What I’ve Learned as a Film Blogger Meme

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Greg Ferrara, the blogger formerly known as Jonathan Lapper, has been plunging headlong into the mainstream of film blogging. First, he revealed his real name. Then he decided to host his first blogathon. Now he’s started a meme, something Ferdy on Films, etc. has yet to do. This one should be interesting to think about. Here’s what Greg says:

I’d like to know what my fellow bloggers think matters about cinephilia. A list, a paragraph, a thought or two. However you want to do it. Just a little bit of what you think is important about studying film, loving film, and discussing it with like minds. Basically, what have you learned? I know I’ve learned more than I ever did from decades of reading film books. How about you?

There are some things that make cinema vitally important—as Gene Siskel said, a film critic has the American Dream beat—in terms of what it reflects about the way we live, how we see ourselves and others, and what fires our imaginations. Cinephilia, however, is full of a lot of nonsense, in my opinion, like compiling lists, watching box office returns, and overtheorizing what the filmmakers themselves saw as factory work done for dough. Blogging about film is a whole other animal. Bloggers have been taken to task by traditional media for everything from bad writing to destroying the economy. But what do they know? They don’t live here—we bloggers do.

So here’s what I’ve learned about film, blogging, and the Internet since starting Ferdy on Films, etc. more than three years ago.

1. You can get free shit and press passes just as easily as a blogger as you can as a print or broadcast journalist. You just have to grovel a little more at the beginning.

Snob.JPG2. There are three major camps in the film-blogging world: the young geeks who tend not to write very well, normally don’t consider any film older than 1990, and usually only read their own kind; the snobs who write pretty well, but impenetrably, and stick with their own kind because to do otherwise would be to lower their status in the film community; the rest of us, a decidedly mixed bag, who aren’t on the make and don’t necessarily give a hoot what people think of what we’re doing.

Olbermann.jpg3. Cable “news” has had a bigger effect on blogging than anyone would care to admit, as evidenced by a lot of tempests brewed in teapots all over the blogosphere just to drive traffic.

4. Film bloggers know how to build a sense of community with memes and blogathons, but when they’re over, we tend to go back to the dime or so blogs we usually read.

5. There are a lot of good writers out there with a lot of knowledge about film. Although I have some unique things to offer and Rod and I make a pretty formidable team together, I’m not so special, and that actually isn’t a bad feeling. The world isn’t full of yahoos after all!

6. You never know who is going to read your stuff, what’s going to be popular, or why. I’m still getting hits to How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman from a Russian discussion forum well more than two years after they posted the link.

Crazy%202.JPG7. Comment sections are among the best things on a blog. They can be witty and irreverent, more informative than the original post, and include people you never thought would show up. I’ve had the son of the director of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, a full-blown family feud in the comments for the Hank Garland biopic Crazy, and a filmmaker or two, in addition to my usual posse.

8. It’s very satisfying to be the first external review of a film on IMDb. A lot of these films deserve more attention.

9. Once you start a blog, it’s hard to stop or slow the pace of feeding the beast…

10. …leading to Internet fatigue hitting me more frequently than it used to. I just want to turn everything off.

11. Reviewing and theorizing about cinema can be fun, but it’s not really that important in and of itself. It’s more important to me to show how cinematic images shape our attitudes and the world in which we live, and thereby influence hearts and minds.

Apple.bmp12. Macs are hundreds of times better than PCs.

13. Having people assign films for me to view is both exciting and painful. So far, maximum pain has not been inflicted on me by anyone.

14. What is it with people clicking a link to this site, reading what’s here, and going back to the original site to comment?!

Censorship.JPG15. People you don’t know want to control what is said about everything. A blog is one of the best ways to fight back.

  • Greg F spoke:
    4th/06/2009 to 3:40 pm

    That’s a pretty impressive piece. I’m proud to know I’m the instigator of it. So much so I want to comment on all fifteen points:
    1. I’ve never tried this but with the AFI right here, I should.
    2. I’m glad I’m in the third group.
    3. You’re right and I hadn’t thought of that.
    4. I’ve had a pretty solid 20 or so daily rounds blogs for a couple of years now but the blogs in the 20 have shifted and rotated, occasionally a new one coming in as an older one falls off.
    5. I now have unrealistic expectations of people because of this and am surprised when the average person doesn’t know this figure or that from classic film.
    6. I have had at least two famous folks comment on my blog under a pseudonym and I confirmed who they were through e-mail exchanges, where I promised I would not reveal who they were. Which I won’t.
    7. I love the comment section. Love it. I’d miss it terribly if I gave up blogging.
    8. So true. I’m the only review for a few on IMDB, including Day One and Pony Express Days. I’ll think I’ll always be the only one for that second entry.
    9. Especially when you have around 6,000 scans and public domain photos in your possession. If not for the desire to allow a post time to gather steam and get a good comment conversation going I’d post a picture every 5 minutes. Even Tom Sutpen wouldn’t be able to keep up with me.
    10. Yep, and then there’s that.
    11. I love that approach.
    12. Uh-oh, a Mac-Head. Well, we have two Macs and two PCs in this house and I have a long history with both (training and even teaching programming for both in the eighties with my Dad, before software was available with pre-written programs) and I’ve got to be honest, they’re about the same. They’re the Panzers and the Shermans. In WWII the Panzer tanks of the Germans were highly sophisticated pieces of machinery that exceeded the Sherman tanks of the Americans for quality. When they broke though, they were damn near impossible to fix and usually required an entire overhaul. A Sherman on the other hand could be fixed from parts from a car or motorcyle, some duct tape and glue. They were infinitely malleable. That’s what Macs and PCs are to me. The Mac we have upstairs is phenomenal with a picture quality and speed that is unrivalled. It’s a Panzer. The PC downstairs that I use mainly is six years old and I’ve already switched out parts on it five or six times. Just last month I put a new fan in it that I scavengered from an older dead PC I had. It’s a Sherman. So, I guess it just depends on what your speed is.
    13. I’m still not sure how to take TOERIFC. I hate the idea of something I love, film, being homework. That is, something I have to do by a given date. But the discussions are so enlightening that I walk away wishing I could do it more.
    14. That happens with forum a lot. Boy, this James Bond forum went nuts about something I wrote last year. They yelled and screamed about it at the forum but not a one commented on my post.
    15. That’s a great way to look at it.
    Thanks for this wonderful entry Marilyn, I greatly appreciate it.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    4th/06/2009 to 3:58 pm

