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question of the day: If ‘Variety’ doesn’t see any future in film criticism, is there any hope for it?

I’ve been feeling very, very depressed lately about the prospects of ever making anything like a reasonable living at this film criticism game. And this shocking news did not help: On Monday, Variety, the legendary Hollywood trade publication, laid off its chief film critic, Todd McCarthy. Editor Tim Gray, in a memo to Variety staffers, said:

It doesn’t make economic sense to have full-time reviewers.

If Variety doesn’t believe that film criticism makes economic sense, maybe that is the case. Maybe film criticism doesn’t make economic sense. In his piece on the McCarthy layoff, Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture writes:

Virtually every survey has shown that younger audiences have zero interest in critics. They take their cues for what movies to see from their peers, making decisions based on the buzz they’ve heard on Facebook, Twitter or some other form of social networking.

If anyone pays any attention to critics at all, it’s through aggregation sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, which offer a consensus score based on an accumulated ranking of critical opinion.

…when you turn your chief reviewer into a freelancer, it certainly tells you, loud and clear, how little value the job has in today’s increasingly critic-unfriendly market.

See, what’s scary here isn’t that Variety is clueless but that Variety may be right.

McCarthy will supposedly continue as a freelance critic for Variety — and that’s a terrible snub, too: “We love what you’re doing, we just want to compensate you less for it.” Or, as Roger Ebert summed it up:

In other words, Variety was hopeful that without a regular pay check, McCarthy would put his life on hold to do a full-time job on a piecemeal basis.

There’s the rub: I don’t think this is the kind of job that can be done well if it’s not done full time… at least, I cannot imagine doing this if I were seeing only one movie a week and reviewing just that one movie. A film critic needs to be immersed in film… and since my overarching thesis is looking at why these movies now, I need to see as many new movies as possible in order to even try to put it all into some context.

The notion of a regular paycheck (not to mention benefits! and vacation time! and sick time!) at this gig feels like an impossible fantasy to me. I had been holding out some hope that something approaching a living that didn’t require me to do other work might be possible between this blog and selling reviews and commentary to other outlets (on Ebert’s piecemeal basis), but lately that feels like a remote possibility, too. It had been taking all the running I could do just to stay in place, and these days I’m having to run even faster, and now I’m losing ground.

Certainly, from my perspective, too, film criticism doesn’t seem to make any economic sense.

So, the question is, If Variety doesn’t see any future in film criticism, is there any hope for it?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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  • Remy Michael

    MaryAnn – Sorry to hear you’ve been down about this, but I’m 100% there are ways to come out on top here.

    First off, I think that this nonsense about film criticism not making economic sense is an exaggerated extension of the woes the print community is feeling with emerging media taking over everything.

    Second, if Variety weren’t a very niche trade publication, their revenue model would be as badly damaged as every other print organization out there. And personally, I think that even they will only be able to maintain their levels for so long.

    I don’t know if you are looking for suggestions, because far be it for me to tell you how to do your job (as you do it quite well), but I know there are other ways to monetize what you do here.

    Have you ever considered doing vlogs in addition to the blog posts? What about some kind of online store with Flick Filosopher merch?

    I am a strong believer in new media, and that given quality online content, anyone can strive. You already have a substantial community here.

    Just my two cents.

  • http://wildandbad.com C David Dent

    I have to agree with you MaryAnne, anyone can review a film, but it takes someone who is immersed in film to critique it.

    I read your reviews because they explore themes of what might have been as well as what is there on the screen. That sort of insight doesn’t come from just seeing films but from understanding them. But increasingly I overhear comments from film viewers in the theater with me that they don’t watch movies to be enlightened culturally but to be entertained.

    To them, film isn’t art but is mass produced consumer goods to be forgotten as soon as it is consumed. And while you could probably argue that the vast (VAST!) majority of it falls in that category and you have to plow through a lot of dross to find the stuff that isn’t, you can’t ignore that there isn’t some genuine art in the offerings. And a critic is an arbiter of that-which-is-art and that-which-is-crap. And this is why I turn to you and a few select other critics to help me discern.

    Life is too short to waste on every bit of crap that looks like art (or thinks it is art) when I can enjoy the things I want to see or that will , in some way, expand my appreciation of the world, or enlighten me culturally, or will uplift my spirit…in other words be art.

