Monday, October 28, 2013

The Congealed Effect

When film blogging first took off (I'm thinking 2005 or so) it seemed like a boundless horizon of opportunity was just ahead. Not opportunity to make money, nor find fame, but to discuss ideas, argue fine points and celebrate the joy of the movies with the like-minded. That meant going from one blog to another, engaging in multiple comment threads (I used to be a serial commenter back in the day) and making discoveries about new writers, movies, websites and blogs every day. But like everything else in the world, film criticism congealed. Individual blogs died off as multi-writer blogs took over. Now it feels like two or three blogs have 90 percent of the writers.



I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm a part of the problem (if, indeed, it is a problem). My own blog, the one you're reading right now, used to be a moderately raised voice in the discussion. Moderately. It wasn't dominant or influential, mind you, but when a post here was popular it took in over 20,000 views. Now, a popular post here might take in two or three thousand, maybe. Most post see hits in the hundreds. What happened? Simple: I stopped paying attention to this blog because someone else, Turner Classic Movies, decided to pay me to write for them. And not just blog posts but programming articles, research pieces for The Essentials, and reviews. Enough to make it more than easy to put Cinema Styles on the back burner.

But here's why I still keep Cinema Styles going: Because with TCM, I'm obligated to promote their schedule.  With TCM, I'm obligated to discuss classic movies. With TCM, I'm obligated to engage their readers in the kind of engagement they expect. And I don't disagree with that or mind it at all. But when I want to discuss the use of historical backdrops in fiction films, spurred by the release of Django Unchained, I feel more comfortable doing it here.

What's the point? This (I think): It's great that TCM and RogerEbert.com and Criticwire and MUBI all exist and offer a wide variety of viewpoints from a great pool of writers on film.  Really, it is.  But I worry, thanks to my own experiences, that there will be more "I think this piece would work well at Ebert.com" and less "fuck it, this is the piece I'm writing." More mechanized writing to reach a particular audience and less uninhibited "ha, ha, I've got my own blog to say what I want!" Of course, we all still have our own blogs, but if everyone's going to the one-stop shops, who's going to read them?

Beyond that I have nothing to say, really. This isn't some rant or rave or even a cleverly nuanced condemnation of groupthink because, one, I'm not cleverly nuanced now nor have I ever been and, two, I'm not actually against pooling everyone together to make it easier to find great pieces on film without having to search a hundred different sites. It's just a thought I had and since I have my own blog, I thought, fuck it, this is the piece I'm writing.

7 comments:

Marilyn said...

I decided that although I had people willing to pay me all of $50 for an interview with Harry Lennix, that it meant more to me to have it on my own blog, to promote it as my own effort out of my own interests. I got exactly zero comments on it. That tells me all I need to know about the value people place on individual expression - about the same as they do the little films I write about.

Greg F. said...

This is the first comment I've gotten on any of the four posts in October I've published here so don't feel singled out. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging. But I do need to accept that I have to promote the site more and expect less.

Marilyn said...

I promote plenty. Just not many people still terribly interested in my blog, including you, my former minion.

Greg F. said...

I follow practically nothing anymore, including this blog. I won't check in here for weeks and finally discover there's a comment in pending that's been there for a month.

I'm afraid I'm pretty much consumed by TCM at this point. It's where all my energy goes. When I'm not blogging, I'm watching movies for assignments and writing articles. The rest of my vanishing act, including Facebook as of late, is attributable to laziness and apathy. I feel burned out on it all.

Bob Westal said...

Hey, don't feel bad. I got lured away from blogging to write for an online men's mag...these days mostly about cocktails! Oh, and my site got hacke, but that's another story...

Greg F. said...

I love booze so that's okay with me!

Sheana Ochoa said...

I love this post! And bloggers, small and large, world-wide, in all fields should read it! My favorite sentence: "I think this piece would work well at Ebert.com" and less "fuck it, this is the piece I'm writing."
This is why I keep my own blog. I have a blog for my book, but I keep my own blog where I can write whatever the fuck I want. Thank you very much.