Jeff Sneider is an experienced film reporter who has worked for the likes of TheWrap, Mashable, Collider and is now an Editor at Below The Line.
Do you remember the first time I reached out to you a couple of years ago?
I do. I was impressed that you reached out. I think people are afraid sometimes to themselves out there, and they don’t speak up about what they want, and to me, closed mouths don’t get fed. You have got to speak up about what you want to pursue in this life. When I was younger, I don’t know that I had the best mentors or even a mentor. Everyone had mindsets like “You have got to figure this out for yourself,” and “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” And I guess I’m self-taught in that sense, but I wish I had someone to bounce stuff off of and you’re welcome to continue to.
Could you share your story?
I’ve been obsessed with movies since I was a kid. And when I was 12, I saw “Scream,” and that made me want to be a writer. I got into Tisch at NYU and was in the screenwriting department. While I was at NYU, I was writing for the student paper, Washington Square News, and I had a friend, Janelle Wohltmann, who worked at the NYU radio station as a DJ. She would get invites to press screenings but she knew I love movies and I took an invite to one of the “Matrix” sequels. I went to see that and decided to write a review and then I sent it to Ain’t It Cool News, and they ran it. This is when I began a cordial relationship with Harry Knowles, and I would send whatever I couldn’t get into NYU’s paper to them. From there, I was rushing off to New York’s finest hotels to do roundtable interviews with the world’s biggest stars in between classes.
When I graduated from NYU, I ended up getting an internship at Blumhouse, which was unpaid, and I needed to make some money. I saw that Variety was hiring paid interns, so that’s really how I fell into the trade game. I eventually made my way to The Wrap where Sharon Waxman taught me how to be a reporter. I returned to Variety, before going to The Wrap, then Mashable, The Tracking Board, and Collider before finally landing at Below the Line.
A lot of outlets seem to be going towards digital content, am I wrong in saying that?
That’s a good question. I definitely sense the move towards interviews, I just feel like that is what publicity departments seem to value. But it’s still “hot take culture,” right? That’s the stuff that ends up going viral. I would say that news is less valued, unfortunately. It’s always going to be valued because you can’t have takes without the news, and there’s always going to be a premium on exclusives and breaking news, but you’re right. You used to see places trumpeting their exclusives. And it was all about being first. And I do feel that it has moved away from that a little bit. With Below The Line, I am trying to publish an interview a day and to give a voice to these artisans.
You spoke about everyone rushing to be first, do you think about the way the embargoes are set up for big-budget movies is a part of that issue? For example, I saw “No Way Home” at one of the first press screenings and then the embargo goes up at like 2:00 AM the next morning.
Yeah, but that’s a choice that you’re making, Andrew. What happens if you don’t publish the review in six hours? Nothing happens. It’s the studio. Embargoes are good because I think that they level the playing field, but I don’t know why everyone rushes to meet them, unless it makes sense for their readership and their audience. I did it for “Scream” (2022), the embargo was 3:00 AM Eastern, and I stayed up until 4:30 to finish. Now, why didn’t I just go to bed and finish in the morning? Or post on Friday? I guess it’s because yeah, I wanted to be part of that first wave of reviews that gets shared and passed around, but you’re right that it’s never helpful to write under that kind of deadline and. It takes a certain kind of critic to that, one who is not in a rush to hit those embargoes. A lot of people just go and don’t even write reviews, just look at the people in the Critics’ Choice Awards. Are you a critic because you go on YouTube and talk about your feelings on a movie? Is a critic just someone who sees a movie and has an opinion?
This interview was edited for clarity and is part one of a two-part interview to be continued in the next issue.