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On the Importance of Brian Brooks, Eugene Hernandez and the Indiewire of the Future.

by Eric Kohn
December 24, 2011 12:09 PM
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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.

Old IW logo

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 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.


  • Dx | December 25, 2011 7:56 PMReply

    Hope he takes the Deadline opportunity as a chance to expand his work beyond the clique of friends and filmmakers that he covers unabashedly and ad nauseum, while being stand offish and distant to "others." Journalism is served well by objectivity. Nikki's place may just help Mr. Brooks find his true journalistic voice.

  • We'll miss you Brian! | December 26, 2011 11:30 PM

    DX, don't be a negative Nancy. Brian's helped countless writers and filmmakers (which extend well beyond his circle of friends) over his time at IW and is always the nicest guy in the room at any party, industry or otherwise. His new job is well-deserved & it couldn't have happened to a better guy. Brian, the west coast & DHD's gain is our loss, but we're all thrilled for you!

  • anthony | December 25, 2011 12:25 PMReply

    It's amazing that Indiewire (or indieWIRE, as we used to write it) has survived so long. I never thought it would exist beyond Eugene, Mark and Brian, but the fact that it has is a testament to its value. For the record, I believe I am the last remaining member of the old iW team to still work for the site (through my occasional reporting and ReelPolitik blog). I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. But as the old man around here, I guess I'm happy to seeing my former colleagues all go on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things.

  • Eric | December 25, 2011 2:06 PM


    Of course, I wouldn't want to marginalize the amazing work you continue to bring to IW each week. I guess the point is more that the two guys who held jobs at the top have now moved on, which feels symbolic on some level. But the continuing value that you and James Israel bring to IW is another reason why we can feel confident about the Indiewire of the future.

  • karol | December 24, 2011 6:42 PMReply

    ha..vino....rabbi, jones, eug and brian...I'll miss joining you all (and I'm sure a few more folks) for a glass or two...and only to clarify unless james made a quiet exit he is the last of the mohicans under the big blue iW..I wish you well BB and maybe you can bring some indieWOOD into the mix...eug make sure to post some good pics...


  • Eric | December 25, 2011 2:08 PM

    Thanks for your comment. James Israel is a good friend and indeed the staffer at IW with the longest history at the site. As I wrote to Anthony, I guess the point is more that the two guys who held jobs at the top have now moved on, which feels symbolic on some level.

    Still, the continuing roles that Anthony Kaufman and James Israel play at keeping IW in good shape deserve to be recognized here, so I've added shout-outs to them in the post.

  • Vino | December 24, 2011 4:50 PMReply

    Deadline Hollywood is a boring site. Nothing but trivia items on industry
    job changes and grosses, grosses, grosses. But sometimes a fella has to folo the $$.

  • Kim Voynar | December 24, 2011 1:46 PMReply

    Classy and well-said, Kohn. Rabinowitz, here's to you guys raising a glass to toast the indieWIRE of the past, and the Indiewire of the future. My love for the iW gang runs deep, no matter where you all go. There will always be late night drinks at fests. And karaoke.

  • Eugene Hernandez | December 24, 2011 1:08 PMReply

    Thanks, Eric! Classy & cool. Congrats (again), BB!

  • Mark Rabinowitz | December 24, 2011 1:03 PMReply

    I wish I could re-edit my comment! It got sent too soon.
    Just meant to wave my own little personal iW flag. It's been a while, but I still think of her as my baby.:-)
    We will indeed toast to the house we built. Hail to indieWIRE and long may it reign!

  • Eric | December 25, 2011 4:42 PM

    Mark--You are, of course, totally entitled to toot your own horn here. I did give you a shout-out at the end of my post. Indiewire owes much to what you've brought to it over the years, and hopefully will continue to bring in the immediate future.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | December 24, 2011 1:01 PMReply

    Ahem. ;-)

  • Sydney Levine | January 2, 2012 12:49 PM

    Here's to you guys! You have all done something wonderful for our business! And hopefully you will continue to pave new ways for us all. It's odd that now the women seem to be moving in...from Stef at Snagfilms, Dana and Anne at Indiewire, Rose at New York Film Society...what gives? Are we finally getting our turn?

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