Ever since Variety invented the slanguage of entertainment business headlines 100 years ago — that lingo that has execs ankling from the Mouse, helmers bringing legit experience to put pilots, and topliners making p.a.s. at preems — reading the trades has been a core aspect of the entertainment industry’s identity. Whether you are a genuine insider with points and participation or one of the millions of wannabes who Hoover up every scrap of information related to the battle for the box office, there are legions of reporters and news organizations dedicated to supplying you with your latest fix.
In a city where your Uber driver is likely to have an opinion about how Bob Chapek is doing, and an idea where Kevin Mayer will land next, the editors and writers who cover the entertainment industry for the Los Angeles Times enjoy an enviable position. Straddling the blurry divide between the trades and the mainstream media, Company Town, as the L.A. Times entertainment business unit refers to itself, lives by the same principle that drives the world it covers: constant, unbridled competition.
For Ryan Faughnder, the young reporter who began writing The Wide Shot, the L.A. Times’s new entertainment business newsletter, in January of 2021, it’s already been a year to remember. Every Tuesday since January 12, Faughnder and his editor Richard Verrier have sent subscribers this free compendium regardless of whether or not they are paying for an L.A. Times subscription. With a journalist’s eye for the salient angle and contacts at every level and in every corner of the industry, the newsletter has delivered a truly “wide shot” of topics, ranging from the rise of “special purpose acquisition companies” — a k a SPACs — among the entertainment C-suite elite, to the prospects for a return to the theatrical exhibition of films after the pandemic shutdown, to the impact of Chinese filmgoing on the bottom line at IMAX, the Canadian film technology company that has more than 700 screens in that country.
What makes The Wide Shot all the more impressive is the breezy, readable tone that somehow manages to be as engaging as the knowing snark of outlets like Deadline and also more personal. Faughnder, who graduated from UCSB with an English major in 2008, got his start writing about popular music as an intern for the Santa Barbara Independent. As a grad student in USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, Faughnder developed a nose for business news that led him to abandon his dream of becoming the next Lester Bangs for more materially rewarding pursuits. After short stints post-Master’s degree on the tech desk at Bloomberg in New York, and back in L.A. at the Los Angeles Business Journal, Faughnder got the call he was hoping for from the Company Town team at L.A. Times, and he has been there ever since.
Reflecting on the extraordinary year we have all just endured, Faughnder expressed his gratitude that it has made his job — or at least the sourcing of his material — a little easier.
“People at home are often more comfortable talking to you,” he told me, because “there’s no one looking over their shoulder.” He clearly loves the freedom that the newsletter format gives him to “drill down on things that we’re doing in the paper.”
Following the original lead story, each edition of The Wide Shot typically includes multiple sections aggregating links to other news, beginning with “Stuff We Wrote,” which is all L.A. Times content, followed by another block of interesting items from outside the organization. The “number of the week” feature gives an entertainment orientation to the classic Wall Street Journal–style explainer, and the “on-location film tracker” puts current stats on commercial, film, and television shoots happening in the Los Angeles area into the form of visual data.
Finally, in a bow to Faughnder’s unstoppable appetite for new music, there’s often a link at the end to whatever he’s been listening to that week, such as the new album from The Hold Steady, or even a bizarre 100 gecs video remixing Linkin Park. As we head into the Film Festival, it’s a pleasure to contemplate the way that Santa Barbara has become a training ground for the next generation of entertainment industry experts.