The first time I met Brian Brooks and Eugene Hernandez, then Indiewire's managing editor and editor-in-chief, was at a bagel shop in the East Village. They had no office. Or, rather, the absence of an office was their office. As far as I could tell, Indiewire managed to stay alive by way of the same ramshackle, stitched-together DIY process that the filmmakers the site still covers know too well.
Unlike countless media companies buried in murky hierarchies and beholden to sensationalism for the sake of making a buck, Indiewire's humble beginnings continued past its earliest years because it wasn't solely guided by a profit motive, but rather a much rarer form of passion for creative advocacy. For over 14 years, Eugene was the primary anchor. His departure last year marked a significant moment in IW's history. And now we've arrived at another one.
On Friday, Brian finished up a 12-year run as Indiewire's devoted managing editor, although he began contributing to the site several years before that, having been associated with the same tight group of film buffs that built IW from the ground up. I consider Brian a good friend, mentor and colleague who has taught me a lot about the inside logic of the indie film community--how to read between the lines of the industry doublespeak and why it's important to keep in touch with the movers and shakers working behind the scenes. It matters because movies, especially those made on the cheap with limited resources, need all the help they can get. It's especially valuable to know the people with the capacity to provide that help--be they distributors, programmers or critics--so you can nudge them about great work when the occasion arises, and so they can nudge you back when they have great work to share.
Brian introduced me to many of these people with persistent good vibes and a mentality that never made our work together feel like work in any conventional way. Instead, it felt like a collaboration for a very important cause. It still does. Now, he's moving to L.A. to work for Deadline Hollywood, an intriguing opportunity that I'm certain was tough to resist. I don't hold it against him and can't wait to see how it plays out. However, the great thing about this line of work is the community that holds it together. Brian has a new job, but not an entirely new life. I'll see him around, as will many others.
While his departure marks the final direct generational link to IW's past--with the exception of contributing writer and blogger Anthony Kaufman and advertising guru James Israel--the site's progress continues. There are offices in New York and L.A. and an expanded network of resources, thanks in part to our supportive parent company, SnagFilms. The blog network, led by Anne Thompson, The Playlist, Press Play and many other must-read outlets on their own terms, have contributed to shaping new paradigms in 21st century entertainment media, diversifying IW content like never before. Most importantly, the site still focuses on movies that fall squarely outside of the mainstream; sure, there are reasons to drag Hollywood into the conversation, but emerging talent and typically marginalized artists still take centerstage.
And we now have a small editorial team spread across North America, but the focus remains the same. My colleague Peter Knegt and I both started contributing to the site in 2007, and came to an understanding of Indiewire's complex influence over the global film community by working closely with the two men who have now moved into exciting new stages of their lives. Nigel Smith and Bryce Renninger joined the team in subsequent years and also benefited from working in the shadow of IW's first generation editorial team. Under the assured leadership of Dana Harris out of Los Angeles, we have felt especially confident about the site's direction because we learned from the best. Does that sound cheesy? Sorry, but this is one situation that deserves the cheese.
Coincidentally, the news of Brian's new gig has arrived just a few days ahead of an upcoming reunion of early Indiewire staffers in Los Angeles. The crowd includes such continuing stalwarts of the indie film universe as screenwriter Mike Jones and CNN.com film critic Mark Rabinowitz. Brian and Eugene will be there. I hope they toast to the house they built--and celebrate that it's standing strong 15 years down the road.