Little White Lies Presentation @ Sunderland Uni

I’m a middle class white kid at uni who mocks most things that come his way with a passive aggressive complacency, so it’s clearly important to me to listen to music and watch films that a significant proportion of the population has not heard of. It makes me a better person. In the last few years I have had the extreme pleasure to come across Little White Lies, an independent film magazine that is probably the best designed publication I’ve ever seen. It also exists in a unique place in the marketplace in that it covers arthouse cinema, but is not elitist and pretentious in its execution. I was therefore some kind of delighted to hear that Danny Miller, the publisher, Matt Bochenski, the editor and Rob Longworth, the creative director from Little White Lies were coming into our University to give us a presentation on how they got started and what is involved in making their magazine a success.

The first thing I noticed is how young they all are. Not wanting to sound like a housewife astonished at the appearance of police officers, but these guys looked like they could be older brothers of the class they were speaking to. This was surprising but also encouraging.
The magazine has been running for 5 years now and was clearly a brave venture made by individuals that weren’t deterred by their own inexperience. During the presentation there was a humorous and quite refreshing level of frankness about just how unprepared they seemed to be for running their own magazine. “We didn’t really do any market research, we just thought because we liked it, other people might”, was an actual quote from Matt and personal favourite of mine. But while they joked slightly and acted modestly, what was clear from the outset of the presentation was that Matt, Danny and Rob all believed in the magazine as a product that was distinct and was offering something that magazine readers are not able to find elsewhere. Both Matt and Danny said that they would never be able to compete with the Empires and Total Films of this world and so it was crucial that they make it obvious how they were different to what was already available. They iterated that because the magazine is unique in its content and tone, that they were able to attract a significant community of freelance writers and designers who were keen to work for a title that would let them write about what was of personal enthusiasm and not have to deal with the procedure of being edited towards a frustrated aneurysm. This also raised a point that often they aren’t able to pay much or any to many freelancers, who it seems are compensated for in a creative regard. Danny spoke of the struggle to fund the magazine through advertisers (which was clearly a huge personal irritation/vendetta) and the conflict between editorial and marketing.
For instance when the magazine was awarded a grant from the UK Film Council, they decided to spend their money on getting the magazine in WHSmiths and so felt it was probably best to have an accessible and recognisable film on the cover. However, because they believed it to be the best film of the last few months, the Iranian black and white cartoon, ‘Persepolis’ adorned the front page. But this kind of move is indicative of the philosophy behind the magazine’s production. Each issue is dedicated to a particular film, but this decision is not based on production companies paying them to promote their latest release. Instead the decision is made purely from an editorial desire and they rarely take money from these companies as they see it somewhat conflicting with the ethos of the magazine – ‘Truth and Movies’. Even though it may seem cliche or even inapplicable to the competitive world of publishing, it genuinely appears that they make decisions based on what they want to read and make the magazine because it’s what they love doing. After the presentation was over all three guys took time out to answer some questions and have a chat to eager students who had their enthusiasm stoked back up after 2 and a half years of being convinced that the print industry is spluttering its way to an untimely death.

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