Eric D. Snider

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Jeff Wells should be ashamed of himself

There is a film blogger named Jeffrey Wells, whose site, Hollywood Elsewhere, is fairly well read within the industry. He’s not a film critic, per se, though he does often express his opinions about movies. Mostly he writes about the whole Hollywood business, everything from behind-the-scenes deals to ad campaigns to distribution strategies.

He was one of the people invited to appear on the panel about film criticism this morning at the Oxford Film Festival, and I was eager to meet him. Though we’ve been attending many of the same festivals for several years, I’d never actually talked to him, and I was curious to learn whether he was as much of a condescending, humorless curmudgeon as he seems in his blog. Maybe it was all an act, or maybe in person it would be funny and not off-putting. I’ve certainly been misinterpreted before, so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions about him as a person.

Our introduction was affable enough, and we chatted briefly at the opening-night party. My impression was that maybe he plays the role of the ever-offended grouch online because it’s interesting and is perfectly reasonable in everyday life.

And then he refused to appear on the film criticism panel because he couldn’t get wifi in his hotel room.

I’m not making this up. I’m not even exaggerating. The festival invited him here ONLY to be on the panel. I’m sure they hoped he’d write about it on his blog, too, but his official reason for being there was the panel. They paid for his plane ticket. They covered his hotel room. And he refused to do the panel — remember, the ONE THING HE WAS THERE FOR — because of the unreliable Internet access in the hotel. (The free hotel.)

Here’s what he wrote on his blog this morning:

I arrived in Oxford around 5:30 pm and checked into the Oxford Downtown Inn, courtesy of the Oxford Film Festival. And then the wireless issues began.

It’s now just before 6 am and the issues haven’t stopped, and I’ve decided to cut bait as a result. That’s right — I’m outta here, flying back to NYC. Or maybe I’ll drive south a bit and cruise around, find an adventure, something. Any place with decent wifi I call home.

The hotel doesn’t offer wireless in the rooms, providing instead a late-20th-Century ethernet cable connection for internet access. Except the cable is only eight inches long — the only time in my life that I’ve ever seen or heard of a connection cable this short — and the connection it delivers is erratic and/or not strong enough, the result being that transferring jpegs to my server via FTP software stopped working almost immediately. I resorted to my AT&T Air Card, which worked for a while last night but stopped working this morning for some reason. It’s now 5:40 am and my only working connection right now (albeit a “very low” one) is the wireless that the hotel offers in the lobby only.

I can’t do this. I won’t do this. This is not 1997, and if a regional film festival is unable to provide easy, high-speed wifi to its journalist guests then no offense but it just shouldn’t invite them down in the first place. I mean, c’mon. Bless Oxford, Mississippi in all other respects. It’s a soothing, pleasingly upscale, obviously highly cultured college town with a real-deal 19th Century atmosphere, and the Oxford Film Festival has been, for me, a charmer in every respect except for the ridiculous internet situation. If I can’t post easily and swiftly, there’s really no point in being here.

So I’m packing my bags and heading back to Memphis this morning. I really don’t have time for this jazz. I’m not there to sip moonshine and read Faulkner — I’m here to work, and it’s just too much work, too frustrating and too inconvenient to accomplish this goal.

Sure enough, he didn’t go to the panel. When the rest of us gathered outside the hotel to get a ride over to the venue, he was in the lobby with his laptop, but he did not join us. He did, however, join us at the restaurant afterward for the festival-provided drinks and lunch.

And he’s staying in town after all, as posted later in the day:

Okay, now I’m not not leaving Oxford. The festival guys put me into another hotel — a nice plastic Holiday Inn — that has flawless wifi. All’s well again. I missed, however, this morning’s critics & media panel, which was moderated by James Rocchi somewhere on the Ole Miss campus. I was scheduled to take part, but I was so angry at the wifi troubles that I blew it off. I stayed up really late trying to fix things, couldn’t sleep, woke up at 4:30 am, the hell with it.

In other words: I threw a fit and declined to do the one thing that was required of me.

