Classic Film : A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

NB: Edited for correct email address. Serves me right for typing so fast. Apologies to anyone who emailed the wrong one

First of all, apologies to all those of you who have sent me PMs that I haven't replied to. I'm in an area with spotty internet access this weekend (it's very hilly, so I have to go to the attic to get a signal if the weather's bad). I'll reply in more detail later, but in the interim events with the IMDB have led me to have serious thoughts about instigating an idea I've been mulling over for some time that may solve some of the problems the closure of the message boards presents. Because I‘m not known for my brevity, I'll put it to the boards for your consideration in the next post.

If it is of interest or if you want to contact me, I've set up a dedicated email account:

EDIT - Moviefile2017@gmail.com

Don't be offended if it takes me some time to reply – I won't be back and running at my usual address until late on Tuesday.



"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

Backstory

A few of you may know that back in the 90s I edited a UK magazine called Movie Collector (http://thumbs4.picclick.com/d/w1600/pict/361749851471_/Movie-Collector-8-Wicker-Man-Private-Life-Sherlock-Holmes-Star.jpg). Despite the title it wasn't just devoted to videos, laser discs or other aspects of film collecting at the time but was devoted to classic film history as well as (to an admittedly lesser extent) European cinema and film music. There were articles on the production of films (an admittedly esoteric mix that could veer from The Adventures of Robin Hood to Where Eagles Dare, The Wicker Man, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Among the people we interviewed were Richard Fleischer, Ray Harryhausen, Robert Wise, John Frankenheimer, Claude Chabrol, Takeshi Kitano, John Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Kenneth Hyman, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, Freddie Young, Danny Elfman, Basil Poledouris, Laurie Johnson, Stanley Cortez, Michael Wadleigh, among others, But we also interviewed production managers, cinematographers, costume designers, stuntmen and crew members who don't usually get talked to – often the best source of what happened on a film set - for a more rounded view of a film's production. Rather than a fanzine, this was a professional produced color magazine that was widely available on UK newsstands. It's been imitated since, but not on quite the same scale.

Our greatest strength as a magazine was that, a few early missteps notwithstanding, it wasn't just opinion but a body of knowledgeable contributors offering informed opinion. I'd often thought that some of the posters here were so knowledgeable I'd have snagged them for contributors in a heartbeat the past, and amid the few but vocal nutters, trolls and fanboys there's also a real wealth of knowledge it would be a shame to see scattered to the four winds. Why not draw on it? Create a community which the community element is a key part of its financing and existence rather than an inconvenience to corporate thinking? While I can draw back some of the original contributors, they're now spread as far afield as Czechoslovakia and Kansas via Scotland, Santa Monica and Munich – but that's not the problem it once was in the internet age. (There's also a large bank of unpublished interviews and articles) As with the IMDB boards, the possibility to create an international presence of some form now exists even if any print version may not be available to all.

The proposal

For some time I've been thinking of going back into publishing, but there's a lot to work out - particularly whether it would be a combination of digital and print publication. My current idea is a print edition but included with subscription there would be a digital edition with the kind of message board system we have here and the possibility for users to contribute directly as much or as little as they wished. The site wouldn't be a ‘bloody pulpit' dependent on my tastes or opinions: articles would have to be properly researched and boards would, of absolute necessity, be moderated to avoid the fiascos we've seen here, but it would be a platform for differing views.

The landscape has undeniably changed in the intervening years, and this would require a new business model. One big minus is there's next to no advertising revenue to be had so it would need to rely on circulation and subscription, and there's the transatlantic problem with potential readers here being far afield. But hopefully there is a practical solution that would enable us to publish a better version of the magazine <i>and</I> build a comparable internet presence (properly moderated), maybe on an interdependent subscription model (which should deter at least some trolls).

The challenges

There's the question of where it would be based. If UK based (and I don't particularly want to go back to the US permanently after so many years), it's much cheaper to print here – but it's also more expensive to mail out, though the crashing pound gives US subscribers an advantage there. But again, we're in an age where we can draw on contributors from all over the world with no appreciable time loss.

