By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Nikki Finke Michael Fleming's Best New Source?
I was struck in recent days that some EXCLUSIVES from Deadline Hollywood/New York that were bylined by Mike Fleming sounded an awful lot more like Nikki, both in style and in source.
Looking on the site, I noticed that Mike has been, in the last couple of weeks, reporting all of the Major Studio stories… and Nikki has been bylined in none, with the exception of box office.
Fleming ran a piece on Sony & Spider-Man, clearly not intended by Sony to get out, but Nikki has friends who gossip loosely close to people who usually feed her the inside story they want out there.
Same with the Hobbit story, that was 100% planted by an interested party – who seems very likely to be at WB – and is not accurate as regards the central subject, Peter Jackson. And of course, neither Jackson and his manager were contacted prior to this gossip running, leaving Team Jackson scratching their collective heads and trying to figure out who was playing games.
(Harry Knowles wrote a piece about both stories and got right what Deadline didn’t… because he actually spoke to principles in both stories, though he quotes neither of his rather obvious sources by name.)
Another odd, inflammatory, studio-source-talking-shit piece was Fleming on the possibility of Paramount getting cold feet on Mission:Impossible 4. So Nikki. So Paramount. Not very Fleming.
Same with the Footloose press release hour-long EXCLUSIVE.
The was even a TOLDJA! on a Lionsgate story with Fleming’s byline.
Meanwhile, Nikki is covering Lionsgate, Summit, The Weinsteins, talent agencies, the futures trading idiocy, Broadcasting & Cable re-reports on Comcast and other Comcast bashing in the name of one of the biggest Nikki Whisperers, Turner Broadcasting, Hasbro, YouTube/Viacom, IMAX, DC Comics, Oscar gossip, Dish Network, WGA, and CBS.
Much of her content is admittedly from (EXCLUSIVE!?!?) press releases by ticket sellers, Summit’s Twilight hype machine, and a number of entries covering the very, very important Harry Potter ride in Florida.
But oddly, not a single solo-byline about a Major Studio from Nikki since she shilled for Paramount’s deal with Redbox on June 15 and the press release that The Last Airbender was moving its release by a day on the morning of the 16th.
It’s not that Fleming hasn’t been busy doing his own work. Stories like a new NY Times Magazine editor… lots of agency signings and deals, primarily leaning on writers… UTA signing spanish-language filmmakers… some spec sales… Fernando Meirelles… a Matt Damon casting… a Night writer deal… a middle manager spinning a studio job exit… Broadway… Graham King… Ruben Fleischer’s deal at Sony… the comedic spin on the marketing turnover at Screen Gems… etc… all sound very, very Mike Fleming.
Overreaching gossip that’s being planted by studio higher-ups? Not really his style. Very Nikki.
I wrote to Nikki:
Subject: Asking in advance, as per your request…
Are you off the major studio beat for your site?
I have been noticing a number of EXCLUSIVE stories under Fleming’s byline – even a Toldja! – that I would normally expect to be coming from you. So I started looking backwards and realized that with the exception of a couple of co-bylined stories, you haven’t written a non-box office word about a single major (MGM doesn’t count) since 11 days ago.
I am pretty sure who handed you the Spider-Man story over the weekend… not Amy or anyone intentionally putting it out there. But I don’t think there is anyone who would be sharing that gossip with Fleming. Same with stuff at WB and Paramount… unless you have them going to Fleming instead of you now… unlikely.
I’m going to write something. I will be clear that I am speculating. Your angry denial is welcome.
“As usual your information is wrong. Everyone in Hollywood but you knows I am very much on the beat and reporting behind the scenes of Deadline and on the website of Deadline.”
Okay… but not really a direct answer to my question. Or maybe it was more informative that it seems at first.
“reporting behind the scenes of Deadline,” is kind of a head scratcher.
I followed up:
“Exactly my point, Nikki.
I know it’s you getting the info. The question is why you aren’t publishing any of it under your name lately?”
“Again you’re wrong.
From Nikki Finke
Well, I am factually correct. She has not been publishing stories about The Majors under her byline in the last 10 days.
Is she feeding Fleming? For the benefit of the site? For the benefit of her studio keepers, who know that Fleming is taken more seriously than Nikki as a straight-player?
Did Paramount and WB suddenly stop calling Nikki and start calling Mike instead? Because if they did, and it wasn’t Nikki’s idea, you would hear the cursing screams from wherever you are reading this right now.
I don’t have the answer.
Maybe it’s her owner. Maybe it’s an unspoken response to the Village Voice suggesting an FTC violation coming from her being paid by Time-Warner while writing about their businesses. Maybe it’s her idea of how to build the Mike Fleming brand so her page doesn’t read like a trade paper laundry list. I don’t know.
Nikki and Mike know. A few executives who covet their ability to leverage Deadline know. None of these people have any motivation to cough up the truth anytime soon… a truth that could be, as noted above, innocent.
And you know, we’ll see if Nikki goes back to doing solids for Paramount and Warners and Universal (aside from slamming Comcast) tomorrow. It could happen.