If you’ve spent any time at all on the wonderful World Wide Web you’ve doubtlessly come across more than a few sites than went from a casual visit to a bookmarked visit when you went online. For the past seven years Spill.com was my go-to spot to get my daily laugh on. Or at least it was until it was unceremoniously shut down and the on-air talent fired without warning.
What’s a Spill.com? The short answer is a movie review site where four or five regular guys, none of them professional film critics, would sit around like regular guys shootin’ the shit. It started out as a harmless vice, but it quickly became a favorite habit.
From the Spill Wikipedia entry: Spill.com was an award-winning movie and video game review, discussion and news website. It was the continuation of the 9 year old Austin, Texas based Public-access television cable TV show called The Reel Deal. There were four main film critic contributors to the website, collectively known as the Spill Crew, including Korey Coleman, Chris Cox (Cyrus), Martin Thomas (Leon) and Tony Guerrero (Co-Host”””). Operating under aliases since the sites was not under their ownership, with the exception of Korey, they reviewed movies as animated versions of themselves or in uncut audio reviews, maintaining their persona in weekly podcasts. The website was owned by Hollywood.com, under R&S Investments. Stylistically, the site strived to maintain a “down-to-earth vibe.” As of July 2013, Spill.com had over 48,000 registered members. On December 6th, 2013, it was announced that the site will be shutting down. As of December 20, 2013, The URL for the website now redirects to the Hollywood.com website. Their final review was for the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks. Founder Korey Coleman posted on his Facebook page that he cannot share details regarding the shutdown but that he has mostly made peace with “past events” and “everything is fine”. He has also received funds via Kickstarter to start a new website that will be a spiritual successor to Spill.com.
Movie review websites are a dime a dozen, a penny a throw. Anybody can throw up a podcast critiquing movies and some are so amateurish and cruddy they look as if they were thrown up. Spill was never the most polished podcast, but the “Let’s-throw-it-up-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” approach worked more than it didn’t. The philosophy of Coleman and the Spill crew was “if it’s crap, we’ll tell you” which is exactly what they did and in the process built upon a young, diverse and extremely faithful following.
How faithful? When Coleman launched his Kickstarter project, the goal was to raise $30,000. He raked that in during the first weekend and has brought in $88,000 with 19 days remaining. Coleman has changed his magic number to a very doable $100,000 and I wouldn’t bet against him blowing by that number.
Spill not only pointed its viewers toward the best in movies (“better than sex” was the top-rating) it also made Austin, Texas seem like a pretty cool place to visit as the popularity of the site grew to the point there were annual Spill conventions and pub-crawls.
Coleman explained his motivation in a 2008 interview, “If you’re going to do things the same as everybody else, then for me, don’t do it all. That’s the way I do things. That’s the only way I can do things; I don’t want to be like everybody else.”
In 2009 control of Spill.com passed from MIVA, a marketing company to Hollywood.com and though it was Coleman’s hope that an entertainment based owner might be more understanding of what the site was about it wasn’t long before things went south between Coleman and the New York based owners with his discontent spilling over (sorry!) in several remarkably furious and profanity-laced rants. It’s typical for artists to chafe under the conditions imposed upon them by the guys footing the bills, but Coleman was learning a lesson any auteur making the films he critiqued could tell him: if you cash the checks someone else writes they get to tell you to do things they way they want.
If you own it it’s all yours. If you don’t it’s all theirs and no matter how friendly the relationship or how cool the boss is, it’s not a match of equals.
There are no less than a half-dozen other podcasts and sites featuring former Spill contributors such as The Lounge Geeks, Rage Select, The Beerists, Dr. Nerd Love and the site best positioned to replace Spill (if it survives the initial financial growing pains) One of Us.net created by Chris “Cyrus” Cox and Brian Salisbury after their DVD review program was dropped from Spill after a round of Hollywood.com mandated firings and cutbacks.
These sites are smaller in scale than Spill , but all independents and free of the whims of a meddling owner. If you asked Coleman now, chances are he’d reconsider his decision to partner with Hollywood.com Coleman gave up ownership of his baby for a degree of financial security but would learn to his annoyance that he had little say in how his prodigy would be raised as Hollywood.com forced him to make changes to the site, add shows he wasn’t interested in doing and made decisions he vehemently disagreed with.
It’s weird to wake up on a Monday morning and not only is there no A Couple of Cold Ones to listen to there isn’t even a Spill anymore. Hollywood.com pulling the plug in such a heavy-handed fashion was a slap in the face of the Spill Crew and the fans. It won’t be forgiven and it won’t be forgotten.
But Spill was then and whatever Chris, Martin, Tony and Korey do next is now. I interviewed Coleman a few years ago for a story idea I was pitching about a racially-diverse group of informal film critics and their kicked-back, occasionally contentious, frequently riotously funny approach to their jobs, but I don’t think my editor got the point of the piece.
Spill.com was like high school with your buddies, but sooner or later, high school is over and you have to move on to the next phase of your life. With or without your buddies.