There's also the question of funding – and the chief reason most of these kind of ventures fail is because they're underfunded. This is not the kind of thing that attracts venture capital because it's too ‘nerdy' and niche. At the moment I'm thinking of some kind of combination of Kickstarter and the UK SEIS tax relief scheme. I'm certainly open to suggestions – and that applies to form, content and structure as well. The idea is a publication/platform for all of us, not just one small corner, encompassing classic film, foreign film, film music, box-office and the other sections we all use here. It's not exactly a co-operative model, but it can only work if there's a community – in every way.

The one thing I'd have to avoid is having to do quite so much myself this time (and that often included writing, editing, designing, keying in text - pre-email days - supervising printing and distribution and even deliveries in some cases, which is not a healthy way to work. I'd have to brush up on publishing (the tech for desktop changes every six months), know nothing about internet site mechanics, find someone who could pull in some ads or deals and someone who could help look after the financial side. Finding a financial model that strikes a balance between a passionate and informed key staff paid a living wage and a forum for the genuinely knowledgeable to write but (for the first few years at least) do so unpaid or paid only nominal sums is a difficult balance to pull off. And keeping it from being a one man band run to a professional standard that isn't dependent on any one person is paramount. Or should that be Paramount?

These are just initial thoughts. It's early days, and this will take a while to formulate and get up and running and it may be that nothing will come of it, but the sky falling may be an opportunity to focus on it.

In the meantime, by all means let's investigate alternative options: with the best will in the world this might not be practical, and even if it is it'll take time. But by all means let me know your thoughts.


"Security - release the badgers."

Hey, Trevor! Hold on to your dream!

(Thanks very much for your e-mail.
I am collecting all I can of these because of the IMDB meltdown.)

Being a movie nut, and a movie-magazine enthusiast, as well as a Librarian for 20 years, I can tell you one of the biggest problems (always, even before internet) is producing a fine periodical devoted to films.
Worse yet, the NEED for film magazines and film criticism is greater than ever.

These movies (silent, classic, and current) aren't going anywhere.
They are on dvd FOR EVER.
People, with the slightest nudge, will want to read about them, all about them.

But it is nearly impossible to actually get such a magazine to the reading public.
The only libraries that "collect" such titles are usually Film Departments in Large Universities. If they actually buy the magazines, they are quickly ripped off from the libraries themselves. This is true of the scholarly libraries and even Public Libraries.
So if someone wants a particular issue, or to research a certain film, how are they to find that issue?
A few "prestige" titles will sell the back issues, one by one, to readers.
If they are really lucky and know exactly the issue they are looking for, and have plenty of cash, they can grab it on eBAY---maybe.
Anyway, for a film researcher, fan, or librarian, the whole subject of great film magazines is a nightmare.

All I can say is, (in the typical Blind American way) "hold on to your dream!"
Americans are big dreamers.
Europeans though, must live in the real world.

You would think that the Internet would be an ideal way to publish film criticism.
But how would you get paid?
And, if the thing isn't in a well-made paper copy, where will it go in the future? Will it disappear like poor IMDB.COM?

Anyway, I wish you all the luck in the world.
THE U.S.A. is the land of optimistic start-ups of every kind.
Of course, 85% of these go broke, but we keep trying.

Best of luck, and remember that Austin Texas is the true land of start-ups of all kinds. Here, there is no yesterday---only tomorrow.

"We will bury you"-NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV

Re: Hey, Trevor! Hold on to your dream!


But it is nearly impossible to actually get such a magazine to the reading public.


Oddly enough, that was never a problem. We had national newsstand distribution through two major outlets and while there's a lot of natural wastage that way (basically no matter what your print run you'll usually have 45% unsold that way) we pulled in decent circulation figures in the UK alone.

Of course, US distribution is a different ballgame because of the sheer size of the country, though it did make minor inroads there.


The only libraries that "collect" such titles are usually Film Departments in Large Universities. If they actually buy the magazines, they are quickly ripped off from the libraries themselves. This is true of the scholarly libraries and even Public Libraries.