    So, please, DON’T give up this “day job” just yet.

  • http://www.themoviescene.co.uk Andy

    I hate to say it but I tend to agree that currently film criticism is not where the money is at. If someone like yourself or Ebert can’t make a living from it through your reviewing what hope has anyone else got. Ebert is exploring other avenues on his site but I honestly don’t see what he is doing as the right route in the long term.

    The thing is that the film scene has vastly changed and the majority of audiences don’t care for something brave, new and original but just want to be entertained. They know what they like and they like what they know. As such there are less people interested in reading reviews from qualified reviewers because they watch a movie because it has a star they like, has lots of special effects or know that it is a certain sort of movie. They don’t care for what a critic has to say.

    As such I am sorry to say I don’t see there being a future in pure film criticism but in subsequent avenues such as merchandising and eBooks. But even then I would see it being a huge struggle.

  • MaryAnn

    As such I am sorry to say I don’t see there being a future in pure film criticism but in subsequent avenues such as merchandising and eBooks. But even then I would see it being a huge struggle.

    Exactly. And ditto with the suggestion above about vlogs. If there isn’t a big enough audience, it doesn’t matter in what form the criticism comes (books, podcasts, whatever) — people still won’t want it.

    I do have an idea for a new avenue for my commentary (though it’ll still be too thinky for a mainstream crowd, probably), but it’s gonna take some time and effort to implement, and more time and effort to keep it ongoing, and I can’t seem to squeeze out that time. Though I keep trying.

    That’s what I mean about having to run faster and faster in the hopes of staying in the same place, but falling behind anyway.

    I’ve done the online merch thing, too, though it was years ago now. It made almost no money, and cost a lot of additional time and effort to keep up with.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Unless I’m wrong, Variety is struggling along with the rest of print media as the internet/information age continues to shake down what works and what doesn’t. Also, as a trade publication, I don’t think Variety’s primary audience is looking for criticism from the magazine. So, they have a point about the economic feasibility of keeping McCarthy on full-time. Still sucks, though.

    Social networking facilitates communication, but it didn’t invent communication. Word of mouth has always been a key factor in film.

    The value of criticism in the artistic process is unquestionable. Its value in the entertainment business is more problematic. There’s also the question of how many professional critics does the medium need? To be sure, I would like MAJ to be among them, but I would be ok if Gene Shalit or A.O. Scott or Leonard Maltin or Rex Reed or Richard Roeper found new callings in life.

  • Magess

    I’m not sure they’re wrong either. How do reviewers in other genres make a living? Or do they?

    Filmspotting.net can’t be making Adam and Matty a living, but they do collect money from it. Maybe it’s the doing a podcast that really helps with that? So it becomes part of people’s weekly routine to tune in? They also try to sell ad spots on the show.

    Would you do a weekly podcast show?

  • Sarah

    Maryann, I know you consider yourself a film critic first and foremost, and I’m not here to tell you that you aren’t. You consistently bring a learned, thoughtful perspective to your reviews of movies, justifying and scrutinizing both your love for and dismissal of each and every film. I see that, and even if I don’t always agree with one of your reviews, I value it.

    That said, you aren’t a film critic. Or rather, you aren’t just a film critic. Sure, Variety can’t pay to carry staffers in the same way it did back in the 20′s, 50′s, or 70′s, when theaters weren’t multiplexes and distributors needed to make informed decisions on what pictures to carry. Maybe major metropolitan critics are suffering too, because people don’t turn to the sunday paper anymore to see a review of a movie that came out on friday and they saw on saturday. But none of those Variety people, none of those major metropolitan people, have built flickfilosopher.com THE BRAND. They might be able to bring the snark, once in a while, on command, because they’ve heard the kids like it voicey these days. They might put up a link every now and again. But Manola Dargis has never made me shoot diet coke out of my nose, and Ty Burr doesn’t give me a retro commerical for Puffs tissue every week. You’re not a critic. You’re the host of a good party, full of hyperliterate film buffs who like Obama and enjoy laughing at giant robots. This is your happening. And that WILL survive.

