(Update 2/20/06: Perry Wang just emailed me to let me know he is no longer at Media Revolution. He’s now at Trigger. I’ve removed MR’s name from my notes on the interview below)
I had an opportunity to interview Mirko Parlevliet recently. Even if you don’t know the name you know what Mirko has contributed to the online entertainment world. His resume of sites include ComingSoon.net and SuperHeroHype.com (formerly SpiderManHype), both of which are go-to sites for current movie information. Mirko also is a major cheerleader for the recently announced Red5Comics, a new site that will publish original graphic novel-type content. Thanks to Mirko for bearing with me and a special thanks to Perry Wang of(my first interview subject) for arranging this.
MMM: How did you start publishing the websites? What was the staff situation and technical limitations of the early days?
Mirko: In September, 1998, my wife had just started teaching first grade and she was quite occupied with that for the first few months. So, I had a lot of time on my hands and had already created a small movie fansite. She recommended I expand it, and I decided to create ComingSoon.net – as most movie trailers in theaters end with the ‘Coming Soon’ label, as you know. The site grew quickly, mainly because of the release dates list back then, and I learned how to publish gradually. We spend many nights at Barnes & Noble where I browsed HTML books and read about the Internet/movie business!
Then in May, 1999, I knew there was a Spider-Man movie coming and there were a ton of Star Wars sites hyping that franchise, but nothing really big for Sam Raimi’s film. I decided to spinoff Spider-Man Hype! from ComingSoon.net which turned into Superhero Hype! in December, 2001, when we knew that Spidey news would slow down after the first movie came out five months later.
The first few years it was just me running the sites. It was quite a challenge keeping up with the sites while working a 9 to 5 as well. I eventually had to say goodbye to the 9 to 5 and as we grew, more volunteers came on board throughout the U.S. and today we have about 15 correspondents.
Another big challenge was the hosting. As the sites got bigger, our providers couldn’t handle the traffic at many times and we went through many hosting companies before finding the right one.
MMM: What kind of change do you think has happened over the past six or seven years in the way movie studios have regarded online fanzines (and now blogs)? Did you sense they were skeptical of online at the beginning?
Mirko: There’s been a significant change over the years. I remember back when some studios wouldn’t even allow movie fansites to link to their trailers online. I do think they were skeptical because what we said or showed could have hurt their film’s image. Now, they have completely embraced the idea and work with us daily to promote their films.
MMM: What can you tell me about Red 5 Comics? What was the impetus to start a site devoted to original comics material?
Mirko: Red5Comics.com is getting ComingSoon.net and SuperheroHype.com’s support because one of the creators has worked on the sites for many years now. We’re sponsoring the site and it’s being handled by guys whose experience includes TheForce.net and StarWars.com.
The guys behind Red 5 Comics love comics, movies and the web, so this will be a labor of love combining those three interests. Red 5’s mission is to bring “theatrical-sized entertainment to sequential-art story-telling”. With partners like SHH! and CS providing exposure, these stories should find a sizable audience among movie fans and movie makers alike.
MMM: How were you first approached by a studio with materials they wanted publicized? Or did you develop a network that enabled you to contact them and build relationships?
Mirko: It took a long time to get support from the studios, but this was in the early days of promoting movies online and it was new to them as well. I’ve often said that I wouldn’t recommend anyone starting a site like this, because it can be hard getting the right contacts. We started to get noticed when we got some interesting scoops and they would write us about those or others just wanted to keep us updated on their upcoming films. We build up the contact list over the years.
MMM: How big a part of the marketing plan do you think studios consider the leaking of “first looks” and “sneak peaks” to be?
Mirko: I think first looks and sneak peeks are a significant part of their campaigns, because if top movie sites post their exclusives it spreads throughout the entire Internet.
MMM: What kind of terms (if you can discuss them) do studios attach to “exclusive” or “first look” materials they send your way?
Mirko: It’s not as strict as you might think. They generally just ask us how we would promote the exclusive material and then let us know for how many days it would be exclusive. There’s no real strings attached and we don’t have to sign our life away, we can always decline!
MMM: Do you ever – or have you ever considered – doing consulting work for a studio?
Mirko: I have not done any consulting work for studios, though I’ve thought about it, sure. I haven’t really been approached by studios about this, but I’m sure I could give a tip or two :)