Interview: Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons
by The Trades Staff
Published: August 7, 2000
The Trades recently had an opportunity to speak with Garth Franklin, producer of Dark Horizons, one of the premiere entertainment news and gossip sites on the Internet, in order to find out what made him and his site tick. Here's what we found out.
History of Dark Horizons
The Trades: When did Dark Horizons start?
Garth Franklin: A DH devoted entirely to "Star Trek: First Contact" began in 1996, but DH as it is known now began January 10th 1997
Trades: Why did you create Dark Horizons?
Garth: Started as a hobby and exploded into a phenomenon.
Running Dark Horizons
Trades: As many people know, running such a large and popular web site can be very time consuming. Do you handle DH all on your own or do you have staff that helps out? Is DH your only job, or do you squeeze in the updates between another job?
Garth: I do all the content by myself bar one staff member (my father) who helps with accounting, lawyers and contractual negotiations.
Trades: Do you ever take a vacation from DH? Do you feel chained to your site, like you can't leave it, even for a day? If updates slow down at DH, do you get hate mail from people who believe they are entitled to frequent updates?
Garth: Almost impossible to take a vacation so some days it can feel like being chained to it. I've had to learn to take time out, though my last vacation when I reduced the updates from 5 to 3 a week there was little or no change in reaction or numbers which allowed me to relax a bit more. Occasionally if it ever slows down I do get mail but its more asking reasons why the slow down rather than hate mail as such.
Trades: Has DH ever gotten you in trouble? Has any company ever contacted you demanding you withdraw certain information, for example? Can you talk about it?
Garth: There are a few cases. Had a link to the "Gangs of New York" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" scripts which I had to take down, also some "Starship Troopers" images had to be pulled at one point.
Trades: Do you plan on expanding your site in any way during the next 6 months/year? Redesigning your site?
Garth: Expanding sure. Just about to begin a DVD section and will expand the TV and 2001 film sections over the next 2-3 months. Redesign well its been considered and maybe some elements but I feel things like the logo and the menu map are just right as they are. A few graphic designers who can't stand anything looking remotely primitive have conjured up some designs but all of them I haven't like and look similar to a lot of other sites out there. The current layout is rather unique and has been cloned by many an other movie site already.
Trades: In your view, what is the best innovation/site/technology/executive/celebrity/whatever to happen to the film industry in the past year?
Garth: The embracing of the Net thanks to such things as "The Blair Witch Project" - studios are now finally trying to work with us instead of against us which we've wanted all along.
Trades: Can content sites make money?
Garth: It's difficult finding a good deal, but if you do then yes
Trades: What do you think of the recent litigation on Napster? Seeing as how there are also Napster-like devices for video, what do you see happening with this in the near future?
Garth: It's an interesting argument and I'd tend to agree with the legal choice on that issue, 30 second clips from a song are fine but full songs isn't a good idea. I doubt it will leak over into movies. Full movies and scripts are pretty much illegal now (as they should be) whereas trailers and clips are OK these days.
Trades: Certainly there has been some animosity between online entertainment sites in recent months. Are you ever in contact with any of the other entertainment sites (AICN, CHUD, Cinescape, Corona, etc.)?
Garth: Regular contact with all and have good relations with all.
Trades: Is there any rivalry between yourself and the other sites?
Garth: There's a friendly rivalry but most of the time I'm just way too busy managing my own site to really worry about what others are doing.
Trades: Do you consider these other entertainment sites as "competition" or do you feel there is room enough for all of you?
Garth: I think the markets a little too diverse now but like the crash in the NASDAQ most of those not in it for the long term have begun to drop off.
Fame and Access
Trades: Do you feel your being in Australia helps or hinders you from receiving film news/updating your site site?
Garth: Both. The element means I don't have access to as much info as I would have in LA, but its easier to remain objective. In terms of organising the news its also easier as I have all the info sent in overnight and so I get to work on an update in the morning rather than having to wait till later in the day.
Trades: Has DH given you access to some Hollywood and entertainment insiders you wouldn't have known otherwise?
Garth: Most certainly.
Trades: Has DH made you famous? Do you ever appear on television or radio programs as an "authority" on certain topics? Have you ever been contacted by the news media for your opinion?
Garth: Frequently, usually local radio, newspapers and cable TV but hardly as an 'authority'.
Trades: Have you met any celebrities because of DH? If so, who?
Garth: Mainly getting within about 2-3ft of celebrities rather than actual meetings. Those I've gotten in close range to: Keanu Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Ewan McGregor and Tia Carrere.
Trades: What is the best opportunity DH has afforded you?
Garth: The best thing about doing the site is when I get mail from people who tell me how it helps lighten their day.