Steven Gaydos – Vice President, Executive Editor, Variety
At 108 years old, it’s fair to say Variety magazine has seen its share of changes. Founded and owned by Sime Silverman and his family for more than 50 years, the show business publication and its spinoff editions were later owned by the Cahners Corp. and Reed Elsevier. In late 2012, the magazine was acquired by Penske Media Corporation (PMC), and it was determined that Variety would transition from a daily print publication to an enhanced weekly format, while significantly increasing the number of special features and issues to more than 100 per year. Helping lead Variety in this venture is Steven Gaydos, who in March added the role of vice president to his executive editor position, a title he has held for the last three years.
“People have had a chance to see what we’re up to in print, and now we have a new weekly product that aspires to be an essential read,” Gaydos said.
With Variety already in its fourth issue under the new ownership, Gaydos said there will be a focus on strengthening the magazine’s well-known features and initiatives that stay current on the pulse of the entertainment business.
“We’ve had great success at spotting new talent early in their careers with our 10 to Watch series, our conferences business remains exciting, and we’ll be continuing our impact reports, which look at how various sectors affect the film industry,” Gaydos said. “And the new Variety is right out of the gate with cover stories on the challenges facing companies in the current film scene and the death of celluloid film this year.”
At the crux of Variety’s new direction is Jay Penske, the founder, chairman and CEO of PMC. Gaydos has no shortage of praise for Penske’s ethos and foresight in acquiring the magazine.
“We’re creating a weekly magazine that’s a world-class and essential industry read, and hiring and empowering people to do great things. That really comes from Jay, and I’m delighted to have that personal passion driving it,” Gaydos said. “Variety was like a brilliant veteran rock band that needed a new singer-songwriter. In Jay, we got the creative juices going again and we’re already making great new hit records.”
Gaydos’s own creative juices are steeped in the film industry. With a more than 10 year tenure at Variety, he is the author and co-editor of three books on film and is known for his expertise on international film festivals. He’s served as the writer for several films, his most recent screenplay being for the feature film Road To Nowhere, about a young filmmaker becoming wrapped up in a crime while shooting his new project. Collaborating with director Monte Hellman, it was noted for being the first movie to be shot entirely with a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, which is much smaller than standard motion picture film cameras and can easily be held by hand.
Speaking on the novelty of this approach, Gaydos said, “We had a lot of pressure to make a standard film print. That was just in 2010. Today, not only is there no pressure to make film prints, no one’s doing it. That’s how much the technology has changed in two years.”
He also sees the sign of the changing media times extending into the realm of television, and supports the drive to ditch structured cable packages and programming for Internet-based TV watching at leisure, an initiative commonly known as Zero TV.
“I’m definitely a proponent of the new platforms and tools for making and receiving content. The number of people without cable has increased from 2 million to 5 million,” he said. “For my teenage daughter, who has everything she needs on her computer or phone, her generation won’t be cutting the cable cord, they’ll be asking ‘what cord?’”
Where he sees change as progressive in film and media technology, Gaydos finds change in the art of film criticism to be a peculiar thing. It’s something he accepts while staying determined to provide and highlight fresh voices in the field. He commended the late Roger Ebert for what he called courage in film criticism, and stated:
“The culture, publishing world and role of cinema in young people’s lives have all changed. It used to be a rite of passage to know and see movies that were invigorating and challenging, and while that theory still exists, it doesn’t have a central place anymore. Film criticism had a peak when film culture had a peak. Monte Hellman stated it perfectly – Films that endorse the religion of the time generally succeed, and films that challenge that religion generally fail.”
For all his observations on how film criticism has shifted, Gaydos remains engaged, and points to the value of Variety’s features such as the 10 to Watch series. “If we can discover and shine a light on a new voice really saying something different and important, that’s a big bonus in what we do. It’s not just reporting the news, we should really valorize people who are visionaries.”
With changing times in mind, Gaydos would tell young journalists to always aim high in their work, be current on the latest technology and remain dedicated to the craft in order to be a hot commodity, as he views the field as somewhat cutthroat.
“I think you need to really be a star to make a living, or work at a ‘last man standing’ publication like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Also ask yourself, ‘Do I work on video?’ Because if you don’t have a place to show your face online and you’re not a star and you’re not at such a publication, you had better be independently wealthy. It’s become an extremely challenging field. Of course, so is writing movies, and no one stops anyone who is committed to the work out of passion and sense of purpose.”
He added, “Variety gives me the opportunity to practice journalism, make a living and be immersed in the business, and I’m never tired of it.”
Gaydos advises PR professionals to keep in mind the specific coverage of entertainment business and news pertaining to the business. He stresses that Variety does not cover consumer entertainment.
“I’m fascinated by the way films and projects are financed, the technology, how they’re made, distributed and marketed,” he said. “I’m also fascinated by local areas and regions that are attracting inward investments and supporting local talent.”
To sum up, Gaydos said, “Think about what you would pitch to The Wall Street Journal in terms of entertainment business.”
He prefers to be contacted by email.
Follow Gaydos on Twitter at @HighSierraMan
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