Whore No More
August 13, 2006 2:22 PM   Subscribe

"I actually felt sick, just sick, about wasting so much studio money and being such a stinky, stinky junket whore." Freelance writer Eric D. Snider took up an offer to attend Paramount Studios' World Trade Center press junket, "being a whore just once to see what it was like." After he spoke unkindly of the practice—taking issue with how studios trade luxurious treatment for positive media coverage—the studio had him blacklisted from all further Paramount screenings, and those of a few other studios.
posted by Zozo (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
My first FPP, and it's links to two blog posts. I know, I know: I'm awesome.
posted by Zozo at 2:23 PM on August 13, 2006


Wow, I read a very similar article on junkets in the HuffPo the other day. About a diffrent movie, though.
posted by delmoi at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2006


Why is it a big deal they blacklisted him though? If you hired a prostitute, and they wrote an article about how dehumanizing the whole thing was, and on top of that that you were bad in bed, would you sleep with her again?
posted by delmoi at 2:30 PM on August 13, 2006


Why is it a big deal they blacklisted him though?

They didnt just ban him from all future junkets, which makes sense. They banned him from all screenings.

Your analogy doesnt make sense because he never criticized the movie actually, just the junket.
posted by vacapinta at 2:52 PM on August 13, 2006


Someone figures out that working with large corporations makes 'em feel like a whore. (hums everybody gotta learn sometime)

Welcome to the world the rest of us live in. We are all whore'n. Just depends on how much whore'n we do. Being the hermit on the estate just doesn't pay like it used to. And few will pay your taxes to get you outta jail (Walden Pond reference)
posted by rough ashlar at 2:53 PM on August 13, 2006


No kidding. Snider has the right to write whatever story he wants to about the junket experience. But he can't complain when he writes something that says, basically, "Hey, studio publicity people! You just wasted a whole lot of your money by sending a person of high moral principle, such as myself, on an expensive junket in a nice hotel!" and the studio responds by saying, "You know what? We're not going to waste any more of our time and energy on you either."

I mean, not only did he mock the whole experience, but he took pot shots at (at least one of) the other writers in attendance. Maybe the whole process is deserving of ridicule. But if I'm a studio honcho, I'm thinking I don't want this guy at my junkets and/or my screenings, either.

Good on him for deciding not to play the game, but I hope he was prepared for the potential consequences. (Also, he takes a shot at the Jackass sequel in the last of the linked blog entries. Man, I'd love to be invited to a press screening of that. It'd probably be at least as good as WTC.)
posted by Joey Bagels at 2:55 PM on August 13, 2006


Hmm, you're right. They didn't just ban him from junkets, but from all press screenings for paramount and for other studios as well. That's pretty lame.
posted by delmoi at 2:57 PM on August 13, 2006


Well come on, he has no right to go to press screenings. They screen films for the press because they want the publicity -- and they've just decided that they don't want his kind of publicity. Perfectly understandable decision, and very similar to the decision they make when they don't screen a film for the press at all, because they know it sucks.
posted by reklaw at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2006


Excellent post Zozo, first or otherwise. Enjoyed reading the article you linked and delmoi's too. Thought it was predictable he would not be invited back by the whore master.

However, blacklisting Snider makes Paramount look like it's terrified of the truth. Like junket whoring was going to remain some secret cabal of false advertising? Oh please.

Saw the World Trade Center movie last night and though the story is poignant, thought the movie was deeply banal and mediocre. Calling it World Trade Center was off somehow. Maybe better name Rescue 9/11 or something else?

A documentary called Junket Whore, came out in 1998.

Movie Poop Shoot on junket whoring, Whore No More from 2003.

More on what Snider dug up.
posted by nickyskye at 3:08 PM on August 13, 2006


It took me years to figure out why there existed so many glowing reviews for movies that suck. I used to internalize this and think there was something wrong with me for thinking this way.

