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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Cinematical’s Scott Weinberg Resigns Over TechCrunch/Moviefone Battle

Cinematical’s Managing Editor Scott Weinberg called me yesterday to let me know that he resigned Tuesday over the Moviefone/TechCrunch issue. Here’s Scott, in his own words, on why he quit:

As I tweeted a few days ago, the specific people (although many of them have been laid off recently) I’ve worked with at Moviefone were always very professional to me. And yes, that definitely includes Patricia Chui. I have serious complaints about what’s happened to Cinematical over the last year, but I have no idea who those complaints should be directed towards. I do know that it’s not the “fault” of the Moviefone team, who always showed Cinematical respect as a separate entity.

I chose to stay as long as I did because I love the entire Cinematical team, and I’m really proud of the site Erik Davis and I inherited (which was already pretty excellent) and then, hopefully, improved upon. I chose to leave when I did because, frankly, I didn’t like what I was hearing about the Huffington Post / AOL partnership in relation to the people who actually SIT DOWN AND CREATE THE CONTENT. The TechCrunch story was probably just the ass-kick I needed.

My only regret is that my frustration compelled me to quit “effective immediately,” which leaves Erik Davis, Pete Hall, and the rest of our team without an extra editor during one of the busiest film festivals of the year. I’m also concerned that I indirectly knocked Patricia and the Moviefone team, which was definitely not my intention. Whatever the future holds for Moviefone, they need more people like Ms, Chui; not fewer.

-Scott Weinberg

7 Responses to “Cinematical’s Scott Weinberg Resigns Over TechCrunch/Moviefone Battle”

  1. Senh says:

    That’s too bad. Scott’s one of the hardest working writers I’ve known. AOL’s loss. Cinematical seems like it finally got merged into Moviefone with the current design.

    It’s always a tough battle and balancing act with editorial and studios. The reality is the studios pay the bills.

    When Scott was writing for RT, we had a similar request regarding one of his articles. We told the studios we would “tone it down” by changing the word “shit” to “crap.” They weren’t too happy about that. Although I have to say being the guy in the middle wasn’t fun.

    Good luck with your future endeavors, Scott.

  2. Kim Voynar says:

    Senh, I agree with you that with this iteration, Cinematical appears (at least visually) to have finally been consumed by AOL and Moviefone.

    And Scott is not only one of the hardest working writers I know, he’s also fair and honest and a genuinely good guy who worked his ass off buffering Cinematical’s team from AOL in a thousand ways they will probably never know.

    It is AOLs loss, but AOL never appreciates what they have — they sure as hell never did when it came to any of the Weblogs properties. Their attitude, since they acquired Cinematical and the other Weblogs sites, was always that the people who wrote for and edited those sites were disposable and interchangeable, and I have no reason to believe it’s changed since I left.

    If anything, with Queen Bee-yatch Arianna Huffington at the content helm, the attitude around there toward the writers will only get worse. If I hadn’t already left several years ago, there’s no way in hell I’d write for them now.

  3. Don R. Lewis says:

    Kudos to Scott for standing up to this type of behavior but I have to wonder, is this emblematic of the situation created when sites get too cozy with studios and filmmakers?? I see the “hey, can you tone it down?” type of stuff in line with buying critics good buzz and reviews by having bloggers at set visits.

    The line has been totally, totally blurred between the “critic” and the film fan who runs a site. A writer should never have to run ANYTHING by a studio or filmmaker and if the risk for going against what they want in the name of, you know, HONESTY, then what do we do?

    If we (writers) can all say “fuck off” to the studio and their buying of writers opinions, maybe something will change. Otherwise real film writing is truly dead or, vastly watered down by hundreds of useless writers who want to meet celebrities.

  4. Kim Voynar says:

    Don, to a degree this problem is proliferate across film sites, but you have to know where your editorial line in the sand is. And I think this is probably easier to maintain that line when you’re working for yourself, or for a small site like MCN than when you’re writing for a site that’s a part of a huge corporate machine, where relationships with studios are managed by business people who sell the ads and make the deals.

    I can think of a handful of times when I’ve been directly approached by a studio — or publicist, or filmmaker — about a negative review I wrote. Not naming names, they know who they are, and I have a long memory for that shit. I can say, though, that this has not happenend to me (from a publicist or studio person, anyhow) once since I came on board MCN 3 1/2 years ago. Most of the publicists and studio people who know me, know better.

    I have chosen to not write a review of a film at a fest if I don’t like it, but that’s generally because it’s a small little indie that the director financed off credit cards and his grandmother’s retirement, and just because it didn’t connect with me doesn’t mean it won’t connect with other people, so why be an asshole and slam it?

    For many of the film journos I know, part of the game is being able to write exactly what you think without compromise 99.5% of the time — while also having the access to screenings and, for some of us, talent for interviews as well — and that means knowing when to give a little. The old “Eh, I’m interviewing this unknown director at Sundance; it’s a reach-around for the publicist so I can interview (INSERT A or B List Talent Name) from their other film and sell that interview to (INSERT one of the few outlets that actually pays decently) and pay my rent next month.”

    Sometimes you do an interview or see a film as a favor to a publicist who’s done you a lot of solids, because in this business your friends are also your colleagues and competitors, and smart journalists know that the publicity people are not our enemies, they are just working a different angle of the game. They need us for coverage, we need them for access. The good publicists know how to balance that, and they know not when not to push you for a review because if you haven’t written anything two days after seeing their little film at Sundance or Toronto, probably you hated it and are being kind in not running a harsh review.

    Happens all the time, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t is either lying out their ass, or so new to the business that they don’t yet have any relationships to maintain. I’m not saying anyone should run ANYTHING by a studio or publicist or filmmaker before running it. But I do think those relationships play a part in the choices a lot of writers make.

    And then there’s the reality that this is a small insular community, where everyone knows everyone else, and friendships cross lines between press and publicity and filmmaking a lot. Hell, a lot of us work in at least two out of three of those fields simultaneously. A good percentage of films I see at a fest, I know the filmmaker, or people who worked on the film, or people who star in the film, and I still have to write about their film honestly, or not at all.

  5. Jane Boursaw says:

    Having written for several AOL sites, including Moviefone, PopEater and TV Squad (where I was also an editor), I can tell you that some of those sites began a slow-motion death spiral beginning last year — especially when a new editorial regimen took over during the merge of TV Squad and AOL TV. I won’t name names, but some of those editors have no clue how to work with their writers. Rather than using the writers’ skills and years of experience to build up the site, the editors resort to bullying and insults. The result is horrible working conditions.

    One TV Squad editor saw the writing on the wall with AOL/HuffPo and left a few weeks ago before the axe came down. A few of the editors I worked with are still there, and I would not be sad to see them tossed out into the cyber-world to start over from the bottom. I witnessed some really nasty, insensitive behavior during my AOL years, and it seriously tested my faith in humanity for a while there.

  6. Kim Voynar says:

    Jane, I hear you. I had good reasons for leaving Cinematical, after spending the better part of four years of my life helping build something pretty cool.

  7. paul says:

    It’s probably not going to make anyone happy, but David Poland saw it coming from a mile away and if the tweets aren’t deleted, it wouldn’t be too hard see it in his tweet timeline. As for myself, I missed the Cinematical I had come to know the minute it was redressed as a sub-site of Moviefone. The site that once was one of my favorites had disappeared and despite Cinematical still on the header, it just wasn’t the same.

Politics

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch