On August 19, 2005, In Contention was born. (That was 10 years ago today for those keeping score at home.) It was born by accident, to be honest, not at all by design. I landed a gig, then I lost it before it even started, but I had all this material gathered and ready to publish regarding the then-upcoming film awards season. I launched a blog, “In Contention” sounded edgy enough in the space and off she went. (The funny thing is I ended up keeping the first gig after all, but by then this little enterprise had taken on a small life.)
From there it only grew. We moved out of the Blogger/Blogspot space and into the dot-com realm. We groomed a staff of like minds along the way, at one point notably large for such an outlet, but eventually honed into a tight ship that forged the In Contention identity. It became a remunerative enterprise, humming along in the bizarre but expanding niche world of awards coverage, separate from the independent movie blog ventures that were themselves gaining footing at the time (many of them, interestingly enough, unloading to buyers as of late).
When HitFix came calling in 2011, it was a fascinating fit. It was an exciting hybrid enterprise — yin and yang. Eventually In Contention was fully acquired by the company and things really settled. But times change. HitFix has new priorities now, and I wish them well. Thankfully the four years of content we produced under that banner will soon be available right here at InContention.com for posterity. That was important to me, that my work — Guy Lodge’s work, Gerard Kennedy’s work, Roth Cornet’s work, Greg Ellwood’s work — live under one umbrella.
But of further note to you, our readership, is that per the terms of that agreement, I am taking In Contention with me. So while all of the above was its own era, we’re now entering a very new one.
Truth be told, my heart has been with the Variety brand for a long time. Some of the first legitimate work I did in this business was under Steve Gaydos’ features department there, also nearly 10 years ago (after five years toiling away at this “hobby” on a wobbly Geocities platform and the like). We even tried to get the awards game together over there once upon a time with an ill-fated blog called Red Carpet District, you might recall.
As the years ticked on, I watched Hollywood’s most important trade wither under ownership that didn’t quite know how to survive in the online space and I fretted over its future. When Jay Penske bought the company in 2012, it was an overnight revival — a blood transfusion. The short-lived pay wall came down, a daily standard was retired in favor of a weekly print edition and in my corner of the universe, I was relieved.
So I can’t fully express how honored I am that I can take something that I built and give it a home at a 110-year-old institution. That is extraordinary. But that’s exactly what’s happening. In Contention is going to Variety, to provide a voice and an identity to the outlet’s awards coverage. It is my belief that Hollywood’s “showbiz bible” ought to own that space, and I aim to help them do just that.
Unfortunately, as part of this transition, we will be saying goodbye to Gerard Kennedy. For nine years, longer than anyone else, Gerard took a lot off my plate by sharing in an enthusiasm for below-the-line crafts coverage at In Contention. That was a crucial ingredient in the site’s success all these years, and indeed, I’m excited to engage with Variety’s own Artisans initiative focused on same. But as we bid one longstanding In Contention voice farewell, we welcome back another.
Guy Lodge left us for a Variety post in 2014 and I could not have been prouder of him. We enjoyed a front row seat to one of the best writers in the game growing into his voice for six years, but of course, bigger and better things were in his future. And Variety was smart to snatch him up. Naturally then, part of my pitch in all of this was that bringing him back to In Contention in some way would make all the sense in the world if we were going to live under the same roof (so to speak). As such, I’m happy to report that Guy will indeed engage with this community once again with a vital across-the-pond perspective and festival coverage pertinent to the beat. I am positively thrilled by that, and I imagine many of you will be, too.
So that is where we are as we turn the corner on 10 years of In Contention. I’m very much looking forward to joining Mr. Penske’s still-growing media empire and to carving out a unique and premier space within it, to collaborating with Co-Editors-in-Chief Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein on growing a vital and historic brand, to working with Variety.com editor Stuart Oldham and his team in taking this asset to new heights, to partnering with my Co-Awards Editor Tim Gray and Deputy Awards and Features Editor Jenelle Riley in blowing out Variety’s awards coverage and, ultimately, to hitching my wagon back up to a company I called home years ago.
So keep an eye on Variety’s Contenders section for the big launch. Coverage will begin just ahead of the 42nd annual Telluride Film Festival and in earnest from the San Juans over Labor Day weekend, a little over a decade removed from In Contention’s earliest cry into cyberspace.
I look forward to seeing you all there.
UPDATE: And we’ve landed. Update your bookmarks.