Most Hollywood movies suck dog balls.
posted by Tube at 3:11 PM on August 13, 2006


Well come on, he has no right to go to press screenings. They screen films for the press because they want the publicity -- and they've just decided that they don't want his kind of publicity. Perfectly understandable decision, and very similar to the decision they make when they don't screen a film for the press at all, because they know it sucks.
posted by reklaw at 3:14 PM on August 13, 2006


rough ashlar: Your reasoning ultimately excuses all forms of whoring, up to, including and beyond the likes of Armstrong Williams, making your definition of "whoring" useless. Besides, the guy knew what it was going in, and purposely went anyway to get the details.

Joey Bagels:
I mean, not only did he mock the whole experience, but he took pot shots at (at least one of) the other writers in attendance. Maybe the whole process is deserving of ridicule. But if I'm a studio honcho, I'm thinking I don't want this guy at my junkets and/or my screenings, either.

It was deserving of mockery, but let's set that aside. The company may have a right to exclude him from their screenings, but this guy also has a right to air his grievance on the internet, and get picked up by Linkfilter and Metafilter, and now who knows how many other people.

Just because one is legally allowed ("has the right") to do something, doesn't mean that it is morally responsible. But wait, that's right, corporations are above our puny Earth notions of right and wrong.

What happened here was nothing less than retribution, a naked exercise of power. It's always surprising to see how many people will defend that.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was most shocked that they convinced other studios to bar him, too. That's clearly punitive weight-throwing.
posted by Zozo at 3:30 PM on August 13, 2006


Of course, we have the right to mock and condemn Paramount for doing this, and to loudly remind everyone that any positive review of a Paramount film is probably just a bought-and-paid-for advertisement and not an actual indication of whether the film's any good.
posted by hattifattener at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2006


rough ashlar : "Someone figures out that working with large corporations makes 'em feel like a whore. (hums everybody gotta learn sometime)

Welcome to the world the rest of us live in."


Er, he knew that from the start, as he makes pretty clear in the third sentence, so he's been living in the world the rest of us live in all the while.

vacapinta : "They didnt just ban him from all future junkets, which makes sense. They banned him from all screenings."

Well, I don't think it was a logical decision, but it's hardly evil. A screening is just hopeful advertising (that is, movie companies invite people to screenings in the hope that the people will write glowing advertisements). If they don't think he'll provide good advertising, it doesn't seem particularly evil that they cut him off from their advertising activities. Now, putting pressure on local firms to prevent screenings for other companies, well, that's borked.
posted by Bugbread at 4:13 PM on August 13, 2006


He's still a whore, for writing about it.
posted by revonrut at 4:16 PM on August 13, 2006


I was most shocked that they convinced other studios to bar him, too. That's clearly punitive weight-throwing.

Holy shit Zozo, I just reread the "Comments and Reaction" box at the bottom of your first link. Paramount got him blacklisted from other studios as well.

"But they went a step further and banned me from all their press screenings, too -- the ones that ALL critics (not just quote whores) go to. They also convinced their regional publicists to ban me from screenings for the other studios those publicists handle."

I do think that's outrageous.
posted by nickyskye at 4:20 PM on August 13, 2006


revonrut : "He's still a whore, for writing about it."

Er, a whore to whom? To be a whore, in the figurative sense used here, is to sell out your principles for money. If he went and didn't write about it, perhaps he'd be a whore. If he went and wrote a glowing review of the movie, actors, and the like, he'd definitely be a whore. But he did neither. Instead, he went out and wrote in accordance with his principles. How does that make him a whore?

Is it just because he got paid? Because if that's the case, we're all whores, and we need to come up with a separate word for the type of whoring being discussed here, and in that case, he's a whore, but he never implied that he wasn't, just that he wasn't a new-word-whore.
posted by Bugbread at 4:22 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Regarding whoring: from the moviepoopshoot link:
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating a healthy lunch graciously provided by the host studio. And most of us in this business have felt the shame of asking a particularly dopey question. Those two factors along don’t make a junket whore. It’s the ability to have your opinion bought, in a matter of speaking, in return for those fringe benefits of attending a press day (i.e., gifts, food, parties, all-expense-paid trips, etc.).
That seems to make sense. So where do we see evidence that Snider's opinion was bought in return for the fringe benefits of the junket? I'm not seeing it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:25 PM on August 13, 2006


It doesn't really sound like that much. It's not like they put him up in Maui or something, it was just a single night. Yeah, water from the ceiling... but $1100 relative to a studio's movie budget is really peanuts.

