By request I’m jumping ahead in my coverage of the 2007 LA Film Festival a little bit to mention the poolside chat at the W Hotel last night called Who Let the Blogs Out? Normally I like to write and rewrite until I’ve sucked the very life out of each and every post, but I’m under the gun here so I’m going for more of a stream-of-consciousness thing. Let’s see how it goes. Apologies in advance if it falls on its ass. Ready? Let’s go…
Moderated by Anne Thompson of Variety, the panel featured bloggers who cover different aspects of Hollywood for a living. The panelists included Sasha Stone of Awards Daily (formerly Oscar Watch), Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, and Kate Coe from Fishbowl LA. David Poland of Movie City News, Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood/LA Weekly, Kevin Roderick of LA Observed and Perez Hilton were also invited but did not attend.
Nikki Finke says she wasn’t actually invited to attend the event (My information came from a post made by Mr. Wells. See, it’s jerks like me that give blogs a bad name passing along inaccurate information), Roderick was sick, Hilton is probably still having ‘technical problems’ and Poland…well this is pure speculation on my part, but I think he didn’t want to share the same stage with arch-nemesis Mr. Wells. Sometimes I think those two guys should just get a room, have vigorous, vocal man sex and get it all over with, but that’s not going to happen.
I’ve gotta say though, it would’ve been nice if Poland had showed if not for the fireworks then at least his perspective, but the remaining panelists held their own. Besides, sitting poolside at dusk in a warm LA summer, sipping a Manhattan and talking about movies is pretty much a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, no?
Jeff showed up first, yellow motorcycle helmet in tow and Sasha Stone showed up just before show time. I have no idea when Ms. Coe arrived since, frankly even now I’m not sure I could pick her out of a police line-up if she was wearing an “I’m Kate Coe” t-shirt.
The first impression I had was that it was interesting to see bodies attached to names and attitudes. It reminds me that there are living, breathing human beings behind these blogs and I might have to think twice before flying off and accusing someone of being a douche bag next time…even if they are in fact being douche bags.
After introductions, the panelists talked a little bit about the process. Wells talked about how much of your life the computer can take up though I got the sense he has adjusted pretty well from the deadline oriented world of print journalism, to the 24-hour cycle of the internet. These are not his words precisely but he confessed to a feeling of inadequacy when his competitors beat him to a story or crank out more material than him. I couldn’t help but wonder if this kind of pressure leads a guy like Wells to do just one more Paris Hilton story. Of course I could’ve asked him myself thus making for an interesting story, but I didn’t.
Anyway, if there’s a flaw in the brave not-so-new world of the internet, I think it’s still the demand for immediacy over quality or accuracy. The need to put information out there 24-7 whether it’s useful or even true seems overwhelming. Hell, I’m just a dope with a keyboard and even I feel the pressure to remain on top of things. (and yes I know, a 4 week old review of Knocked Up just isn’t getting it done, so sue me…but wait! This isn’t about me damnit!). Wells even said words to the effect that early is better and giving a story time to breathe just leads to old news. Coe pointed out the value of being able to put something up and to be able to go back and fix it later. That seems like a dubious journalistic practice to me though I admit I’m doing that exact thing as I type these words. Seriously. [Note: As you can see in the comments section, Coe's point about making changes was more about the ability to add to and expand a story as it develops and not sneakily going back and making corrections. Apologies for putting the wrong words into your mouth Kate.]
All the panelists seemed to agree that having nearly instant feedback to everything they wrote was both a challenge and part of the fun.
Relating to the thought that blogging takes over lives, Sasha Stone pointed out that you have to really love doing it if you want to be good at it. I think that’s true and, to me, the best bloggers are the ones whose passion and personality come through. If you want facts on a page you can pick up Variety and wade through their obnoxious slanguage and find out everything you need to know. As maddening as he most often is, Wells has the personality aspect of it down pretty well and it’s that aspect combined with the dialogue provided by readers and commenters that makes the whole idea of blog-reporting so much more interesting than picking up a newspaper and getting your news from On High.
All of the panelists seemed to agree that the newspaper business was not long for this world, though Thompson believes magazines will continue to survive.
There was some difference of opinion about the relationships bloggers can form with filmmakers and publicist and whether this clouds the reportage. Wells didn’t see a conflict of interest at all and he’s made it well known he has friendships with filmmakers such as Mike Binder and George Hickenlooper and that his relationship with Wes Anderson and the Brothers Wilson suffered after (in his opinion) an early, less-than favorable review of The Royal Tenenbaums (example #252 where Wells has completely missed the boat on a movie and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the error of his ways, but that’s another story – don’t even get me started on Sofia Coppola or Stranger Than Fiction). Sasha on the other hand said she thinks it’s wrong to get too close to the people behind the business and she prefers to stay out of it in an attempt to remain impartial. It’s true, she wore her enthusiasm for The Departed on her sleeve during last years’ Oscar race, but she never crossed the line into advocacy, though if Marty had lost…well we won’t even think about that. Anyway, it’s not surprising that Stone has her enthusiasms since Awards Daily seemed to arise from a singular passion and not from some sort of wacky career compass. If she didn’t like doing it, she would do something else.
On the fireworks front, Thompson asked Wells directly what caused his falling out with David Poland. Wells didn’t provide specifics, but it all seemed to boil down to a mutual disagreement on style and tactics. Wells called Poland a know-it-all (my word, not Wells’ – I didn’t take notes) and a jihadist (his word – usage unclear) but was also quick to point out Poland is a likeable fellow and one of the smartest people in town.
It would’ve been nice to see the two go at it live and in person, but you can’t have everything. Overall it was a pretty entertaining evening, though frankly I still have no real idea who Kate Coe is. It’s ok, I’m sure the feeling is mutual.