Three years ago, when Scott Foundas left the Village Voice Media’s LA Weekly to join the Film Society of Lincoln Center as associate programmer, I was disheartened. Why? Because he is one of the most gifted critics of his generation. I took Foundas leaving his clear avocation as a sign of the continuing decline of film criticism. I fantasized that he might reinvigorate Film Comment, but while he kept his hand in with weekly blog posts–most notably the first review of David Fincher’s “The Social Network“–and was a powerful presence as a New York Film Festival and Film Society interviewer, Foundas was essentially a programmer.
He was frustrated at not being able to do more writing; he admits. “I did miss it,” he says. (He also spoke to the NYT here.) “My primary responsiblity was film programming.” Foundas learned a lot about the vagaries of film programming in an increasingly digital world, and enjoyed bringing successful retrospectives like Claude Sautet to New York audiences. But he couldn’t resist the siren call of writing about film for a national film outlet like The Village Voice. “That was one way of supporting films and getting them to an audience,” he says. “But it was on a smaller scale than writing for millions. This is a dream job. I never was just a writer anywhere. It would be foolish to pass up a chance to be a national critic with this kind of influence and reach.”
Voice Media Group executive editor Christine Brennan, who has taken over editorial control of the 13 national weeklies from Mike Lacey and used to work with Foundas, pursued him to join the post-Jim Hoberman Voice. They let go of the veteran critic ten months ago and lost film editor Allison Benedikt four months later to Slate. Former SF Weekly arts editor Alan Scherstuhl now supervises national film coverage, and will edit Foundas.
Why did he give up his film editor slot after four years at the LA Weekly, arguably one of the best in the country, short of the New York Times, New York or The New Yorker? Because the overworked editor/critic saw that Lacey’s VMG was not funding and supporting film criticism, and he had a shot at one of the most influential culture jobs in the country, as director of the New York Film Festival. Richard Pena was known to be stepping down at the end of 25 years. So Foundas went for it.
Well, Film Society executive director Rose Kuo knew that she might lose Foundas if she not only gave the top job to former FSLC programmer Kent Jones, but the secondary programming position to her old AFI FEST collleague Robert Koehler. This left Foundas not promoted and stuck where he was. Old chum Thierry Fremaux did recently appoint Foundas as a consultant to the Cannes Film Festival.
During the recent NYFF, as Foundas saw the director reins going to Jones, he moderated a film criticism panel and interviewed critic David Thomson. Foundas was clearly thinking about the role of film critic. The one he gave up. And sorely missed. So he said yes when Brennan asked him to join the Village Voice as its principal film writer. This time, he doesn’t have to edit as well as write. His film reviews and features will appear across Voice Media Group’s print publications, websites and mobile platforms.
“I’ve long admired Scott Foundas’ film writing and I’m delighted to be able to work with him again,” said Brennan. “Scott is a formidable critic and a great addition to the film coverage our papers are known for.”
This hire signals VMG’s new commitment to film coverage. Earlier this year LA Weekly film editor Karina Longworth, who took over for Foundas and had become the newspaper chain’s most high-profile film writer, stepped down as editor to focus on film criticism. Besides Longworth, VMG relies on one full time staff writer, one full time editor, and countless freelancers. According to VMG, the chain’s papers covered more than 750 films last year, and offered feature and festival coverage.