The interviews did sound pretty dumb, though. Oh well.
posted by blacklite at 4:26 PM on August 13, 2006


blacklite : "it was just a single night"

Actually, two nights, but he didn't stay the second.

blacklite : "$1100 relative to a studio's movie budget is really peanuts."

He touched on that, but his point was that the cost compared to the budget isn't the issue so much as the cost compared to the expected return. Spending $1100 for something that won't result in $1100 return is just a bad business decision. Especially because that's $1,100 per person. He estimates 20 people at the junket, so that's $22,000, for Seattle alone. Let's say there are 10 cities visited. That's $220,000. Still not a big deal, perhaps, compared to the total budget, but I'd be amazed if they got $220,000 in returns out of that. TV advertising, sure. Newspapers, sure. But from junkets? Not likely.

Again, not the end of the world, and he isn't saying it is, just that in the end it's a bit of a waste of money.
posted by Bugbread at 4:41 PM on August 13, 2006


I'm sure he'll feel really good about himself and how his soul's intact and his principals will certainly keep him well fed when he's asking people "would you like fries with that?"
posted by ZachsMind at 4:42 PM on August 13, 2006


ZachsMind : "I'm sure he'll feel really good about himself and how his soul's intact and his principals will certainly keep him well fed when he's asking people 'would you like fries with that?'"

Any particular reason you think he's going to start working at McDonald's?
The studios affected are Paramount, Weinstein Co., Dimension and Miramax. The bigger ones — Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, etc. — are handled by different P.R. agencies in Seattle and Portland, so they’re not involved. For the studios that are affected, it means that while in the past I’ve been able to go to advance screenings and run my reviews on opening day, now I may not be able to see the films until they open, meaning my reviews may be a day or two late. But again, it’s not that many movies that will actually be affected.
posted by Bugbread at 4:50 PM on August 13, 2006


er.. uhm.. I meant to type "principles" not "principals."

As for my McDonalds joke. It was a JOKE. An exagerration. The truth is he's a movie critic. I respect the lady behind the counter giving me my yogurt parfait and apple walnut salad. She's fast and efficient and is smiling at a time in the morning when I can barely keep my eyes open. She is more deserving of my respect than a movie critic.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2006


It took me years to figure out why there existed so many glowing reviews for movies that suck. I used to internalize this and think there was something wrong with me for thinking this way.

Well the article states that most newspapers forbid critics from going on these junkets, which sounds plausible to me since browsing sites like Rotten Tomatoes (which tallies critcs reviews) usually shows big-budget dreck getting negative reviews and indie, documentary, and foregin films getting positive reviews.

It doesn't really sound like that much. It's not like they put him up in Maui or something, it was just a single night. Yeah, water from the ceiling... but $1100 relative to a studio's movie budget is really peanuts.

And I wonder why people care if a Hollywood studio is being so wasteful on a big budget film? Like the actors and directors are generally well paid, the crew are generally in unions, and ticket prices are determined by what the market will bear, not film budgets. I'd guess there would be better ways to use $1100 but any money saved would just end up going to some shareholder.
posted by bobo123 at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2006


I foresee a day when all regular moviegoers are enlisted as junket whores: the studios pay $200 to put you and a date up at your local Holiday Inn, with a free buffet, and two tickets to the movie at your cineplex. They cart the stars all around the country in tour buses, and you get to pelt them post-screening with chocolate-fondued strawberries.

No one asks your opinion on the film, no reviews are published, and everyone is spared the media blitz and spectacle. The films are never given a wide release, Paramount writes it all off as a $200,000,000 business expense, then make up the rest in Netflix rentals.

It will be like jury duty.
posted by eegphalanges at 5:20 PM on August 13, 2006


From the blog post calling out one of the junket whores:

Not a single one of the quotes he attributes to the celebrities involved is an actual quote.