  • Ryan H

    I think part of the problem is that there are many things that MaryAnn (and people in similar situations) can do like a weekly podcast or merchandise. The problem is that those things don’t bring in any money either. Certainly not in comparison to the extra work they represent. If MaryAnn does twice as much work for a quarter more pageviews than she is getting now it’s not really coming out ahead is it?

    I think part of the problem is that at them moment we are in the middle of a transition. There are a number of revenue streams that have been consistent for half a century or longer (print media, professional TV) and have supported a variety of professions. Those are now being undercut by new technologies and cultures. It’s going to be a while before everything stabilizes into a new status quo with established methods for generating a living.

    The best solution I have seen at the moment for independent professionals is people starting a site (like this one) and generating a fan base. Then they parley that established base into a spot on a more established site with bigger revenue streams like Slate or Salon or one of the Gawker Media sites. Then that gets used to pull more readers back to their personal projects like books and collected editions. Sometimes they can push it further and get into the talking head circuit on TV.

    However, the majority seem to end up getting jobs in related areas and doing sites like this as an income+ value added kind of proposition.

  • MaryAnn

    You’re the host of a good party, full of hyperliterate film buffs who like Obama and enjoy laughing at giant robots. This is your happening. And that WILL survive.

    It will survive only as long as I can manage to keep it going. The prospect of which isn’t looking good, frankly. I do realize that what I’m selling here is myself, which is why I’ve made a point of doing things like tweeting my experiences when I’m checking out the entertainement scene in the U.K., or expanding some of the posts on the weekends here to encompass other things (besides movies and TV) that we all might like to talk about at this big party.

    I’ve worked hard to create the feeling that I’m hosting a big party here, and I value tremendously the regular readers and commenters who are part of that.

    But it still comes down to, if not *enough* people are interested in attending the party I’m throwing, it can’t last.

  • Jester

    Two things to keep in mind here, and both reasons for dedicated film critics not to take this too personally (even though, virtually every film critic I read regularly *is* taking this personally).

    First: Variety isn’t a magazine. It’s a trade publication, not much different in its way than, say, Communications of the ACM. In other words, it’s inwardly focused toward Hollywood and New York, not outwardly focused toward Kansas and Miami. Variety has very little ad space, and relatively few subscribers. You can’t get into a lot of their web content without paying for it. I don’t subscribe, and I’d bet money that the bulk of the people commenting here don’t, either. So, this isn’t the L.A. Times doing this. That’s the first thing.

    Second, and related: Todd McCarthy isn’t a film critic, at least not in the traditional sense. When McCarthy gives you 1200 words on, say, Avatar (http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117941773.html?categoryid=31&cs=1), upwards of 500 of them have nothing to do with the film itself, and focus on technical aspects and the teams that did them, how the film will influence future films or how the actors are influenced by past ones, how it’s likely to do at the box office, et cetera. In short, industry trade information of little interest to the casual film-goer.

    McCarthy is saying today that he has “no firm offer” from Variety even for freelance work. That means he’s not under any contract. Which presumably means that he’s welcome to take offers from all comers. You can start taking it personally if he doesn’t get any. ;-)

    One final note: it was interesting to me (as a business leader myself) the critics that Variety did keep on staff. Two of the three are editors, the third is their chief TV critic (who also works in other areas). The message here is clear: people in any industry with one skill-set are going to lose their jobs to people with multiple skill-sets. And that applies regardless of how good you are in that single skill-set.

  • Magess

    I think part of the problem is that there are many things that MaryAnn (and people in similar situations) can do like a weekly podcast or merchandise. The problem is that those things don’t bring in any money either

    It’s not just pages views, though. It’s generating willing donators. I know she’s tried different subscriber/donation schemes in the past, offering people special prizes if they join the club. What I’m wondering, and I guess what you could only determine by trying, is whether a show format is one that convinces people to give up the money moreso than a blog.

    People who make popular podcasts get on radio stations. Do they get paid for that? I hope so. Maybe it makes ad space in their show more valuable? I don’t know, but it seems to me a more marketable “item” that draws in all the other social networking, you bring in feedback via twitter, email, forums, blog comments, read them and comment “on air” which gets more of that community/big party aspect going.

