The Vacation Read: What do you think of the state of online movie reporting?

Yes, that’s right… I’m on vacation.

Right now, my family and I are on a private jet traveling the globe and having amazing adventures.  Or we’re at my house and laying around in the pool.  Whichever version makes you happy, feel free to picture that.  The point is, I’m taking a week away from writing here at HitFix to relax before we start the insane crush of work that kicks off with our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6.

In the meantime, I’m going to be publishing a topic for conversation every day between now and when I come back, and I am going to ask you guys to carry the weight here.  I’ve said in many place, during podcasts and in articles and even in person, that I consider all of this a conversation.  It doesn’t work in a vacuum.  It doesn’t work if it’s just me talking at you.  You are an essential part of the equation, and that’s why I want this week to work a little different.

I handled myself badly in our comments section recently, and while I admitted that and addressed the people I feel I treated poorly, it made me realize that one of the things I really want to work on in the future here at the site is the sense of community that can existing comments sections or on message boards.  For that to work, I need to get to know you guys a little more.  When you write about film every day the way I do, you will end up revealing quite a bit about yourself whether you mean to or not.  There are things I’ve shared with my readers that I never set out to reveal.  It is simply a by-product of writing about film over a long period of time.  Films cover so much ground and so many subjects that if you’re being honest and digging deep, you will lay yourself bare, and you have to accept that you are giving up pieces of yourself in an effort to do good, honest work.

I want the same from you guys.  I want to use this week to get to know who you are.  I want you to participate, and not just two or three of you.  I’ve seen the traffic numbers.  I know there are a vast majority of you who are frequently silent, and I would love to see that change.  I always feel like things work better when I don’t view “you” as an impersonal mass, but as individuals.  I want your feedback, and even when I don’t like the feedback or when it’s hard for me to hear, I do take it seriously.  I may not work for you in the sense that any of you sign my paycheck, but I do work for you in the sense that none of what I write matters if there are no readers out there to appreciate it or engage with it.

One thing I’ve heard a few times recently is that there are things some of you want that you aren’t getting from the site.  On a recent Saturday night, I was at home and working, and I decided to read a draft of the “Robocop” remake.  Now, I don’t do script reviews anymore.  I haven’t done that in several years, and one of the conversations I had with Greg Ellwood when I first signed up to join the HitFix team is that many of the types of things I did at Ain’t It Cool were going to be left behind, that they wouldn’t fit into the overall editorial thrust of HitFix.  I was happy to make the shift, too.  Things change and evolve over time, and the work I do now isn’t nearly as intrusive as it was at Ain’t It Cool.  We absolutely dropped ourselves into the process at that site, and there were many people who hated or resented that, who felt we had no right at all to do so.  There were just as many people who considered that the most exciting thing about Ain’t It Cool, and they miss it now.

As I read that “Robocop” script, I ended up Tweeting about some of the details and some of the things that really turned me off about it.  I wouldn’t call it anything like a “script review,” because I wasn’t treating it as anything formal.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when I woke up the next day, dozens of sites had picked up my Tweets, collected them, and published them as news.  It ended up causing quite a bit of turmoil, and there were some behind-the-scenes events this week that illustrated to me just how fast and how far this sort of thing travels these days.

Part of that is because there’s an intense level of scrutiny and anxiety focused on a “Robocop” remake already, and any details about it were immediately scrutinized.  That’s the reason I was curious, and I should have realized how curious all of you were as well.  But part of that is also because there’s basically no one these days doing the sort of work that we did so frequently at AICN.  Maybe Latino Review is the last high-profile site running script reviews, and each and every time, they are huge traffic drivers for them.

My question today is this:  do you miss the way things used to be?  There is a different level of acceptance on the part of the studios these days.  They all treat the Internet differently than they did when I first attended ShoWest in 1999, and they market to the online community in ways that never existed until now.  Part of being accepted by the studios, though, involves playing by certain rules, and you can’t constantly publish things the studios hate and also expect to be given access from the studios.  A scoop is one thing, but any sort of in-depth conversation about spoilers is pretty much the kiss of death.  I’m not sure a site like the original Ain’t It Cool could even operate today, but I am sure that many of you miss the sort of information you would get from us in those days.  Are you one of those people?  How long have you been reading about movies online?  If you could design the perfect movie site, what would it look like?  Do you love official interviews and set visits, or do you prefer the wild west days when the studios controlled nothing and you had access to all sorts of things?  Is a balance between those two approaches possible, and if so, what would that even look like?  Ultimately, who are we responsible to, and what do you think matters most?

I look forward to reading your responses to this and all the other topics this week, and I’m thanking you in advance for participating, even if you don’t normally participate.  If you guys don’t respond, this is going to be a very slow week here on the blog.  I’m counting on you, and I hope that by the time I return next Monday, I’ll know a lot more about you, and that I can use your answers to help make Motion/Captured even better.