This is by far the more serious charge. What he has done is to paraphrase the people and put quotation marks around it. He doesn’t change the IDEA of what the people said; he just rewrites it in his own words.


In other words...summary marks!
posted by danb at 5:27 PM on August 13, 2006


I found most interesting his blog post, in which he calls out Tim Nasson (a truly atrocious writer from Wild About Movies). That bitch has been sucking on the junket teat for 15 years!

And though I understand the reason Nasson did what he did (paraphrased), it doesn't excuse it. One of the problems with these junkets is that, since the interviewers are all in the same room, if they use exact quotes their articles will sound the same as (quote-wise) everyone else in the room. When working with the exact same words as your competition, you have to be a much better writer to make your writing stand out. Clearly, that's not something Nasson's gonna pull off. So, Nasson (and more than likely, many other junket whores) paraphrases.

The problem that then arises is that there is no true record of the conversation. Though it's unlikely anyone worth their salt will go to Nasson as a source when writing a biography, thesis, or paper of more weight than a review, one can't rule it out. And should that writer do so, they'll be misquoting the interviewees. Worse, should the interviewee be taken to task on something they "said", the presence of the quote in a newspaper or blog makes it much more difficult for them to deny having said it... even though they didn't say it.
posted by dobbs at 5:38 PM on August 13, 2006


And I wonder why people care if a Hollywood studio is being so wasteful on a big budget film?

A few reasons:

1. Whether it's true or not, chains cite escalating budgets as a cause for increased ticket prices. They also use this as an excuse to run ads in the theatre.
2. The more films cost on average the less chance low-budget films have of being made. I know this doesn't make sense, but it's true.
3. The more films cost to make, the more the studio tries to make back the cash in ways that annoy more people: product placement, tie-ins with McD's, 7-Eleven, etc. This of course leads to previously unpredicted profits which leads to more tie-ins. (I want my My Dinner With Andre action figues NOW!)
posted by dobbs at 5:49 PM on August 13, 2006


When I was the film critic for the Fresno Bee, I used to go on junkets all the time. The paper, by way of policy, wouldn't allow the studio to pick up my tab, nor was it going to spring for my hotel room or travel. But as it happened Fresno is only 3 hours from LA and I grew up in the area, so I would stay with friends and take them to the premieres with me in exchange for letting me sleep on their couch, and then drive in to do the interviews and what not. I was in my early 20s, so this was perfectly doable (possibly not so much now when I'm on the downslope of my 30s).

Eric D. Snider has gone out of his way to piss off a major studio (and its public relations affiliate in Seattle) so it's not entirely surprising they've basically written him off. However, speaking from experience, I think it's easy to overstate how meddling the publicity people are. I went to plenty of junkets where I thought the film sucked and when I wrote my review I didn't hesitate to say so, and had plenty of filmmaker/star interviews conducted at junkets which were not publicity blow-jobs. In five years as a full-time film critic, I never found myself banned from a junket because of anything I ever wrote.

Film publicists are many things, but by and large they're not stupid; most of them well understand that most critics (and even some entertainment writers) aren't going to like everything. A negative review of a film, or even more than one, won't get you bumped from the junket circuit, in my experience.

This isn't to say there aren't people who can be bought and sold for the price of a free trip to Los Angeles and two nights at the Four Seasons. I can attest there are. It's merely to suggest that most movie publicists don't expect to buy everyone for that price.

Now, it's possible the expectations of publicists have changed since I last went on a film junket, but I'll note anecdotally that I'm still reviewing film (although on DVD, not theatrical release), and in my personal experience with publicists, they're still pretty aware of what they're working with in terms of material, and I have yet to get punished for writing what I think about a film; which is to say I'm still on the "get screener DVDs" list even when I say one particular film or another sucks dong.
posted by jscalzi at 6:04 PM on August 13, 2006


The subject matter of this piece - the junkets - could have made for something really interesting. His insistence on using the word "whore" over and over and over was to the detriment of anything he had to say, though, as it came off as just immature and pissy. I don't know, I didn't find him to be a particularly compelling writer, which is why I found it amusing that he criticized Tim Nasson for the same thing.

