Interview: Ted Johnson

Variety managing editor Ted Johnson, in addition to helping oversee the weekly edition of the magazine, also manages a new blog, wilshireandwashington.com, covering the intersection of entertainment and politics.

Variety managing editor Ted Johnson, in addition to helping oversee the weekly edition of the magazine, also manages a new blog, wilshireandwashington.com, covering the intersection of entertainment and politics.

He recently spoke with PRWeek on how the ubiquitous phrase "Let's do lunch" is often heard in both LA and DC.

PRWeek: Do reporters at Variety end up talking a lot with directors, movie stars, and the filmmaker, or is it mostly just studio people?

Ted Johnson: One thing that amazes me is the extent to which you are talking quite a bit to studio execs, agents, managers, and producers, and how little you talk to the "talent," meaning the stars and directors. [However,] in the midst of awards season, a lot of directors and stars make themselves available quite a bit.

PRWeek: What are the different ways that the political and entertainment worlds intersect?

Johnson: There's four different areas, and they're not always related. The big one out here is fundraising. It's already up and running and has been for some time. [For example,] the 2008 presidential fundraising, where you have, it seems all the candidates or people thinking of running swinging through here for meet-and-greets with key donors.

PRWeek: Is the stereotype of Hollywood being left wing true?

Johnson: I do think Hollywood is more Democratic. Whether it's predominantly liberal, that's another question. But Democratic candidates tend to dominate the debate out here.

From the GOP side, especially during the Bush administration, where there hasn't been a huge outreach to the entertainment industry, it feels almost like silence.

PRWeek: How else do politics  and entertainment intersect?

Johnson: One [way] is celebrities and their causes, which is ongoing. Another is lobbying in DC. The [other way] is creative expression - the growth of political documentaries, political movies.

PRWeek: Are studios open or generally secretive about projects?

Johnson: They talk a lot off the record, just because the deal might not be done. But then there comes a point where people will talk forever about their project, especially when it releases, because it's their pride and joy. It's like DC, where the longer you cover it, the more sources you get.

PRWeek: What's been your experience dealing with public affairs people in the government?

Johnson: I think public affairs is a little more open in DC. First, they deal with a lot more media and tend to have a lot more coming at them, so I think people are a little more seasoned, especially in a crisis. [Plus] there's a bit more of an obligation to be out in the open.

Name: Ted Johnson

Title: Managing editor

Outlet: Variety

Preferred contact method: ted.johnson@variety.com

Web site: www.variety.com

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