Let me make this clear. This small film festival, which operates primarily on donations and the tireless work of volunteers, paid several hundred dollars to fly Jeffrey Wells out here and get him a hotel room, all so that he could be a guest on the panel. They hoped his relatively high profile in the movie blogosphere would help create cachet for the still-growing young festival. And then he repaid them by snottily refusing to fulfill his obligation.

I understand that having no Internet access is a problem. For someone who runs his site as a one-man show, and who needs to be able to post items online throughout the day, it’s not merely a mild inconvenience — it’s death. Heck, I was annoyed, too. I had to go down to the lobby well after midnight last night to post today’s movie reviews. It was irritating. But I didn’t think for a moment to punish the festival for it!

Wells had every reason to call the festival staff and say, “Listen, the hotel is great, I really appreciate you finding such comfortable lodgings for us instead of some cheap, dirty place outside of town. One problem, though — the Internet access is unreliable, and I absolutely have to have it in order to do my work. Is there any way to move me somewhere else?”

But he didn’t do that. Instead, he told the festival staff — after having already told the world on his blog — that he wouldn’t be appearing on the panel. And then, still believing himself to be the aggrieved party here, he has the nerve to stay in town, to keep suckling off the teat of the people who wasted several hundred dollars on him.

Unbelievable. This is such astonishing arrogance and jackassery that I can scarcely believe it’s the behavior of an actual person and not a movie character. The hotel has screwed up your life? Fine. Complain about it, get it taken care of, get upset if you want. But it doesn’t prevent you from still doing the ONE THING you were contracted to do. WHY ELSE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE HERE, WELLS?

Do you think the festival wanted you here just for your sunny personality, and that the panel was just an oh-by-the-way kind of thing? It wasn’t, and you know it wasn’t. I doubt there was any confusion when you were invited as to WHY you were being invited. You had no other official duties, no other obligations. Festivals that merely want your press coverage don’t pay your expenses to get you there.

This is ungentlemanly behavior of the worst order, Wells. You should be ashamed to have wasted the festival’s time and resources so childishly. You owe the staff an apology — and whatever they paid for your plane ticket.

UPDATE: Wells has responded by claiming to be the victim of schoolyard picking-on, with no wrongdoing on his part. Enjoy the hilarity!

43 Responses to “Jeff Wells should be ashamed of himself”

  1. Brian Says:

    Unfortunately (for those who have to cross his shaggy path), the very qualities that make Wells an entertaining read online also lead him to pull all sorts of objectionable stunts off

    However, given the subsidized nature of this episode, agree with you 100%. He needs to apologize AND pull out the checkbook…

  2. Buxy Says:

    oh man this whole article made me sick to my stomach…why can’t we tar and feather people anymore?

  3. Aaron Says:

    That is pretty bad. It’s a Christian Bale rant without the ‘f’ words. From a journalist no less. A journalist with far too many pulsating ads on his blog. I’m not sure why anyone reads it anyway.

  4. Josephine Damian Says:

    The mistake was in the contest people caving into the chiildish hissy fit he threw – he gets away with this because people cower in the face of his bloated ego and bullying.

    Guy’s a jerk, online and off.

  5. PLW Says:

    Shun the ingrate! Shun!!!

  6. Calidaho Says:

    Maybe he needed his binky.

  7. Christina D Says:

    I have to say that it sounds to me like Jeff Wells is definitely a Grade A Douchebag. A Jack-Hole of the highest order. I hope Jeff Wells falls in some poo. Jeff Wells, shame on YOU!

  8. David Says:

    I can’t even begin to express how appalling that is. Mortifying.

  9. mommy Says:

    May he be stuck on a plane watching daddy day camp, justin and kelly and such….oh and by himself because no one should have to hear it

  10. Guy Says:

    I am sure the Brits just loved that Bush Era American attitude.

  11. Corny Says:

    Because life without WiFi is a life not worth living.

  12. tkangaroo Says:

    Rude. May Karma come back to bite him where it hurts.

  13. Cole Smithey Says:

    Wells has always been a poser. It’s just that now a lot more people realize it. I think if you look in the Oxford American College Dictionary next year under the word idiot, you’ll see his name.

  14. Bret Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily people become so self absorbed in their bloated image no matter the size of the circles they move in.