The material, though, is really interesting. And so is the discussion. Great post.
posted by anjamu at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2006


See also Quote Whores. This sort of thing is bad news for independent filmmakers, for whom good reviews from discerning critics are often the only major "advertising" their films will get. When the major studios try to turn critics into paid marketers, indie films get squeezed out, because if EVERYTHING'S getting good reviews then there's nothing to distinguish them from the latest blockbuster, except that the blockbuster has a massive poster/TV-spot/trailer/viral campaign.

The point of a critic is that there is a voice in the media which has a financial incentive to be honest, rather than positive. The major studios spend a lot of money trying to eliminate that incentive.
posted by stammer at 6:42 PM on August 13, 2006


Textbook publishers do the same sorta thing, fwiw.
posted by craniac at 8:32 PM on August 13, 2006


Blacklisting... Hollywood can do it, so why wouldn't they? Being in Hollywood is all about being likable, and going to screenings is not something hollywood is required to provide to just anybody. Why would they let someone go to their screening who, basically, waisted their money? Then, made them look bad on top of it? Seriously, how many of you have read this article so far? Think about it. The number one rule in Hollywood to work your way up the ranks, is not to talk bad about anybody, ever, ever, ever, ever (even though almost everyone you meet will try relentlessly to get you to do just that). Of course he got banned! Besides, people go see movies, especially movies that are bad (I'm not saying this movie is bad, I haven't seen it), for the actors they love. Those "entertainment" articles probably do exactly what he was saying they didn't, and then some. The studios are not dumb, they don't waste their money. Trust me, they know what they are doing. I've seen the stacks upon freaking stacks of paperwork that keeps track of it all. And, I'm pretty sure that guy knows the studios know what they are doing. He did himself in as a critic by accepting the invitation to the junket in the first place, and my guess is, he probably knew it. He wouldn't be where he was if he wasn't a little up on Hollywood etiquette. Critics get to go to the screenings because they are press, and of course the press is going to see the movie eventually, best to get the word out their prior, good or bad, just so the public knows about it. Specific members of the press, that say, a studio spent about $1,100 on, and who bad-mouthed them for it, do NOT have to be a part of that. He lost his "member of the press" status, and became a, "what an ****!" the second he published that article. What I'm saying is, there will always be critics, Hollywood isn't banning critics, they are merely taking this one critic off the invitation list. Go figure, there is a reason critics don't go to junkets.
posted by Summer1158 at 8:41 PM on August 13, 2006


Umm... now I feel like an idiot, I should have read the previous post. Which makes a lot of sense, so, I would say, you'd have to ignore the whole "dooming himself by accepting the invitation" part. But the rest I still stand by.
posted by Summer1158 at 8:51 PM on August 13, 2006


Eh, there's an uneasy truce these days between movie publicists and critics anyway, since there's less and less evidence that critics really have much influence any more over audience behavior. In the greater world out there, there are more movies that no critics at all are getting invited to screen pre-release. Sucks to be a paid critic (and I am one of those, albeit on a small scale at a small paper) these days.

That said, I think critics should be able to slam a movie, or a person involved in the movies, without fear of retribution. When Rod Lurie got blacklisted back in the day for describing Danny DeVito as "a testicle with arms," I cried foul. But I can't get worked up over Snider's predicament, since he basically wrote a piece of deliberately obnoxious (substitute "provocative" or "subversive" if you like) inside-baseball prose that seemed tailored to embarrass the studio and other writers. To me, it's in a different category. Would I be so petty and mean-spirited as to blackball a journalist for something he wrote about an event he covered? Nah. But I'm completely unsurprised that this would piss someone else off — and if you're blogging, and you simultaneously want to be taken seriously in the "legit" world, you have to calculate these risks. I think Snider miscalculated.

