An Ordinary World

books, blabberings, and a life semi-common

Evolution of a Breakdown

Yesterday, BFF wrote a blog about The Hillywood Show and the annoyance at having requests for money shoved in fans’ faces, and it reminded me of the days I spent with BFF on the fan site. It also brought to mind a comment from a fellow fan regarding our decision to close the website that basically said, “You let a lot of HillyFans down,” which, to be honest, still angers me. No one really knows how much time and effort and money we put into the creation and maintenance of HillyFans.Com, nor does anyone really know the arguments and stress that occurred.

So I’d like to explain a bit of what happened. This isn’t meant to be a post to bash anyone. In fact, all I’ll really do is state facts and share my opinions and feelings on incidents and events that occurred. I’m not saying everything was meant to have my particular action (and there are outside factors that weighed in on my feelings a few times) but this is exactly my take on the entire situation.

Be prepared for a trip down memory lane.

We first met the crew in Dallas, TX, for the event called TwiCon but which really should been called SuckCon for all the terrible organization and rudeness that occurred. During that trip, I mentioned to BFF something akin to, “Hey… I’ve been looking for a new website to run. Can you imagine doing it for The Hillywood Show?” to which I think her response was something like, “We could be HillyFans or something.” It was two years ago; I don’t remember all the details. Much of our weekend was spent running all over the place for the joke of a journalism team but we did find a few moments to chat and hang out with the cast of THS. Sometime, in the midst of all the running and meeting, it just became official that a website would be made. BFF wasn’t too sure what went on in the running of a website and though I’d done it before (both official sites and random ones), it had been so long that I wasn’t sure what was used. I digress, though.

The weekend, as a whole, was interesting and much of that had to do with The Hillywood Show. Don’t act shocked; there was obviously a time when things weren’t tense between people. A lot of eye-opening experiences and laughs happened that July, including what would become (though we didn’t know it at the time) an awesome and silly friendship with a dude who would have too many labels under his name to list (no, really, I don’t have the patience to list all the stuff he is or has done). Anyway, by the end of the long weekend, BFF and I decided we’d do our best to go to the TwiTour in NJ the following month.

In less than a month, BFF and I had a site up and running. Along with it, we had a Twitter page and we had site cards made to hand out at the convention to get the word out. We had surprised the girls with the website a few days (maybe a week?) before the convention and they had expressed happiness and surprise at the fact that we’d put it together so quickly. To be honest, I was amazed at how much we had done in such a short frame of time. In messages exchanged, Hillary mentioned that she’d like to speak to me when they were in NJ. Thinking nothing of it, I said okay and that we’d find time to chat. She mentioned wanting opinions for the official site so I wasn’t wondering what in the world was happening.

The Official Twilight Convention (which will really always be TwiTour to me) in NJ was much better than TwiCon. It was organized, it gave fans time with the guests (even though we really got shafted with the sudden canceling of so many but we did get the Wolf Pack for the first time… I think…), and most importantly, it gave us free time to chat with THS. BFF and I weren’t there as TWILIGHT fans; I think it’s safe to say that we were there as HillyFans and as administrators of the new site. It was pretty cool to see them being interviewed and helping them out just because we could (and really, we didn’t need to hear so-and-so speak for another hour).

That weekend was also the weekend where the lines seemingly blurred between fan and friend. It’s a very thin line to cross as many people can tell you and there is often uncertainty from both parties in regards to the dilemma (and yes, it can be a dilemma). Since only Drew had ever been to NYC before (where, he told us, he saw a subway rat), we took them to see Times Square and took them to dinner after the convention. It was a case of “We’re all hungry… Now what?” that led us to Max Brenner (okay, it also took me completely missing the exit for the restaurant in NJ we had originally planned on going to) and afterwards, we just strolled through the bright lights so they could take it all in. I’m in the city so often that I easily forget what it’s like to be a tourist so it was really fun for me too!

During dinner, Hillary (as the webmaster of their official site) mentioned that she really liked what we had done with HillyFans.Com and was wondering if we might be able to help her redo the official one. She wanted it more streamlined and easier to update. I told her off the bat that I wasn’t the one to go to for layouts or coding but I could ask a few people and that I’d be more than happy to help once everything was set up. Again, if I’m being honest, I was excited for her request and told BFF as much. At one point, during college, I heard and met a band called The Kin in New York City. Just like what happened with THS, I was immediately amazed at their talent and put together a fan site for them (back when coding by hand was, you know, normal). Just like what Hillary requested, Isaac (one of the lead singers) met with me and said he was surprised and humbled by the fact that I went and created a site for them. Consequently, he also asked if I would create and maintain the official site. Since I wouldn’t be paid for my work, he instead offered a type of internship with their production company as well as a promise from the band to do what they could for the fan site.