Hence why this would need some form of subscription model.


And, if the thing isn't in a well-made paper copy, where will it go in the future? Will it disappear like poor IMDB.COM?


Ah, here's the irony: a lot of our readers still have their copies, as do a few libraries, and I've still got back issue copies of most issues. Meanwhile the internet that would last forever and would replace print is shutting down outlets because the niches that once drove it are now deemed too niche.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

Contacted movie collector workers, told me they have no idea who you are.

Liar.

And yet everyone knows you're Wallfish - nm

"Security - release the badgers."

Raises hand

Count me in Trevor.
I've got a few ideas that may be of benefit to you.
Will fling across the pond via email.
Best
Paladin

"Nothing but a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its dead"

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

It is the end of the road for IMDB. IMDB will remain but as an old, stale legacy web site with little new content when it comes to quality news, discussion and insight about movies. The parent company is more interested in selling groceries and competing with Walmart than running a movie web site and discussion boards for fans. Oh my apologies, I forgot about Amazon studios and Amazon streaming services. I think that is where all the money, fame and the glamour is.


My current idea is a print edition but included with subscription there would be a digital edition with the kind of message board system we have here and the possibility for users to contribute directly as much or as little as they wished.


As a model for niche movie web site, it will be helpful to look at the web site for the Noire Foundation. I am not a member but I am on their mailing list. They have both a web site http://filmnoirfoundation.org/home.html and a printed magazine http://filmnoirfoundation.org/noircityemag.html and they are also show runners for the Noir City film festival http://filmnoirfoundation.org/aboutnoircity.html

These days the web presence can not be isolated to a single web site. Facebook web site is a must have. So, maybe Facebook can be a free testing ground for some of your ideas before embarking on a larger more ambitious web site. So, you may want to start a Facebook page now and share it with IMDB contributors to keep the communication channels going.


In the meantime, by all means let's investigate alternative options: with the best will in the world this might not be practical, and even if it is it'll take time. But by all means let me know your thoughts.


Just one last point, When Nikki Finke was floating the idea of a "paid web site" meaning that you need to pay and get a username and password to read the content, it was overwhelmingly rejected by her regular readers. The reason was simple. There is so much free movie related stuff on the web that nobody can charge for the base content anymore. So, she opened her new site to everyone and she is possibly making a bit of money from advertisement http://hollywooddementia.com/


I wish you the best of luck and hope to see your web site/Facebook site succeed.


"This is a mission, not a fancy dress ball !!"

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

Thanks for your thoughts and advice. The noire links are particularly interesting.


Just one last point, When Nikki Finke was floating the idea of a "paid web site" meaning that you need to pay and get a username and password to read the content, it was overwhelmingly rejected by her regular readers. The reason was simple. There is so much free movie related stuff on the web that nobody can charge for the base content anymore.


Which is of course one of the problem areas, and why I was thinking of a print/digital model (with a magazine you are getting something physical fr your money). It's hard to see what significant advertising revenue could come from what would be dismissed by many buyers as an old fogeys site: the physical home video market is shrinking and its advertising budgets with it, and much of the kind of content CFBers hanker after isn't market friendly - which is, of course, one of the reasons the management is closing down the boards. Some users have expressed the thought that a sub for a properly administered message board system is something the IMDB should have considered, and with the loss of so many message boards and sites that may be the only viable model for their survival.

Of course, that's going to be a culture shock after a couple of decades of 'free stuff', but we've seen the shift from TV programming being something we got for free from the networks to something we pay for, either through cable or streaming providers, so maybe the inbuilt resistance can be overcome. It just depends on how much and how many people want it.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details


what would be dismissed by many buyers as an old fogeys site


If you only want to discuss the past, then yes they will see it as you described it. So, the revenue has to come from some other source.

But, that begs the question. Is a paid magazine also enough? Are there enough passionate movie fans out there that are willing to pay for discussion boards? Perhaps, I do not know. Does the web site only needs to discuss the past and nothing about the present? This and everything else is a personal choice and a decision that the editor of the web site can make.


"This is a mission, not a fancy dress ball !!"