  15. Carina Says:

    He and I are DONE, professionally.

  16. TUFFY! Says:

    pretty sure he gets turned away from all of my LA, UT and NY events. i REFUSE to work with him EVER. i can afford the bad PR you TOOL!!!!

  17. Dave the Slave Says:

    Well when my little boy gets cranky like this, its usually because we need to change his diaper. Are you sure he didn’t just need someone to change him?

  18. Rob Says:

    Bwahahaha, nice illustration. Yeah, Wells is the biggest tool in the toolbox.

  19. Proud Daughter of Eve Says:

    Speaking of ungentlemanly, Eric, it’s pretty ungentlemanly of you to equate this guy to a feminine hygiene product.

    The guy was a jerk and a whiner. He deserves — probably needs — to be called on it.

    Using personal feminine hygiene being as a metaphor for such behavior strikes me as unfair and slanderous to women. Our bodies aren’t dirty and shouldn’t be treated as such, even for a joke.

    (On the other hand, douches are completely unnecessary as the body has ways of keeping itself clean, so if you want to call him a douche in the sense of “stupid, unnecessary and foisted on people just for the sake of making a buck,” then I guess I can’t argue!)!

  20. Chocolatestu Says:

    …that last comment was the weirdest one I think I’ve ever read…

    Personally, I thought the picture you put with the blog entry was funny, Eric. I’m a woman, but I think you hit the nail on the head with that one.

  21. kuri Says:

    Carina FTW!

    And I agree with PDOE: I think instead of calling Wells a “douche bag,” he should be called a “TENA for Men.”

  22. Raul Says:

    Yes, Oxford is in England, but there is also one in MISSISSIPPI, which is the one Eric was at.

  23. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    Eric, if, as you say, life without wifi is “death” for someone in Wells’s profession, and if, as you say, the “one thing” Wells was required to do was to be part of that panel, then it sounds like the festival was essentially asking Wells to “die” for a day or two in exchange for an hour of his time.

    That sounds to me like an essentially unreasonable request, unless of course Wells was offered a fair bit of compensation for his time, and he knew in advance just how much time he would be giving up. If the festival is going to devote a panel to internet-based journalism, then they should have figured out in advance what sort of connectivity those journalists would have had.

    This is not to excuse the way Wells handled this situation. But it sounds like Wells had a legitimate complaint, at least.

  24. Crosby Says:

    Ask anyone, they will tell you that Wells is a serious ******. He’s burned countless bridges over the years to guarantee a lonely death, and then he wonders why that is. Idiot.

  25. Jeffrey Wells Says:

    Wells to Snider: I can’t explain it but I just inwardly collapsed yesterday morning after I couldn’t get the wifi going, at least to the extent that I couldn’t upload photos, which kept me up half the night talking to my server’s tech guy. I was whipped. I had woken up at 5 am NYC time earlier that morning so I could get some work done before catching the bus to La Guardia, and then all the wireless trouble happened at the Downtown Motor Inn and I just saw red from all the stress and fatigue.

    Apparently the festival folks took the word of the hotel about their level of wifi service without checking it out. I would have. In any case I couldn’t sleep because of the stress and woke up at 4 am again, so I was really shagged and running on empty. And then this brick wall appeared in my head and somehow the words “not doing the panel” came into my head. I felt worn down and not lucid and not all that welcome, really, given the wifi reception that had greeted me, in a sense.

    Fast and dependable broadband is the whole thing when you visit a film festival. If it’s not happening the entire thing collapses. I would have been more cool with a motel room without a bed or pillows or a bathroom than I would a room without working wifi. If the wifi isn’t working well how can you do what you’re obliged to do in accepting a trip to a film festival, which is cover it well? I can imagine someone getting really upset if they came into a motel room and there was no bed or bathroom. Believe me, that’s nothing when it comes to absence of good wifi. It’s a completely unpalatable and unacceptable thing when you’re offering digs to a visiting journalist. No ifs, ands or buts.

    The festival offered its apologies to me about the wifi, and I said it’s fine, no worries, but I might as well leave, given the situation. Then they said we have another place (a Holiday Inn) and I said thanks and checked in and it’s been great since yesterday noon. They’ve been very nice and obliging about it.