It worked out brilliantly. While I constantly updated the website with articles and blurbs and more PR and marketing related news, the band would often send me live recordings of songs and uncut demo pieces to showcase on the site and even allowed me to tell fans that they could download them for a limited time. They made sure to send fan photos over to me while they kept the professional shoots as well as some of the more professional-looking fan photos for the official site. It was actually a very neat package on both ends and I was able to make some great contacts through the “job” (one of the best phone calls ever to be made by yours truly were those to and from songwriter and producer, Alex Greggs). So, based on what I’d done in the past, I thought Hillary’s request was fine and simple, especially since she would still be maintaining the website and just needed some help keeping it updated with photos and the likes from both BFF and myself.

What happened next was a flurry of activity that is mostly normal when putting together a website though it seemed to happen 5x faster than normal since we were on a bit of a deadline. Emails (between BFF and myself, between Hillary and myself, between potential designers and myself), Skype sessions with BFF (especially when things were going wrong and we weren’t sure why), and setting up as much as we could as fast as we could, all while attempting to maintain HillyFans.Com and attempting to be seen as a new site within the online Twilight fandom (since, at the time, THS was doing mostly TWILIGHT-related things). It could have been easy for BFF and I to complain about everything happening but it was actually fun. Yes, it was tiring and sometimes annoying but nothing is perfect.

That October, BFF went to TwiTour in Chicago and brought a Flat Mary with her.

Then, in December, BFF and I traveled to Las Vegas to be extras in NEW MOON PARODY and to have a bit of fun with new friends and to have some BFF time (with Jake – see? I told you he was worming his way into our lives). In case you haven’t seen me and BFF in the parody, take some time to scroll to around 7:59 to see some lovely close-ups of us.

Anyway, things started getting a little shaky when the parody was released. BFF posted the video on HillyFans.Com with a simple caption of “What are your thoughts on the parody? Love it? Hate it? What are some of your favorite parts?” Fans were letting us know what they thought of the video (especially those we had become friendly with over the past few months) but Sara received a text message from one of the girl asking for the “Hate it?” part to be taken down because it gave off a sense of negativity that they didn’t want. BFF relayed the message to me and, while I thought it was strange, said she could take that part down if it was a request. That was possibly our first mistake in what would become a tense relationship with those connected with THS.

From there, we both began receiving texts and phone calls (during hours we’d be at work sometimes) that asked for changes in our posts. At this point, it was mostly small requests like “Could you not add that part because it sounds bad” or “Please take that down; it’s not official news yet.” Sometime during the next two months, BFF (who was in charge of the interviews and publicity for the site while I stayed in the administrative side) was in contact with Becky who was either their manager or their publicist or perhaps both. We found out through her Twitter that the producer(s?) of the Jonas Brothers was showing an interest in the girls. Seeing as that was big news (or at least, a big rumor) that was starting to be posted on Twilight sites, we quickly made a post about it. Once again, we asked fans what they thought of it. The post itself mentioned that “Word on the street was…” and nowhere did it say it was official news. In fact, we were quick to include that “This has not been confirmed by The Hillywood Show” because, as a fan site, such news garners interest but nothing will ever be made official unless it comes from the source themselves. Again, text messages (or phone calls) were received by both of us that asked us to please take down the post because it wasn’t official. I was more than a little upset by the messages (and complained to BFF) because, well, as I said, HillyFans.Com was a fan site. Our purpose was to keep other fans in the loop with the happenings of THS, even if it ended up not being true. As someone who had done this in the past, I knew never to state something as fact unless it had been confirmed somehow.

My own personal breakdown came in March. As requested by the girls, all mentions of their ages were stripped from the site. They gave us their reasons and because it was a small request, we did it. There weren’t many mentions at that point anyway; the biggest use was the one in their biographies and it was just a quick line. We took those off and soon after, a new article was printed in a magazine or newspaper or online article from somewhere in their hometown. It was actually a fantastic article and we were quick to post a blurb and a link to the full article on the site.