    Thanks, Greg. As far as Macs go, I’ve labored with PCs for at least a decade. At home, the PCs I had were so gummed up all the time, I wanted to toss them out a window. I had used Macs very early in their evolution. Now that I have my new Macs, they’re fast, functional, and low maintenance. If they break, OK, they break. But it’s acceptable compared with the daily, hourly, frustrations of my PCs.

  • Larry Aydlette spoke:
    4th/06/2009 to 6:33 pm

    Marilyn, Greg and I got into a minor, silly tiff on his site about the length of blog posts. About once a year, I get wound up and fire off a screed without thinking it through. Anyway, I promised to respond to his meme. But I find that you make many of the points I wouldlike to have made, and in a much more gracious and intelligent way. So, Greg, I’ll have what she’s having: Especially numbers 2, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

  • Greg F spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 7:39 am

    Marilyn, Greg and I got into a minor, silly tiff on his site about the length of blog posts.
    We did? Larry, I wasn’t upset, really. I even commented on your post at the Demarest but then you pulled the post. If I took the Facebook hate thing too far I apologize. I certainly can’t believe it is completely without value when so many people like you and Marilyn use it.

  • bill r. spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 9:45 am

    I’ve never been in a tiff with anybody. What a bunch of children you all are!
    Anyway, great piece, Marilyn. The only thing I’d say, regarding #11, is that I’m not really comfortable with the idea that I know, or can even guess with any degree of certainty, how other people are influenced or shaped by films. All I can say — and what I’m genuinely interested in — is what a film does to me.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 9:54 am

    Now, now, everyone. I’m going to be in a training most of the day, so BEHAVE!
    Thanks, Bill. Nobody can say FOR SURE what influences people, but I make an educated appraisal. I’m not a great believer that we are all completely unique and loaded to the gills with free will. Our environment shapes us so much, and as a member of that environment, I feel I have knowledge about it.

  • bill r. spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 9:58 am

    as a member of that environment, I feel I have knowledge about it
    NO YOU DON’T!!
    Whoa, sorry! I feel like lashing out today. Anyway, that makes sense. I guess I just have a different approach/relationship to movies.
    Oh, and I checked out that Crazy review and comment thread. That’s nuts. Where did they come across your review??

  • fox spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 10:06 am

    Marilyn-
    When you said “axe grinding”, I expected more blood, but this is pretty calm and focused if you ask me! 🙂
    Great list. I especially agree with # 3 & # 15.
    I think the first reason I started a blog was because of #15. I felt welled up with opinions but without no outlet to express them in. A blog gave me that. Plus, I have a lot of real life friends that act like #3, and because of that, it can be hard to be heard in a group setting.

  • Ryan Kelly spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 10:34 am

    So many wonderful posts have come from this meme— it’s hard to believe it was Greg’s idea.
    Anyway, I know Bill doesn’t agree, but I just love this sentiment:
    Reviewing and theorizing about cinema can be fun, but it’s not really that important in and of itself. It’s more important to me to show how cinematic images shape our attitudes and the world in which we live, and thereby influence hearts and minds.
    Yes!!! This should be stamped on every film writer’s forehead. I’m always a little put off when I go to someone’s blog, see that they’ve written two lines on the film and stamped it with a score of some sort (stars, letter grades, whatever), as though the purpose of blogging is to be arbitrary like that. To me, the exciting thing about blogging about movies is that you can move away from that sort of thing.
    Great post!

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 11:40 am

    Bill – Who knows? I got an email from Debra Garland to start, and then it just snowballed.
    Fox – Thanks. It seems a little strident to me, but that’s me.
    Ryan – Thanks. Be nice to Greg. He’s one of my favorite minions.

  • Ryan Kelly spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 4:06 pm

    In case it wasn’t obvious, I was just joshin’ around. Greg’s a favorite of mine, too. Blogger, I mean, not minion.
    How do you go about getting minions?

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 4:11 pm

    If you have to ask, it’s not possible. 🙂

  • Ryan Kelly spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 9:10 pm

    I suppose that was the answer I deserved. For what it’s worth, I’m willing to submit myself to being a minion, since I’ll obviously never be a master. I hear you give your minions a great dental plan.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 10:15 pm

    Most of my minions are toothless, so the dental plan isn’t really an option. However, I do pay for electrolysis for the removal of unsightly tufts of hair, particularly on the feet. You can drop you resume at the door.

  • Ryan kelly spoke:
    5th/06/2009 to 10:23 pm

    Well, I have no unsightly foot hair to speak of, thankfully, so this should give me a leg up on the competition.

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