  • markyd

    I see it every day. People who simply do not care about the opinions of critics. Just the word “critics” alone is used as a bad word and is generally prefaced with unflattering adjectives.
    “I don’t give a S&%t what a F@#&*ng critic has to say! I’ll see what I want to see!”
    As if “critics” we’re one entity made of pure evil. They are most certainly not people like you and me! That would take all the fun of away.
    *sighs*
    For some reason this type of behavior still surprises me. I’d like to think most people are not morons, but it’s becoming harder and harder.
    People simply do not want to think about things they deem simply as entertainment. Where I would love to get into a 4 hour discussion of a movie, most people I know simply are not interested. They see it, say “That was awesome/hilarious/sucky”, then ask whats for dinner. My wife is like this ,and it frustrates the hell out of me!
    I love your site, and come here several times a day. I often refer to it in conversations with others(to blank stares, sadly). I’d love to see you survive for a long time, making lots of cash in the process. Unfortunately, the modern environment just isn’t that conducive to your way of doing things.

  • MaryAnn

    People who make popular podcasts get on radio stations. Do they get paid for that? I hope so.

    I’ve been on the radio lots of times. I’ve been on TV a couple of times. I’ve never gotten paid for any of it. And I’ve never seen any noticable jump in traffic because of any of it, either.

  • http://paulliver.livejournal.com/ Paul

    I think things will get worse before they get better. “Information wants to be free, writers want to get paid.” That’s the new contradiction of capitalism in the Information Age.

    Fifty years ago, writers for mid-list magazines were getting paid 5 cents on the word and making a living. Now they’re getting 5 cents on the word and have day jobs. (I picked 5 cents because that is the official cut off between pro and semi-pro in my field, but the is obviously wide in both directions). Lots of magazines have been struggling for years. Lots of literary magazines only survive because they’re subsidized by universities. It was even argued that universities should do more of this, but I think that was before the Great Recession slashed their endowments.

    Where did I get my first exposure to classical music and intellectual humor? Well, my parents, but in the public realm it was PBS, the government subsidized channel. And when did the government remove the rule that TV channels had to set aside a certain amount of time for the public good instead of public entertainment? That was usually the most intellectual time on TV, but I think it was revoked.

    I realize this may not make you feel better, MaryAnn, but at least you know that you’re not alone. I suspect I’ll always have a day job to support my fiction, too.

  • Lisa

    It’s happening all over though I know people working overtime for free just to keep their day jobs.

  • Magess

    I’ve been on the radio lots of times. I’ve been on TV a couple of times. I’ve never gotten paid for any of it. And I’ve never seen any noticable jump in traffic because of any of it, either.

    Been on the radio as in hosted a show or been a guest? Maybe it doesn’t matter when it comes down to the cash anyway… I think in the case of hosting, it’s the show that becomes the product, not the site, so while it could be a case of trying to drive traffic to the site through making a splash on the air, it could also be a case of trying to drive traffic to the show (for ads sales or whatever).

    Like has been said, it actually probably isn’t worth the effort, I just don’t know what else there is to try that you haven’t already tried. :(

    Is there anyone you could partner with? Presumably sites like Television Without Pity started with a few likeminded folks pooling their resources.

  • luddite

    You are wonderful writer. I love reading your reviews whether or not I am interested in the movie. A compilation of your reviews marketed well, perhaps with a release date around Christmas, might do really well.

  • funWithHeadlines

    Virtually every survey has shown that younger audiences have zero interest in critics. They take their cues for what movies to see from their peers

    And…? Since when has this ever NOT been true? Young people never listen to adults, but only to their peers. How they reach those peers has changed, of course, but the principle is the same generation after generation. They will grow up, and then they’ll start finding it interesting to see what adults think. They’ll be one too.

    Variety is dead because print is dead.

    Film criticism will always live because the opinions of experts will be valued in any area. Your voice, MaryAnn, will reach an audience because we like your voice. Some of us have supported you financially in the past, and we will gladly do so again in the future. Maybe it’s not enough to reach your dream level, but times and technology change. Maybe you’ll create the best iPad app that, at a buck a pop, provides you with cash. Maybe you’ll get a columnist job that pays well. You have a reputation built up, and I cannot believe you won’t get something out of it sooner or later.

  • MaryAnn

    A compilation of your reviews marketed well, perhaps with a release date around Christmas, might do really well.

