Recently, I’ve been inundated on Twitter with extremely specific news about movie minutiae that comes from mysterious sources. You probably have been too.
For instance, did you know that the magician heist drama Now You See Me 3 is in the works with Ruben Fleischer set to direct?
That the Russo Brothers are making a live-action modern musical version of Hercules inspired by TikTok?
That Scream 6 has been brought forward and will now release on March 10, 2023 instead of March 31, 2023?
Or that Laurence Fishburne’s opinion on the fourth Matrix movie was: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be”?
Casting announcements, birthdays, deaths, release anniversaries, out-of-context quotes, and nice little pictures of Robert Pattinson posing in Dior: Rest assured you’ll be getting this information from an enigmatic account with a massive following that posts around-the-clock. The tone will be straightforward—so boring and matter-of-fact that it’s almost mesmerizing.
But where exactly did these accounts come from? Were they studio plants, or run by bots?
The biggest players include Discussing Film (680,400 followers at the time of publication), Film Updates (390,900), and Culture Crave (751,900). They seem to owe their success to being succinct, not editorializing, and just dangling a bit of information to be dissected, quote-tweeted, or otherwise torn apart. I wanted to know who was running them, how they were making money, and how they had managed to become so popular by just aggregating trade publications like Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline for the average poster. I also wanted to know why I needed to know that 15 years ago, Bee Movie was released in theaters.
Discussing Film, arguably the most prominent of these (to the point where it’s inspired several parody accounts), is run by Jacob Fisher, a 21-year-old digital marketing student based in Northern England. He founded Discussing Film in 2016, but started using it in earnest sometime around 2018. There’s also an accompanying site that posts reviews and interviews and employs a team of 15 paid staffers mostly based in the States. Most people are only aware of the Twitter, which posts 40 to 50 times per day, but the site is primarily how Discussing Film makes money, save for the occasional streaming service affiliate link. (Fisher declined to answer how much money he makes annually.)
Fisher currently does most of the tweeting, he told me, “not because I can’t find anyone to do them but because, quite frankly, I really enjoy doing it.” The whole endeavor is convenient for his schedule in the UK: he gets most of his schoolwork and day-to-day business done by 2 p.m. his time, around which the studios and the trades start releasing information that needs to be posted. Most of the time. “Our San Diego Comic Con coverage in July fell at 1 o’clock in the morning and it was my birthday so I was quite excited because I like covering the panels anyway, so I thought, it’s a good birthday treat for me,” Fisher said.
He initially became interested in movies through his Star Wars fandom, and for that reason Discussing Film tends to lean heavily on big IP news. “What also does well is actor names and director names. If there’s a popular director who comes out and it’s their new film, or if it’s the first trailer, or if it’s an announcement for their new film, that can normally do even better than some of the IP stuff,” he said.
Though the account tends towards the straightforward, being more tongue-in-cheek has helped him grow his following. When former president Donald Trump contracted Covid in 2020, Fisher posted “‘Home Alone 2: Lost In New York’ star Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19,” along with a screenshot of Trump in the movie.
If Discussing Film tends towards mass-market news, then Film Updates leans slightly more indie—for the poster who loses their mind over A24’s latest marketing campaign. The three people who run it agreed to answer my questions only under anonymity, though they did tell me they’re students in their 20s who reside in the US, the UK, and Pakistan. “We were all Twitter mutuals before we joined forces, and our love and passion for film is what brought us together,” they wrote to me.
“It came from a place of wanting to share our love, thoughts and opinions about film to a wider audience, while also providing updates in a timely manner. There are a number of great film accounts, such as Discussing Film, that do a wonderful job of providing news and updates but we saw a gap in the Film Twitter space for an account that covered different things, such as magazine covers, award show fashion and events, so we jumped on the opportunity,” they continued.
The three administrators split their time scouring the trades and getting press releases directly. They currently don’t make any money at all. The reason why they do it is, “to be part of an industry that we all admire so much in any capacity, and to highlight films and talents that may not get the amount of coverage from other publications as more mainstream films would.”
Culture Crave (not to be confused with Pop Crave, another mysterious monster aggregator) is another interesting case study, mainly because they’re making money directly on Twitter through the Twitter Amplify ad buy program. Their founder, Zach Williamson, a 28-year-old based in San Francisco, started Culture Crave in 2017. (He too declined to share how much money Culture Crave makes annually.) “I do about 95 percent of the tweets on Culture Crave,” he says. He consults the trades, but also says that film publicists, studios, and even some trade reporters are coming to him directly to get the news disseminated.
He first got into the game early on, as a Game of Thrones-obsessed teen. “I couldn’t really find an outlet that was curating Game of Thrones news. So I made a page called Thrones Facts and that started really catching on, the style I was doing it,” he says. “And from Thrones Facts, I then made Marvel Facts and Star Wars Facts.”
“I’d say it’s big IPs what we’re trying to focus on,” he said. “Big indie directors we’ve had success with in the past—the Safdie Bros, we’ll tweet stuff about their content. Today I’m probably going to do a tweet on the movie Moonlight, which came out 8 years ago now. That kind of stuff now, I like to celebrate.”
Each account also independently mentioned that there’s plenty of room for their competitors to coexist. It’s a big, wide world out there: anyone with dedication to posting can let us know when it’s the Bee Movie anniversary.