What came next was a seemingly never-ending line of text messages that said the article needed to be taken down because it mentioned how old the girls were. I will admit to being confused at first because of the earlier request and mentioned that I did, in fact, already take down their ages but that I had no control (obviously) of the content of articles. BFF, on the other hand, took the messages to mean that she should somehow contact the writer or publication to ask if it was possible for it to be removed. She did, actually, get in contact with someone who explained that someone from the girls’ camp had already contacted them but that, because it had already been published (which makes me think it actually was in a physical format and not just online) with information given by the girls, there was nothing to be done. At the same time, I was relaying this message to Hillary as I became increasingly agitated by the turn of events. Clearly, my take on the messages sent were possibly skewed by the fact that I was already irritated by the demands for this or that to be taken off a site that both BFF and I had put so much work into. I also, at this time, tried to explain why a fan site was actually a fan site and that fans would be going to the official site for official news while our goal was really to build interest.

Needless to say, there was miscommunication and tension, to the point where I decided to take a break from the website. I left it in BFF’s capable hands though I promised I would help her with the technical parts if it was needed. By the time April rolled around, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the site was no longer fun for those of us working on it. It had, at some point, become a job, one that we weren’t enjoying. It wasn’t so much that it was hard work (though it was, the work was often something of which we could be proud) but it was more of the idea that we were losing a bit of control. There isn’t any one particular person to blame or maybe it’s that too many people are to blame. There were too many requests and too much agreement. There was too much information coming from various sources and it seemed like no one wanted to let other people’s information be posted. Is it possible that, as the staff of HillyFans.Com, BFF and I didn’t do enough to keep it simple and fun? Sure. It’s also possible that we did as asked because we wanted to keep a steady relationship going. It’s also possible that she and I both have an innate need to please those around us. Is it possible that the girls expected too much of us? Yes. It’s also possible that they believed we were a conduit for their work and that was all. It’s also possible that no one knew where anyone else stood.

Once again, the lines between fans and friendship became blurred.

The summer following the Virginia stop of the TwiTour (where BFF and I went and had a great time with friends, both new and old) was slow and odd with all things regarding the site. Again, there was miscommunication, this time regarding the now-defunct Hillywood Cruise. At one point, we were basically thrown under the bus for posting an announcement that we were told was okay, when in fact, the girls were not ready for it to be posted. Again, no one knew what information was real or what information could be shared. We listened to one person but couldn’t please the other. Again, fault lies with every individual person that was a part of the situation.

In August, the cast returned to New Jersey but, unlike last year, there was decidedly cold feeling in the air. Personally, something seemed off when we went to see them, and BFF and I quickly steered clear. In our respective lives, we were all just a little busy with too many things and perhaps that bled into any type of relationship that was previously cultivated. Truly, it was both annoyance and sadness that warred within me regarding the tension any time we were all in the same room. Annoyance that it was like we had never spoken outside of “business” type of transactions and sadness that it seemed very clear that a friendship of a year was about to go down the drain for whatever reason. Things were talked about that gave me a new perspective on a few things and each new layer that was revealed just felt like it was another door closing on something I once thought was great. That weekend ended on a note of awkwardness where I thought it felt like everything was different and nothing would be fixed.

Looking back on the entire situation now, things could have gone differently, depending on who reached and who held back. Did I do childish things? Yes. When I say hello and am completely ignored, it doesn’t bring out the best in me. Could I have done something to maintain a friendship? Potentially but after feeling somewhat that I was a messenger, someone to be called upon at the eleventh hour, I didn’t want to. Is that childish? Of course. The thing is… I don’t cleanse myself of wrongdoing nor do I think the falling apart was entirely anyone’s fault.

I can’t say what it was like from the other side nor can I even say what it was like for BFF. I can only say what I felt during the time. However, I’m okay now. It saddens me a bit that I don’t have contact with the majority of them anymore but that’s not for lack of trying on my part for a while. But I gave up and that’s fine with me because a relationship – friend or business or otherwise – shouldn’t be one-sided and when one side checks out, I don’t really think it’s worth the time and effort to keep anything going.

Ending on a brighter spot though – Jake still amuses me.

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9 responses to “Evolution of a Breakdown

  1. Sara 15 April 2011 at 3:57 pm

    As the aforementioned “BFF” in this post, I just want to make a comment saying that I stand behind everything you wrote here. I felt the same way, almost to a tee. I acted childish about things too. But honestly, when someone’s badgering you at work when you politely asked them to call back after x time, the stress from that can make you act childish. I’m not perfect, and I’ll be the first to put that one out there.

