JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY
By Kelly Boler
Ask Harry Knowles if there is one thing about his job that sucks, and he says simply, "No." Ok, if pressed, he allows that there is one thing: the man behind the iconic media website Ain't It Cool News receives over 5,000 pieces of email spam a day, an it has to be removed by hand. Still, that seems to be about as bad as it gets for the man that People magazine says is the guy with the best job in the world.
A look at Ain't It Cool News finds a dazzling compendium of insider gossip, news about film, music, video games and other aspects of media, as well as a place for self-described film geeks to gather virtually and compare notes. It started in 1996 as the brainchild of Knowles, who was confined to bed, recuperating from a debilitating accident. It quickly took on a life of its own, and is now the go-to site for straight info aboutupcoming and in-production movies, behind-the-scenes machinations, casting coups, and the like.
"Basically," says Knowles, "it's my job to stay on top of the latest and coolest in geek that's out there, specifically as it relates to the world of film." He does this by heading up a team who explore video games, television and music. The team he has assembled is made of individuals with a dependable level of expertise, and he gives them carte blanche, which leaves Knowles free to pursue his obsession with film. "I do just what I want."
Asked about an average day, he says, "Today I posted [to the site] the new Simpsons movie trailer. Then I looked at various houses I might move into. Edgar Wright [director of Shaun of the Dead] is coming by later to screen his new feature Hot Fuzz. He'll show me the movie, then I get to go home and tell people about the film." Also on for the evening is a first viewing of his video wedding invitation. "I just got a box of them, 150." It is an eight minute DVD directed for Knowles and his fiancee by friend Peter Jackson. The guy who did that Lord of the Rings thing. Just one of the perks.
Actually, Knowles puts an enormous amount of work into Ain't It Cool. He also feels strongly about giving back to the film world, both in general, and in his home town of Austin, Texas. He is on the board of directors of the Alamo Drafthouse, the entertainment center that Entertainment Weekly called the number one theater in the world doing it right. It features a stunning and eclectic mix of live music, classic and independent movies, and stage shows. Knowles is understandably proud as he raves. "We have a 40 by 80 inflatable surface screen from Germany, and a state of the art outdoor sound system."
In March, the Alamo Drafthouse will host the famous South by Southwest Film Festival. "It is considered one of the great film festivals in the country, in the top three," says Knowles. "And it's like the granddaddy of Austin film festivals. About the fourth one they had, I became a known person and they approached me about having my own panel here and there, trying to get studios to bring in a film." Which he has done ever since.
This year, in addition to other roles at the festival, he will moderate the Panel of the Dead, a group that will include director Eli Roth (Hostel 2), Lauren Moews (producer of Cabin Fever and the upcoming horror thriller Borderland), and Adam Green (writer and director of Hatchet). "I'm not sure what we are doing on that panel. Ask me the day after," he jokes. "Really, we're going to talk the state of horror films and the future of them. I'll keep the conversation going if it lags."
That, without a doubt, comes with the price of admission. Whether bringing his enthusiasm to the Panel of the Dead and the South by Southwest Film Festival in general, or his website (director Quentin Tarantino called Knowles the "Wolf Blitzer of the Internet), or his new stint as film critic for Penthouse, he always strives, he says, paraphrasing P.T. Barnum, to "give a hell of a show."
- Kelly Boler
To see Ain't It Cool News, go to: www.aintitcool.com. For more information about the Austin Drafthouse and the South by Southwest Film Festival, go to: http://www.drafthouse.com or www.sxsw.com.
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