  26. Lydia Marcus Says:

    i have never read one word that jeff wells has written but i remember his being a grade a a-hole from years of sundance press conferences and from personal experience. he literally would bring press conferences to a grinding halt with “questions” that were more like rambling, non sensical rants. it was like he wasn’t even speaking english. the actors and journalists assembled would just look at and think “What the Hell?” i never understood how he got jobs, made any kind of living doing what he did or how he even got accredidation. i once bailed him out last minute when he needed a guest for a movie screening “class” he was moderating for learning tree university. i drove 2 hours to irvine, then basically entertained the audience while he sat there like a dolt and he didn’t even thank me for coming or act civil. in fact he seemed really pissed off that i upstaged him by being personable and informed.
    major creep. and that was in 1996 or 1997 – i see nothing has changed in a decade

  27. Jeffrey Wells Says:

    As I posted about the festival two or three times before arriving, have been posting about festival since arriving and will continue to post about it this evening, I don’t think I’m sucking off the teat without doing my part. I just didn’t show up for a lousy panel. It is all about providing coverage and stirring interest in others attending the festival, no?

  28. potniatheron Says:

    The organizers of the festival should have told him flat out that failure to attend the panel would result in them not paying for anything – and that he would be liable to re-imburse them for the air travel, as well as pay for his own room.

    (Though honestly, they should have already had a contract that spelled this out, with all the panelists and speakers.)

  29. Eric D. Snider Says:

    Peter: The only flaw there is that it is not the festival’s job to make sure we have adequate Internet coverage at our hotels. And even if it were, it’s entirely likely that the Downtown Inn’s wifi problems are temporary and of recent vintage, so any prior vetting the festival did wouldn’t have helped.

    Wells: You continue to miss the point. You were flown out here SPECIFICALLY to do the panel. Whatever coverage you gave the fest in addition to that was gravy, and not the reason you were brought here. You could write all the blog posts in the world about the fest, but if you don’t do the panel — especially for a crap reason like this — you have failed to live up to your end of the bargain. That’s all there is to it. (And yes, I know what your arrangement was because it’s the same one the rest of us had, which I’ve verified that with the festival organizers. I don’t know how you could possibly manage to misunderstand it without doing so intentionally.)

  30. Jay Says:

    Eric, if, as you say, life without wifi is “death” for someone in Wells’s profession, and if, as you say, the “one thing” Wells was required to do was to be part of that panel, then it sounds like the festival was essentially asking Wells to “die” for a day or two in exchange for an hour of his time.

    There are things called coffee shops. Many of them have wifi. Hell, there’s a ******McDonald’s in Oxford with cheap wifi, which would have served as a fine stopgap until the hotel or the Fest resolved the problem.

    If wifi access is such “death” to someone, and they can’t bother to schlep their *****down to a Mickey D’s for an hour, they should pop for EVDO, which would guarantee access so long as a cell tower’s nearby.

  31. Neil Miller Says:

    Wells really just needs to invest in a good Aircard (EVDO) solution if he is that hung up about always having a solid internet connection. We, the other bloggers, discovered this a few years back at Sundance when we arrived to our condo and were without connection. So we shelled out the $100 and $60 a month for Verizon aircards. And now no matter where I go — the bus, the train, the middle of a field — I can constantly be online. I understand the need to be constantly connected. I do not however, understand someone who fails to see the simple solutions to even simpler problems.

    Bill Curtis found the internet, so why can Jeff Wells not do the same?

  32. Sara R Says:

    C’mon!

  33. Carrie Says:

    “The festival offered its apologies to me about the wifi, and I said it’s fine, no worries, but I might as well leave, given the situation. Then they said we have another place (a Holiday Inn) and I said thanks and checked in and it’s been great since yesterday noon. They’ve been very nice and obliging about it.”

    Jeff, I’m just wondering when the part where you apologized to the festival for being the world’s oldest baby took place. Because if anyone owes anyone else an apology, it’s you for throwing a passive-agressive baby fit (the only difference being that you’re a grown man who knows better) instead of contacting someone at the festival to tell them that the accommodations were insufficient for your needs, doing everything you could offline until you could get somewhere to actually post it, OR (Heaven forbid!) using the 8-foot ethernet cord to post your baby rants. Good grief, man! You are lol ridiculous!

