future of Festivals? |11.30.09: Paris, City of Cinema (or, In Bed with Agnes) | 11.23.09: Frederick Wiseman = The Greatest | 11.16.09: For The Love of Movies | 11.09.09: Building Buzz | 11.02.09: I want it like I wrote it. | 10.26.09: “Precious,” $1 Million or $100 Million? | 10.12.09: Critics (still) Matter | 10.05.09: Is There a Doctor in the House? | 09.28.09: The Indie Summit | 09.21.09: The Oscar Marathon | 09.14.09: DIY v. DIWO | 09.08.09: SPC v. IFC | 08.30.09: Saving Cinema | 08.23.09: Nadie Sabe Nada | 08.16.09: Movies, Now More Than Ever | 08.09.09: It Came From The 80s