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

No, I'd go for the present as well, but unfortunately in ad buyers' minds anything that deals in any substance with anything that isn't current tends to get shoved into that over-50s demographic which a lot of them aren't interested in even though it's a demographic with considerable purchasing power. Bear in mind we're in an age when one director of the British Film Institute proudly declared in print that 'cinema began with Taxi Driver' only for another to one-up him by saying 'cinema began wit Tarantino' - and that's an organisation that's supposed to be the custodians of that country's film heritage!


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details


No, I'd go for the present as well, but unfortunately in ad buyers' minds anything that deals in any substance with anything that isn't current tends to get shoved into that over-50s demographic which a lot of them aren't interested in even though it's a demographic with considerable purchasing power.


That is great if you decide to discuss the present as well as the past. Then it all comes down to how you want to present the look and feel of the web site so that the web site will not be seen as purely for the older crowd. Hopefully there is a compromise that works best to the benefit of the person running the web site and the older and younger visitors of the web site.

As for the older crowd, there are movies from years gone by, but there are also quality movies that are released every week. They call them "movies for grownups" in my neighborhood. As a matter of fact the AARP organization realized this void and they have filled the void with their annual unofficial movie for grown up awards.

http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/movies-for-grownups/annual-film-awards/


"This is a mission, not a fancy dress ball !!"

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

That sounds amazing Trevor. I wish you the best of luck in setting this up.

I love the magazine Sight and Sound, and I think yours sounds like it could be something similar to that. I also love that you would create message boards too. I don't like the idea of paying to participate on message boards though, if a site is properly moderated it's easy to block and get rid of any problem users who may show up, not necessary to use payment as a deterrent, plus not everyone wants to pay, or can afford to pay to discuss films, I'm certainly not a fan of subscribing to sites.

I'd love to keep in touch with you in the future. Many thanks for your many film recommendations here over the years. I have always enjoyed reading your posts and reviews.

Take care,

Maddy



Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

Thanks Maddy, but at present it's largely theoretical. It would be to a degree more populist and have a wider reaching remit than Sight and Sound (though a few of our contributors ended up there). It's just a question of whether the interest and support is there and of the practicalities.



"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details

I love your idea.

But even if this doesn't work out, thanks for your email. Already sent an email to your email.

Correction to email address

Apologies to anyone who sent an email, but in my haste I mistyped the email address. It should read:

moviefile2017@gmail.com

If you sent me an email, please send it again.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Correction to email address

Great idea. Count me in.
It would be a nice bit of revenge if you could do a E Book version of the print magazine available on Kindle and other E readers.

Re: Correction to email address

It's certainly a possibility, though internet gubbins and E-readers are Terra Incognita to me at the moment. I've always been a physical media guy in the past, so I've a lot to learn.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

.
Hi Trev,

In terms of your new magazine, is it going to be print or online, or both?

It would seem that these days people consume most things via online. Even if people don't pay (as much) money, as often, to subscribe to online things, online advertising provides income. That's the business model for all publications that are only or largely online.

I wish you well in your venture. I know you are not a techie but some folks here are and could help you with putting it online.

Thanks for providing us with the email address.
.

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)


In terms of your new magazine, is it going to be print or online, or both?


That's the question. Ideally both, but that depends on financial practicalities.


It would seem that these days people consume most things via online.


Though as we've seen, you can't rely on it sticking around.


online advertising provides income. That's the business model for all publications that are only or largely online.


Which is one of the challenges since there's less of it going around that fits our profile: most of what there is that's film related is opening weekend related and targeted at a wider demographic. Which is why a subscription mode seems the most practical - which is a culture shock after so many free sites, especially in the start up period before it gets into the swing.


I know you are not a techie


And how...




"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

.
What I've noticed is that, in lieu of (or in addition to) outright subscription, a lot of news or magazine websites have easy-to-use PayPal buttons these days to easily donate. Even the Guardian has a donation request and button at the end of each article, which frankly I find much nicer and more logical than the exorbitant paywall subscription rates charged by The Times, especially since the Guardian's current reportage is much better and much deeper than The Times.

