Following from the first half of the Sasha Stone interview (find it here), this is the second part of my question and answer session with Award Daily’s chief editor. Hurry and read it before the film rights are sold, and it becomes a Ron Howard political musical drama called “Write/Stone” in where the leads are played by Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway respectively (remember that Oscars opening?). In all seriousness, thank you Sasha, for dedicating your time to this.
ROBIN WRITE: So, how did you transition from the old site we once knew as Oscarwatch to the one we know today as Awards Daily? Did it cross your mind at any point to call it a day?
SASHA STONE: One of the reasons I never quit was because the readers were such a passionate group, and I could make money on the site as well. Quitting would mean disappointing a good many people. I’m not sure what the future holds. I still think Oscarwatch is a thing onto itself, an invented and necessary word – one that “awardsdaily” doesn’t quite cover. But the Academy ignored me for years until I blabbed in a newspaper about making money. Then they decided it went against their policies and that’s okay by me.
RW: Did you change the way you worked or structured the site? What did you learn from it?
SS: I didn’t change all that much. I still did the same things I always did. But I’ve been frustrated that some people stopped being able to find me and the site and often stumble onto other sites that sound the same as mine. The one big thing I did was separate myself from the forums, which used to be a very big part of the site. But we had friction. They went their way (awardswatch) and I went mine.
RW: Can you tell me a little about what you wanted from the site at the time? What was the purpose of your writing? What is it you want now? Has your writing evolved with the website’s growth?
SS: My writing has evolved for sure. Ryan (Adams) has had a big hand in that. He has been encouraging and helps me edit and proof, which makes it easier. I didn’t use to really write stuff. I would report on the race and link to other articles. Original content became important as a way to distinguish myself from the other bloggers. Also, I started becoming more of an activist for women and minorities – some people could roll with that, others couldn’t but it was how I evolved. I’m not really built to stagnant. I know that much about myself.
RW: Did you meet your own expectations and intentions, then? What was different from what you wanted and what you got? Good or bad?
SS: It has far surpassed my expectations in every way. I never thought it would make money and I never thought anyone would want to read it. I’ve also gone to Cannes for five years now – that’s pretty cool.
RW: You have had other collaborators on the site for some time now. How did you meet and recruit Ryan Adams? What’s the story with Craig Kennedy’s input?
SS: Ryan came aboard as the first main contributor, but a reader named Bob Burns had also contributed, along with several other writers, including Kris Tapley and Scott Feinberg. Craig I met on Jeff Well’s site in the comments section. We became pals. He lived here in LA and we hung out a lot. But he’s sort of going his own way now.
RW: How was Awards Daily TV established? And why? How is that going?
SS: That’s been a new thing with the intention of participating in the Emmys. We are going to do some minor changes to make it more accessible to main page readers and try to up the content for awards writing. I think it could thrive eventually.
RW: Can you talk about any particular friends, and enemies, you have met in your blogging arena or the industry itself?
SS: I try to be “friends” with everyone, but of course we all fight on occasion. We all tend to see each other at the same events every year so we all hang together, and if it weren’t for those in-person interactions we would probably not be friends.
RW: Who do you admire or envy, regardless if you are on a different path, of those that work in a similar field to your own?
SS: I admire the hard work and diligence of them all. Not one of them has gotten where they are without working hard and giving up things. I admire Anne Thompson’s ethics. But beyond that, I don’t have much envy for anyone who works in my field. I envy scientists and people who’ve done really good things with their time on this planet.
RW: I’ve told you before that your Cannes diary over the years could form a rather essential book in its own right for any movie-lover. I’d buy it right away. Have you even considered this? Any other writing projects you would like to pursue?
SS: Oh thanks! That’s so nice. Yes, I have a few ideas I’m working on currently. I don’t know if they will ever make it into an actual book or not.
RW: Speaking of Cannes, what other perks have come your way with the success of Awards Daily?
