Bugged Thoughts…about the Print/Internet schism…

Over the last week or so, several articles about the recent spate of film critic firings or retirements have been making the rounds. These articles have all been lamenting the loss of PRINT film critics in some of the most influential papers in the country. Much has been made of the fact that the Village Voice cut its film critic staff in half a couple of weeks ago.

Today, Variety’s Anne Thompson chimed in on the crisis thusly:

Over the years, critics helped audiences appreciate the likes of Orson Welles’ "Citizen Kane," Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho," Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey," Arthur Penn’s "Bonnie and Clyde," Bernardo Bertolucci’s "Last Tango in Paris," Brian De Palma’s "Dressed to Kill," Robert Altman’s "The Player," the Coens’ "No Country for Old Men" and Paul Thomas Anderson’s "There Will Be Blood." Where would we have been without them? It will soon be up to Pajiba or Cinematical Indie to influence readers to seek out small releases once heralded by critics.

Once again, the print critic is implying that the internet critic is less legitimate than themselves.

Can’t we all just get along?

Why must print critics, and the entire movie industry, treat internet critics as though their criticisms are less important? Why does Ms Thompson (of whose weekly column I am a huge fan) insist on implying that it’s not good that readers seek out Cinematical Indie or Pajiba (or PNR, IFS, or some other internet critic) over the opinions in the print newspapers?

I just don’t get it. Why are our opinions not every bit as valid as, say, the fantastic A.O. Scott of The New York Times or Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times? Didn’t they have to start somewhere also?

And it isn’t just the print journalists, either.

It’s the studios themselves.

Over the past three years, I have worked myself crazy trying to get Popcorn N Roses accepted as a legitimate media outlet by the Hollywood studios. We are accredited members of the International Press Association, and members of several other media groups. Yet because we’re on the internet, many studios consider us unworthy of being included for press screenings and screeners. I can’t even get most of the major studios to accept us as part of their press group that is able to access information, press kits and photos for upcoming features from the internet.

SOME indie companies have been very willing to work with us – and for that, we’re forever grateful. Filmmakers also consider us to be a legitimate source of publicity, which is why we’ve been quoted on a number of movie release sites, and even on the DVD cover for a recent release. We were even good enough to be accepted as a contributor to Movie City News’ end of year critics roundup in 2007.

So why are the studios so reticent to cooperate with sites like ours?

In a word, paranoia. It all springs from their fear of piracy.

And yet, by denying us the materials and access to what we need to do our elected jobs, the studios only screw themselves. Indie filmmakers know this – they know that word of mouth, and good press coverage on independent websites, can help their movies get noticed. That’s why so many indie filmmakers have been very good to internet writers like myself and to podcasts like Subject:CINEMA – they know we can be counted on to give an honest assessment of the product, and also spread the word about their films.

The Mumblecore movement could NEVER have taken off the way it did without the JOINT help of the print media and the internet press. If it had just been one or the other, it would have fizzled out very quickly. But because indie filmmakers like the Duplass brothers, Joe Swanburg, and Aaron Katz have worked both sides – print and internet – they have huge fans on both sides of the journalism tree. And they know that both are important.

It’s a shame that the Hollywood studios, and the majority of the print media, can’t grasp this fact. We’re here because we love film, and want to help, not to harm. And the one percent of people out there who DO pirate films are not the majority of sites and writers.

It’s time for print journalists to quit slagging on internet journalists, time for the studios to give internet journalists the legitimacy they work hard for and deserve to have, and stop playing favorites.

If the print industry and the movie industry keep trying to make enemies of the internet, they’ll both end up on the slag heap…just like the once thriving now completely and utterly morally and financially bankrupt music and record industry.

And it DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. But it is bound to happen, so long as the industry continues to shoot itself in the foot.

(Ann’s entire Variety article is at
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117983482.html?categoryid=2508&cs=1 and well worth the read!)