It reminds me of a journalist I once sent on assignment to cover an important conference. He turned in a story in which, among other things wholly unrelated to the assignment, he complained about the food at said conference. Sorry. Not relevant. I'm thinking if Snider had an editor signing off on his blog posts, s/he would have said the same thing.
posted by Joey Bagels at 9:02 PM on August 13, 2006


(I want my My Dinner With Andre action figues NOW!


My Uncle Vanya action figure can kick their asses
posted by matteo at 6:52 AM on August 14, 2006


Lame. It seems perfectly sensible for the studio to fly press out to meet the cast and write about it. As there is a logical purpose for the event it's not a "junket". As the press are just doing their job, writing about movies and movie stars, if they keep their coverage fair they are not "whores".
This is just stupid name-calling to get attention.
posted by w0mbat at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2006


I'm a Belgian freelance entertainment (mostly music) journalist. It never stops amazing me how American journalists write out interviews verbatim – including descriptions of background noises - without any editing whatsoever. That's perfectly fine when you're doing investigative journalism – interviewing politicians, businessmen, and the like. Fine, and necessary: one wrong quote could have huge repercussions. But in entertainment journalism? We paraphrase all the time. If we didn't, our pieces would never get published. We do it for the reader's sake, and for the artist's sake. The reader, after all, deserves to be entertained. As for the artists: I think we're doing them a huge favour. We make them look a lot more eloquent than they are. After all, how many times do you want to read “know what I'm sayin'?” in a thousand word interview? Is it the truth? Of course not, it's entertainment.

Sure, Tim Nasson is an outrageously bad writer, and a spineless sell out. Misquoting Oliver Stone is the least of his crimes, though. I liked Snider's article about junket whores. His pseudo investigative piece on Nasson? Misguided playground journalism.
posted by Siberian Mist at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2006


Or perhaps a simply a higher standard of journalism. Speaking as an American arts journalist who does not view my writing as simply an adjunct to the entertainment industry.

At any newspaper I've worked at, a reported would never be used again if they paraphrased and tried topass it off as the actual quote.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2006


Screw his article, I wished that he took more photos of the hotel. That place looks sweet!
posted by drstein at 9:52 AM on August 14, 2006


In other news, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the top grossing film two weeks in a row. Zacharek hated it. Wilonsky loved it. Roeper says it's both stupid and funny. The audiences are going in droves to it. The things making money hand over fist, and there's a commercial in it. Not just product placement. A blatant commercial. For Applebee's. Is it too late for me to disavow any ties I have to the human race? Or should I just poke my eyes out now?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:08 AM on August 14, 2006


Maggie Gyllenhaal is pregnant and has that radiant, lovely glow that many pregnant women have, even though she's not normally what you'd call "beautiful" and, viewed in direct profile, has a face that is flat like a pug's.

Aside from the fact that his complaints with his field and this event are all obvious and shallow observations, what does this dig have to do with anything? I'm sure he's a veritable god, chiseled out of flawless diamond - especially refractive and mesmerizing when viewed in direct profile. Looks like he's on more than one high horse...
posted by prostyle at 10:16 AM on August 14, 2006


For a very amusing fictional take on the junket whore experience, I wholeheartedly recommend Colson Whitehead's novel John Henry Days. It's a hilarious, thrill-a-minute joy that will make you laugh and cry in the span of five pages! Fun for the whole family!

This post sponsored by Colson Whitehead
posted by UKnowForKids at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2006


The thing that's most offensive about that article is that it's dull and seems to me to be lazy output. He could have written something more elaborate and researched on junkets in general but he didn't, he just mocked this one.. and not all that entertainingly. Or he could have shown some guts and looked into the writeups by the other people he met there who were on the junket teat so we could see what the result of that spending was. Nope.

Snoozer.
posted by phearlez at 1:01 PM on August 14, 2006


That bit about Maggie Gyllenhaal irked me too, mostly because my opinion of her is difficult to articulate without coming across as a creepy virgin with a telephoto lens.

She's a lovely, lovely woman and I don't know what the hell this guy's smoking.
posted by Zozo at 2:01 PM on August 14, 2006


"Relax baby, it's just a movie" - Dean Martin
posted by Smedleyman at 5:18 PM on August 14, 2006


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