    I’m still kind of sad that the friendship ended up not being what we thought it could be. Guess it wasn’t meant to last forever. Like you it got to the point where I’d try and try and try and get nothing back in return, so I just gave up. Giving up on the friendship and the site basically brought my sanity back.

    So, while it seems that we all fail at this one, I’m kind of glad it happened, because at least I feel like a human being in my brain again.

    I’ll probably add more to this later once I’m not crashing from a sugar high.

    • Mary 15 April 2011 at 6:45 pm

      It’s very cliche but this entire situation made me realize what’s worth the stress (very few things in life) and what should be let go even if/when it’s difficult.

  2. Sara 15 April 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, and I want to be first on this front:

    YOU ARE RUDE AND ACCUSATORY! AND SOMETHING ELSE MEAN!

    😉

  3. Amber Waves 15 April 2011 at 5:15 pm

    *comes in and deletes all negative comments, no matter how constructive*
    😉

    On another note, from everything I see here and know of how fan sites can and should work, there was a serious blurring of the lines and expectations of THS, to the point of being unfair and stifling. It was as if they were treating HF.com as a second official site, under their master control. Not cool.

    • Mary 15 April 2011 at 6:49 pm

      That’s basically what Sara and I ended up thinking. Doing what I did with The Kin really separated the ideas of an official site and a fan site and that’s really what started the disintegration of any and all relationships which really is a shame. I will admit, though, that it was easy sometimes to blur the lines especially when BOTH of us were working on BOTH sites – and on the same things on each site too.

  4. Megsly 15 April 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Y’all are such better women than me, I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with such requests concerning a fan site. It was a great site, and being a fan site, it really just simply SUCKS that you were expected to censor it. That kinda defeated the purpose of it being a fan site, I think. So kudos to y’all for trying and being such wonderful and patient friends to them even when you weren’t sure if it was reciprocated, and I’m sorry the friendship kinda fizzled out because the two of you did put a great deal of effort into it.

    • Mary 15 April 2011 at 6:59 pm

      That kinda defeated the purpose of it being a fan site, I think

      Yes. And, as Dan said in the other comment, I’m sure a lot of the problems stemmed from the fast blurring of being fans and being friends.

      I’m sad that the site had to go away in order to keep my sanity; I really do enjoy keeping sites together (hence me taking on the challenge of blogging a day now; it’s the closest I’ll ever come to running a website) and saying good-bye to HillyFans.Com was very much bittersweet.

      What I’m even MORE sad (sadder?) about is that I no longer speak to any of them, save one.

  5. djkw418 15 April 2011 at 6:03 pm

    This is just my 2 cents on that, and it sucks how seemingly strong friendships falter with lack of communication and irritations building up.

    This is why fan sites, although they should be in the know of every possible rumor, should stay at arms length of the object / celebrity they are talking about. To begin with, there’s so much information and rumors and musings going on about something to be a fan of, it takes away the fun and joy someone could have in being a part of a fan site because “well, you know this person, it wouldn’t be like that”.

    You guys know i run a blog following the Union (soccer) and critiquing the team, especially since it seems they have a very “as little media as possible” situation. My blog would be completely different with information and how i present it if I worked for them. I feel most fan sites are like that, follow as much of the topic as possible, but never come close to crossing the line except for maybe getting an autograph.

    • Mary 15 April 2011 at 6:55 pm

      I will absolutely agree (now) that in order to be a part of something as large as a fan site (especially the most updated one, as was this case with us) should be done only when people are fans of the artist/group/team/etc. and only a fan. Even when I worked with The Kin, it was more of an acquaintanceship based on the work. Yes, e-mails were sent out and I was given comps and they did a birthday show for me – but it was never a true friendship, which was what was happening (or seeming to happen, anyway) with the girls.

      We were always careful not to divulge secrets or anything too personal that we know of; that was the easy part because it’s not like I would ever come on here and tell closely guarded secrets about Sara or any of my other close friends. It was the same thing with the fan site. And, well, you know me – I would never hold back an opinion just because I was friends with someone but I think maybe, in their eyes, they assumed it would be that way, that I would easily rave about what they did but never saw anything negative. That’s not me.

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