Today, Pitchfork Media announced the impending launch of a new website devoted to movies. The Dissolve will debut in July, under the editorial direction of Keith Phipps, former editor at the A.V. Club and a contributor to Slate.
Curious to learn more about the site, I emailed Phipps several questions about it earlier today.
Slate: What’s the relationship between this new website about movies and Pitchfork’s flagship site devoted to music? Do you see The Dissolve having a similar sensibility?
Keith Phipps: If we can become for movies what Pitchfork is for music—a smart site written with a lot of passion and knowledge for people who care about the subject—I’ll be thrilled. That said, when I first talked to Pitchfork president Chris Kaskie, I approached him with the notion of creating a Pitchfork for films, and the idea has evolved since then. I hope the site will be as wide-ranging in terms of reviews as Pitchfork is, by covering releases both big and small and digging into areas like video-on-demand, which tend to get overlooked.
We also want to keep an eye trained on film history, so there will be plenty of pieces that have little or nothing to do with what’s playing in theaters right now. If we want to write about, say, Electra Glide in Blue or Letter From An Unknown Woman, we’ll find a way to do that.
Slate: Most of your new staff are, like yourself, former contributors to the A.V. Club. Can you talk about why you all decided to do something new somewhere else? How do you see the new site differing from your old haunt? The A.V. Club, like Pitchfork, uses grades in its reviews, and maybe even has a similar geeky-indie outlook (feel free to dispute that, of course).
Phipps: I parted ways with the A.V. Club back in December and needed something new to do. When this opportunity came along I was able to recruit some staffers who were interested in focusing on film in a new environment and in new ways. Part of what makes this exciting is that we can do new things, build anything we want without boundaries, and work to present it in innovative ways.
We’re still the same writers with the same voices, so I can’t imagine anyone who read us at the A.V. Club being shocked when the new site debuts, but we’re going to be doing our own thing and bringing in a lot of new ideas that everyone is very excited about.
That said, I can’t dispute either the “geeky” or “indie” tags. We wear them proudly. And it was nice, if not that surprising, to discover Pitchfork has a similar crew.
Slate: In addition to reviews, news, and commentary, The Dissolve will “conduct in-depth conversations with filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors.” Will the site be specifically web-oriented in any way? Do you have any plans for video essays, for instance? Will Pitchfork Media help create the sort of innovative web design they’ve used in some of their profiles?
Phipps: Right now we’re just focusing on getting off the ground with written features. We’d love to add video essays and such later on. As for the look of the site, part of what makes Pitchfork such an appealing place to work is that innovative web design you mentioned. The design team here is amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
Slate: Is there anything you think is missing or underrepresented in film coverage these days? What kinds of gaps do hope The Dissolve will fill? In filmmaking, a dissolve is a kind of transition between scenes. Do you expect the site to be transitional in some way, or did you just like the sound of the word?
Phipps: One reason we like The Dissolve so much as a name is that it refers to an effect that’s only possible in film, and exploring what makes film a unique form is important to us. Beyond that, I wouldn’t read a grand statement into the name. Mostly I’m just happy to have a part in creating a site for good film writing in the midst of so much contraction in the field.
I grew up understanding film better—and books, music, and life, for that matter—thanks to people who wrote about it. I’m glad we can carve out a place for ourselves in that world. And the world is changing: I still love seeing movies in theaters more than anything else, but there’s so much available via video-on-demand and streaming services and we definitely want to be a site that addresses how and where people watch movies.
Slate: According to The Wall Street Journal, Pitchfork has been profitable most years. Can you speak at all about the financial expectations for the site? In addition to advertising (I assume), do you have other revenue plans, perhaps analogous to Pitchfork’s concert business? Film screenings, say?
Phipps: I’m not a business guy at all, but I can say that everyone here has been extremely supportive and treated this as an enterprise that needs time and nurturing to grow. Everything at Pitchfork seems to be built with realistic and sustainable goals in mind, with the notion of building a devoted audience being paramount. It’s a place that knows how to build great websites first and then build the business around that. We’re very excited for the chance to help make that happen.
Slate: The A.V. Club has a real community of commenters, but Pitchfork doesn’t have comments at all. Will The Dissolve have comments?
Phipps: Yes. We’d feel lonely without comments.