    It might, and I’ve had such a compilation on my to-do list for a couple of years, actually. I just haven’t had the time to actually compile it. And design it. And proofread it.

    My *Princess Bride* book has actually sold astonishingly well, for a self-published book with no promotion to speak of: 2,000 copies or so (over three and a half years). It works out to about enough each month to cover my T-Mobile wireless bill (which lets me work in Starbuckses in between screenings).

    Young people never listen to adults, but only to their peers. How they reach those peers has changed, of course, but the principle is the same generation after generation. They will grow up, and then they’ll start finding it interesting to see what adults think. They’ll be one too.

    You think? Have you looked around? There is practically no genuine adult discourse in our culture. There is practically no public discourse that does not revolve around gossip, scandal, outrage, and competition. There is practically no discourse of any substance. There isn’t anything for kids to turn to once they become (ostensible) adults.

    Maybe it’s not enough to reach your dream level

    My dream level is just to be able to make a living. Nothing fancy. Just not having to worry whether I’m gonna come up short at the end of each month. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. I don’t expect I’ll ever be able to buy a house, or live in Manhattan. It might be nice to be able to take a day off once in a while, and to not have to juggle other work at the same time.

    And I know, of course, that many people are struggling in the same way these days. So perhaps that means I am in the same boat as auto workers: our jobs don’t exist anymore. There is no demand for them.

    Maybe you’ll create the best iPad app that, at a buck a pop, provides you with cash.

    Well, that’s an interesting suggestion, but it’s about as likely as me discovering a cure for cancer. I’m not a programmer: I don’t have the skills to create an iPad app. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’m already wasting too much time having to learn the technical stuff needed to keep this blog running and to upgrade the site. And I haven’t been able to find time to deal with that learning curve, which is why I still haven’t been able to finish migrating the site to a newer version of Movable Type, which might conceivably help boost traffic with some of its community features. If I can ever get it done.

    It’s great that I’ve been able to create my own soapbox on the Web. But, you know, Pauline Kael didn’t have to typeset her own writing, or copyedit it, or run and repair the presses that printed her reviews. She just had to go to the movies and write about them.

    Maybe you’ll get a columnist job that pays well. You have a reputation built up, and I cannot believe you won’t get something out of it sooner or later.

    Thank you. I appreciate that. But I’m not so optimistic.

    Look, all of this isn’t really about me. It’s about the state of our culture, which simply does not value even the slightest hint of intellectualism. It’s not even like I write dense dissertations on German expressionism. I write mostly about the most popular of movies. And still most people are simply not interested in really *thinking* about such things — they just want to shut their brains off and not think at all. The very purpose of many of these movies is to get people to turn their brains off.

    I’m not talking about those of you reading this site, obviously. I’m talking about all the many readers who are not here and will never come here because it does not offer them anything they’re interested in.

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    There is practically no genuine adult discourse in our culture. There is practically no public discourse that does not revolve around gossip, scandal, outrage, and competition. There is practically no discourse of any substance. There isn’t anything for kids to turn to once they become (ostensible) adults. [...] It’s about the state of our culture, which simply does not value even the slightest hint of intellectualism. [...] most people are simply not interested in really *thinking* about such things — they just want to shut their brains off and not think at all.

    MaryAnn, I don’t think this is true. It is true that there’s a lot of idiocy in our culture, but the grown-ups are talking as well. Maybe what’s happening today is that public discourse is fragmented instead of being universal, but there are places to go, online and in the real world, to find intelligent people exploring important issues and interesting art.

    On the Internet, there’s your site, obviously, and great politics-and-culture blogs like Andrew Sullivan’s; and recently I’ve been impressed to discover all the hundreds (it seems) of websites dedicated to discussing the schism between science and religion. There are author readings and book signings (and not just for trashy bestsellers). There are book fairs: the annual outdoor Brooklyn Book Festival always draws big crowds to hear authors of all kinds speak. The New York Public Library’s program “NYPL Live” offers public lectures and debates that, in my experience, have nearly always sold out (I’ve seen, among others, Umberto Eco; and Christopher Hitchens debating Al Sharpton; and Margaret Atwood talking with Thomas Cahill; and plan on seeing Philip Pullman in May)–and many of these talks are available to view via YouTube or iTunes. Next week the Hayden Planetarium is hosting a panel of scientists debating the future of NASA. Museums set aside certain hours for free admission, and at such times the lines go out the door and around the block. There’s public radio: Leonard Lopate and Radiolab and Terry Gross are all available as free podcasts from npr.org or wnyc.org. Cosmos is freely available, all 13 episodes of it, on Hulu. There are the TED talks and Fora TV. And so on.

