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December 26, 2001

Year Five Report

Where DVD Savant Toots his Horn
and Tells his Tale of 2001.

Greetings from sunny California. Come March of 2002, it actually will be five years since I started writing for the web, while working as an editor at MGM Home Entertainment. You can catch up with the details on that history by reading The Two Year Report from a couple of seasons back ...

When we last left off, I was still working for Steve Tannehill's DVD Resource out of Texas. Steve decided to fold that very influential, crusading site on December 31, 2000. DVD Resource had the ear of the industry biggies in '98 and '99; Steve can take serious credit for hastening the stillbirth of DIVX, a threat happily forgotten now. That'll be a kid's big question in 2009: "Daddy, what did you do in the Divx War?"

Finding a New Home
with Fearless Leader Kleinman:

Knowing that DVD Resource would abruptly go off the air at the stroke of midnight, I anxiously solicited a new home, and received several dozen responses. It wasn't difficult to choose DVDTalk. Geoffrey Kleinman's pitch was gracious and his offer just what Savant needed, a host site that would take care of the major problems and leave me free to write as best I could. I had been stopping by DVDTalk since my first days on the web, to check on Geoffrey's comparative online price guide, which I always thought was a really useful idea. Although I call him Fearless Leader in the column, Geoffrey has been extremely supportive and understanding of my technical shortcomings, sometimes leading me keystroke by keystroke through format and server upgrades. He's also incredibly good at obtaining the strange mix of DVD screeners I like to review. I'm proud to add the Savant reviews to his inventory of thousands.

Chasing the Lion's Tail,
or vice versa:

Early in 2000 I was asked back to MGM to help launch a complex content-laden annex to their website, with a new column similar to the MGM original back in '97 and '98. It was a very good arrangement, handsomely rewarded, and I made sure Leo got more than his money's worth. But later on, difficulties arose when MGM felt the column should be addressing their new releases, instead of leaving me free to pursue my usual arcane subject matter. Trying to create intelligent articles about pictures like AntiTrust just didn't feel right. MGM University's stated ambition was to create entertaining content to draw readers, yet the Video Savant they wanted, read like corporate promo copy. Savant's readers reject that stuff without a second thought.

I didn't want more punishment, so I opted out of renewing the contract for a second career. We parted amicably. To keep the column going, MGM hired another film expert whose copy did indeed read like publicity handouts, and retitled it Cinema Savant.

The new column lasted only 3 issues before the entire MGM Backlot was scrapped, not for quality or even readership reasons, but because of a policy change from higher up. Savant's seven issues (of, I thought, pretty good material) disappeared from MGM's site with the rest of the MGM University. But this link to the MGM Video Savant/Cinema Savant Index still works. Opening the individual magazines is tough, but they do open eventually. Savant was told that MGM Video Savant didn't attract millions of readers because it talked about old movies, but I still contend that the site grew slowly for the same reason the original Savant back in 1997 grew slowly: nobody could find it! No Savant link appeared on the MGM Main page; you had to struggle through about four screens to find it listed in small text. It was a very unfriendly website.

While you can still link to them, there are several MGM Video Savant articles I recommend. We based several on the availablity of rare photos in the MGM archives. One is an essay on Peter Sellers before he was replaced in Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid, and another a look at the rare longer ending to Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dynamite.

Savant Joins the Club:

In May, Savant was asked to join the Online Film Critics Society, a group of 100 web reviewers accredited by the studios. That's the OFCS logo that can be seen on several Savant pages now. Being invited to join this prestigious body is a great honor, and I'm enjoying privileges reserved for top critics ... receiving Academy Screener tapes and discs, being invited to some really exclusive screenings, and even being quoted once or twice. This kind of acknowledgement hasn't exactly been the norm in my long and spotty career. It's also good to know that Savant is reaching more readers now.

Editorial Bliss:

One of the best things about writing DVD Savant was that it channelled all the nervous energy I accrue between and during editorial jobs. I'm a freelance cutter-for-hire, and there are occasional weeks of inactivity which are far better spent writing screenplays and web columns than doing nothing. Happily, I worked most of 2001, helping producers turn out DVD & cable docus, advertising and special montages.

Savant will be staying at DVDTalk for the forseeable future, as business relations with Fearless, I mean, Mr. Kleinman, just seem to improve with time. Better still, writing DVD Reviews online has remained challenging and stimulating because of the freedom DVDTalk affords. I can still drift off on tangents and little essays on whatever topics the films suggest. Other writing has kept me busy too,  2 but DVD Savant remains the center of it all. Of course the best part is the Email contact with dozens of readers who've since become friends, from all over the US and a score of other countries. Thank you all.

May 2002 be the start of sanity and justice in this crazy world. Or, perhaps better, 'This cockeyed caravan?'

Glenn Erickson DVD Savant


2. Savant was published this year in Video Watchdog magazine, and his essay on The Horrible Dr. Hichcock and EuroHorror, Women on the Verge of a Gothic Breakdown was published in The Horror Film Reader, Alain Silver and James Ursini, editors, Limelight. Savant also provided a preface introduction for VideoHound's DVD Guide Book 2, Mike Mayo, Gale Group.

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