It also seems these days, in the wake of Trump, Brexit, and rampant manipulation of the media, combined with fake news and alternative facts, people are much more inclined to donate to valued sources of information.

Even the best of the citizen journalists on Twitter these days have PayPal buttons attched to their Twitter profiles (see, for example, Sarah Kendzior, and I can give other examples), because people so greatly value their highly knowledgeable investigation and reportage.

Also: Ads that arrive online (depending on how you the site-owner configure the flow) are AFAIK not necessarily based on the subject matter of the site or article, but are moreover based on Google tracking one's interests. Rarely do I see ads based on the type of material I'm reading or venue I'm perusing; they are either random or based on my browsing history.

Anyway, I'm just thinking "aloud".
.

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

This sounds of real interest. Doubt if I'm knowledgeable enough to do much posting, but I'd find this of enormous interest as a read. Please keep us posted on any and all updates.

50 Is The New Cutoff Age.

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

Will do if you keep in touch. You know where to find me.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

Isn't print in massive decline and hasn't the internet killed off these kinds of publications now? How many film magazines have disappeared since the late '90s, and how many new ones have been created and succeeded?

If there's little advertising available then the cover price will presumably also have to be much higher than on your old magazine – maybe unrealistically high. And you will have the additional costs and hassle of running a website and a message board. To get advertisers for the website you will usually need to show you already have decent traffic. The forum also wouldn't be a new home for the CFB unless all the regulars also buy the magazine. The cross-over between the two would in reality be very small.

I've no doubt that a Trevoraclea-edited film magazine would be great, but I can't help thinking that the economics and the realities of the 2017 marketplace would be against it. I don't want to sound as if I'm being too negative, but I don't want to give you a load of old flim flam about what a great idea it is when it sounds like an easy way to lose your shirt. But I hope I'm wrong and I wish you luck, and I'm certainly interested in whatever you decide to do.

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)


Isn't print in massive decline and hasn't the internet killed off these kinds of publications now?


That's certainly true for mainstream magazines and newspapers aiming at wide circulation, though niche titles still survive, especially in Europe (for some reason the US has always been a tough nut for movie magazines to crack since the 80s).



If there's little advertising available then the cover price will presumably also have to be much higher than on your old magazine


Inflation alone would have assured that: prices have gone up a tad since the 90s... But niche titles generally are priced over the average, though sometimes if they're priced too far over - as with 007 magazine - they end up going digital only. The idea of a combined digital print subscription might take some of the sting out of that.



you will have the additional costs and hassle of running a website and a message board.


Which is a fact of life for most magazines these days - which is why it wouldn't be a one-man band.



The forum also wouldn't be a new home for the CFB unless all the regulars also buy the magazine. The cross-over between the two would in reality be very small.


Indeed. The probability is that most CFBers and other IMDBers will just scatter to the four winds. There's always a discrepancy between what people say they want and what they actually support - in fact, when I was at Warners it was always a given that the most requested back catalogue titles would always be the year's biggest moneylosers when we eventually put them out.


it sounds like an easy way to lose your shirt


Been there, done that, lost the T-shirt. But one thing the closure of these boards and the petitions has shown is that there is a need for some platform where people can talk and learn about films that aren't limited to what's opening at the multiplex this weekend in more than 140 characters - and while they may be spread widely across the world, a dual platform digital/print presence may be a way to reach that that's tailored for the 21st century rather than the 20th.



"Security - release the badgers."`

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

Trevor, I think this is certainly a good idea worth exploring. As you and others have said there are a lot of issues to deal with and the obstacles are formidable. But not to try would be more discouraging than trying and not making a go of it.

Rather than go into detail here I will email you at your (corrected) address, and I look forward to hearing from you when you have the time. But good luck whatever happens.

Re: A modest proposal... and contact details (corrected)

I'll look forward to hearing from you. Feedback certainly is important because it can't just be about what I think or want: to succeed it would have to reflect what the kind of people who post here - and others - want to see, so nothing is written in stone.


"Security - release the badgers."
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