    I’m not saying that intelligent discourse is predominant in our culture–only that it’s there, more than just “the slightest hint” of it, for anyone who seeks it out. And from what I’ve seen, many do.

    Of course, none of this is to downplay your very real financial difficulties, and I do hope things look up for you soon.

  • Magess

    An iPad app isn’t a bad idea. Do you know any programmers? Have any readers who are programmers who’d be willing to do it just to help out? Subscribing to a weekly array of reviews might be marketable.

    Same goes for updating the website, actually. Do you have contacts who could do that sort of thing just to volunteer?

  • Dokeo

    I’m not saying that intelligent discourse is predominant in our culture–only that it’s there, more than just “the slightest hint” of it, for anyone who seeks it out. And from what I’ve seen, many do.

    I think Bluejay’s right. So the question becomes, how do we get more of these curious, engaged, thinking people to come here? Maybe you could steal what I think is a great idea from Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project at http://www.happiness-project.com (sorry, don’t know how to make this a link). She has “Word of Mouth Day” – once a week she concludes a post with a simple request: if you like her site, forward the link to someone you think would be interested. It’s free, easy, and could do a lot to boost your traffic.

    Also – I’d absolutely buy a ff T-shirt if it had snarky blurbs from your greatest hits.

  • MaryAnn

    An iPad app isn’t a bad idea. Do you know any programmers? Have any readers who are programmers who’d be willing to do it just to help out? Subscribing to a weekly array of reviews might be marketable.

    Well, that’s not really an app — that’s a feed. That’s basically what is already available on Kindle. I’m sure there will be something similar for the iPad, but that’s not a matter of programming.

    And still, that’s just the same content going out in a different form. It won’t make any difference if the audience isn’t there.

    Same goes for updating the website, actually. Do you have contacts who could do that sort of thing just to volunteer?

    I don’t know any programmers, and if I did, I would never ask them to work for free. After all the railing I’ve done about writers who are expected to work for free? I wouldn’t do it. Professionals deserve to be paid for their work and should expect to be paid for it.

    I think Bluejay’s right.

    Well, Bluejay isn’t wrong, per se, but TED and book fairs and free museum nights are all on the fringes of our culture. And yes, you do have to know they’re there in order to seek them out. It used to be that you couldn’t avoid intelligent discourse: it was there when you turned on the TV or opened a newspaper. Sure, there was crap there, too, but now there’s only crap. And even within the niche of intelligent discourse that does exist these days, even that’s niche-ified further. Not everyone of those people who do go out of their way to seek out intelligent discourse care about movies.

    So the question becomes, how do we get more of these curious, engaged, thinking people to come here? Maybe you could steal what I think is a great idea from Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project at http://www.happiness-project.com (sorry, don’t know how to make this a link). She has “Word of Mouth Day” – once a week she concludes a post with a simple request: if you like her site, forward the link to someone you think would be interested. It’s free, easy, and could do a lot to boost your traffic.

    That’s not a bad idea. Part of what will be included when I can finish the site update is an easy way to have comments simultaneously posted to Twitter, for instance.

  • MaryAnn

    Also – I’d absolutely buy a ff T-shirt if it had snarky blurbs from your greatest hits.

    That’s great. But a LOT of people would have to be willing to do so, to make it worth the time and effort it takes to create and administer such stuff. And in my experience, not enough people are generally interested.

  • Paul

    I agree that there’s intelligent discourse, but I also agree that it needs looking for. It’s less and less on the TV news, that’s for sure. The ignorant are louder so they become the news so the news is about ignorant ideas instead of informed ones. Not all the news, but enough that it’s not worth watching.

    And the root problem is that people would rather believe nonsense that justifies bigotry or just plain not paying taxes than evidence that disproves them. I’ve had conversations where I back conservatives into a corner by disproving all their justifications and eventually they just say, “Look, I don’t want to pay taxes, okay?” “Okay.”