SS: Seeing movies before anyone else is pretty great. I got called to attend a screening of The Wolf of Wall Street with a Q&A afterwards with Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese. That was mind blowing. I don’t go to many parties – I have to force myself – but if I wanted to I could probably exploit my position a bit better. The best thing about it was being able to support my daughter as a single mom. Now I just have to put her through college.
RW: So, tell me about the struggles you’ve faced? Does what you do come with baggage you might not want to carry?
SS: The main struggle I face is competition. There is too much of it. It all starts to sound like noise. I also see so little changing within the Academy that I feel like, in some ways, I’ve wasted my time if my time was meant to have any kind of impact on the race. It’s also hard to do everything. I do not delegate as I should but run the site, build the site, sell ads and write content is tough to manage.
RW: Talk us through your emotions when you were invited to the Oscars finally? How did you prepare for this? How was that whole experience?
SS: Honestly, I did it for the readers. I knew they would want to see what it was like first hand. Everybody dresses up. I was just way too high up to really see anything but it was fun to be there. The Academy is such a class act in terms of how it runs and operates these awards or any other event. Working the press room you get a taste of it, but you see how it really hums along when you attend the ceremony. I suspect it’s more fun if you have a better seat.
RW: Anyone who knows you will have a very good idea that you endorse and encourage the roles of women in all aspects of cinema. Where do you stand on the state of female representation at the moment? Is it changing? What role do you play?
SS: I was very disappointed – almost to the breaking point – about the lack of attention they gave Gone Girl. Part of it was the studio did not advertise for that film, but also it made me think people just don’t care about the stories of women anymore. One of the problems is that women want themselves to be portrayed in a positive light. That greatly limits one’s ability to be flexible as an actor. I try to stand up for women as much as I can, as you know. The majority of my readers are male so I have to be aware of that and try harder not to make it ALL about women ALL of the time.
RW: So do you struggle to be objective in your writing? Do you even want to be objective?
SS: I have no pretense of being objective. Ever. A job better suited to real journalists.
RW: Can you separate yourself from your work and just simply watch a movie without agenda?
SS: Sure I can. It isn’t the watching of the movie that’s the problem – it’s how the Oscar race ruins movies. Like I’ll never watch Argo ever again. I’ll never watch Life is Beautiful. I remember hating on Chocolat way back when. When I finally rewatched it I couldn’t believe how good it was. In making movies into winners and losers it makes it harder to treat them as art. It’s kind of depressing, that part of it, but it is also hard to stop doing that.
RW: How have you learnt to cope with the negative comments on the site? Or the harsher responses from the big bad world Twitter can be?
SS: I can be fairly combative in social media. Not much of it hurts. I have my tender spots so if someone hits one of those, yeah, it can ruin my day. But most people don’t know them so they throw insults at me that I don’t care about. I try to stay off Twitter as much as possible. And I hope to soon stay off Facebook for good. It is just distracting all of us from what’s happening out there in the real world.
RW: I’ve written about it briefly myself, and seen many out there talking about it, but are you encouraged by the greater showing of females in the cinema of 2015 so far?
SS: Well not in terms of awards. We all know how that goes. It starts out encouraging then it shits the bed.
RW: Without thinking about it too much, then, what is the best film of 2015?
SS: Of the films I’ve seen so far – I would have to say Ex Machina.
RW: Again, without too much thought, biggest Oscar hopeful right now?
SS: Probably Love & Mercy, but it’s tough to say.
RW: Where is Sasha Stone now? Where does she go next?
SS: She will be finishing a novel and making every effort she can to drink up the beauty of the world before it’s all gone.
Look out for further interviews in the future. In the meantime go bookmark Awardsdaily.com (which is salt to Awards Daily TV‘s pepper), and head over to Twitter to check out some of Sasha’s movie advocacy @AwardsDaily, and if you really, really must, Ryan’s sardonic musings @filmystic.