  34. Magnet Says:

    I am quite familiar with Oxford, and I wonder about Mr. Wells’ competency as a human being, as there are plenty of open and accessible wireless signals all over downtown Oxford, the University of Mississippi campus, and at the Malco Theater. There is, in fact, a coffee shop approximately 50 yards from the Downtown Inn. The shop may not be open 24 hours a day, but the wireless is always on, and free.

    The thing that astounds me is that this man who claims to be a professional has neither the will nor the intestinal fortitude to show up for the panel! I have it on good authority that very few people got sleep, but all of them made it to where they needed to be. All but Mr. Wells.

  35. Allen Says:

    If you’ve followed any of Wells stumblings, you’ll note he has the single most spectacular wi-fi failure of any human. And treating such self-created problems as comparable to “death” is truly pathetic — especially from a self-professed streetwise kind of guy, who has an emotional breakdown over scattershot internet service.

    That’s the real story, of a generation so addicted to their machines they become sniveling jellyfish. And of course, Wells is empathy autistic and his lack of awareness shows this. But good times on the blog!

  36. Editor’s Blog: Lessons in Critical Douchebagery | Film School Rejects Says:

    [...] the quaint little town of Oxford, Mississippi. And as was so expertly chronicled by our good friend Eric D. Snider, Mr. Wells was invited to Oxford by the programmers of the Oxford Film Festival, flown out and put [...]

  37. Bill Says:

    you get what you pay for. why would you even want that lefist jerk there anyway?

  38. Mary Says:

    Whatever happened to a piece of paper and a pencil? Can you just use those for a bit and then try using free wifi at a shop later in the day? I find putting my thoughts on paper works just as well and is easily transferable to a computer.

  39. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    Eric: I’d say it IS the festival’s job to make sure that the internet-based journalists it flies out there have proper internet coverage at their hotels. Junkets and festivals are fun, but they can also be an inconvenience, so it is in the festival’s best interests, to put it mildly, to ensure that the journalists they fly out there are not inconvenienced where it really, really counts.

    Jay: The fact that wifi is available at some coffee shops and fast-food restaurants (sometimes for free and sometimes not, sometimes for an hour or two and sometimes longer) is neither here nor there. It is the festival’s job to minimize the inconvenience to its guests — or, failing that, to compensate them for the inconvenience (through honoraria, access to movies that they have never seen before, or whatever else does the trick for the guest in question).

    Again, I don’t say any of this to justify the way Wells handled the situation. I think it was wrong to tell his readers that he was quitting the panel before he told the festival organizers, for example. But if bad internet access is “death” to someone in Wells’s profession, then I don’t blame him for, well, dying.

  40. Tara Says:

    Peter: It’s not the festivals responsibility, because they did not ask him to come and provide internet coverage. They asked him to participate in a panel discussion. Not really something the internet is necessary for. Had they flown him out to the festival so that he could cover them on his internet blog, then it would have made sense to expect them to provide internet access. But…that’s not what happened. It’s actually pretty black and white.

  41. spiceybiscuit Says:

    big baby; WA. The economy is in a meltdown, people are going w/out eating, heat, there are wildfires killing and destroying in Australia, and madness everywhere and this a-hole can’t get “reliable” wifi so he throws a hissy fit and blogs about it? So silly makes me sick

  42. George W. Bush Says:

    Eric, if, as you say, life without wifi is “death” for someone in Wells’s profession, and if, as you say, the “one thing” Wells was required to do was to be part of that panel, then it sounds like the festival was essentially asking Wells to “die” for a day or two in exchange for an hour of his time.

    Peter, I think you’re exaggerating here. When Eric Snider used the word “life”, he meant that Wells requires Internet access in order to continue his career. It was an incredibly annoying inconvenience, yes, and it sucks when something like that happens to anyone, especially someone whose career was Internet-based. However, it’s not like he was going to “die” or experience anything similar to dying.

  43. DrakeBob Says:

    Wait, if you are Jeffrey Wells, what is the point of this article?

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