    And the Not Paying Taxes crowd doesn’t always agree with the “Gays go Home” and “Obama’s not an American (WASP)” crowd, but they’re willing to be in bed with them to keep their economic policies in place.

  • Magess

    I don’t know any programmers, and if I did, I would never ask them to work for free. After all the railing I’ve done about writers who are expected to work for free? I wouldn’t do it. Professionals deserve to be paid for their work and should expect to be paid for it.

    Isn’t one of the reasons for having friends and fans to turn to them when you need them?

    I understand your point completely. But if it’s really getting in the way of making the site into what you need…

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    Well, Bluejay isn’t wrong, per se, but TED and book fairs and free museum nights are all on the fringes of our culture.

    Huh! I must be more fringe than I thought. Me and all the young and old people who packed the exhibit of Jane Austen’s papers at the Morgan Museum last weekend. ;-)

    But really, is anything even fringe anymore? In a culture as fragmented as ours, don’t we all just inhabit subcultures? Maybe each subculture feels that all the other subcultures are just part of the same monolithic moronic mass.

    One encouraging sign: NPR listenership is *way* up–about 21 million as of last year, I believe. If that’s a fringe group, it’s a pretty big one.

    And even within the niche of intelligent discourse that does exist these days, even that’s niche-ified further. Not everyone of those people who do go out of their way to seek out intelligent discourse care about movies.

    Point taken. For what it’s worth, I’ve talked you up on my blog, so you can expect my legion of 2 or 3 readers to check you out. :-D

  • http://bzero.livejournal.com Bzero

    Hmm… Will MovableType upgrades ever allow for hassle-free FF+ accounts? Sign up for access to troll-free discussion threads, where movie fans can discuss films free of ‘UR BIASTS!’ distractions? I’d pay a monthly fee for that, just to support the site! B)

    As for FF merch — maybe a Cafe Press-type setup, where you just send them a couple of logo designs and snarky quotes you aleady have lying around, and they do all the rest of the work for a cut of the profits? Might not make you too much money, but it might be another cover-my-Internet kind of small help…

    We want this site to last, MaryAnn! B) Let us know how to help! B)

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    We want this site to last, MaryAnn! B) Let us know how to help! B)

    I think Bzero speaks for everyone here. :-)

  • MaryAnn

    Isn’t one of the reasons for having friends and fans to turn to them when you need them?

    The kind of attention this site needs is well beyond the realm of simple favor.

    But if it’s really getting in the way of making the site into what you need…

    It’s true: that’s does seem to be the American way. Don’t let principle interfere with getting ahead. :->

    Hmm… Will MovableType upgrades ever allow for hassle-free FF+ accounts? Sign up for access to troll-free discussion threads, where movie fans can discuss films free of ‘UR BIASTS!’ distractions?

    Yes, there will be better community features when I can finish the upgrade.

    As for FF merch — maybe a Cafe Press-type setup, where you just send them a couple of logo designs and snarky quotes you aleady have lying around, and they do all the rest of the work for a cut of the profits?

    I’ve done the Cafe Press thing before. It’s a lot of work — you can’t just send them whatever you’ve got lying around — for very little return. There’s only so many T-shirts most people can own. So even when a few people decided to pay $20 for a T-shirt at Cafe Press, only a couple of bucks would end up with me. If it had offered a better return, I would have kept up with it. Maybe I’ll look into it again in the future, if I can find the time.

    I appreciate all the suggestions and offers here. I really do. But that’s really not what I was looking for. The fact is that my audience is not big enough for asking for donations or putting part of the site behind a paywall to make any significant difference. The fact is that what I have to offer appears not to be of interest to enough people to make it viable. If that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is.

  • tweeks

    The fact is that what I have to offer appears not to be of interest to enough people to make it viable. If that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is.

    We’ve been focusing on the site, but if FF closes down, what happens to you, MaryAnn? Where will all your creative energies go? Into your work? Or do you plan to save some for personal projects–even if they don’t make it online?

  • MaryAnn

    I have no idea what happens to me. I know what I’d like to do, but what I’d like to do and what I can make a living at are two wildly different things.