“Sometime in the past few years, the blog died…R.I.P. The Blog, 1997-2013.”
Robert Redford’s character in the 1996 film Up Close and Personal explains the time tested news reporting truism, “If it bleeds, it leads.” So here we go…
Today marks the ninth anniversary of this blog. And there’s blood everywhere. My blog is on the operating table and a team of doctors and nurses are performing triage as I write this. It reminds me of when that light/heartbeat inside of E.T. started to fade.
As I’ve stated before, it was never my intention to do this for more than a year. But once I got on the roller coaster I couldn’t get off. And as fun as roller coasters can be there’s a point when it’s time to step off and move on with your life.
So after much thought I’m ready to let this blog die.
Not quite yet. But I can see the finish line.
I have my sights set on hitting the ten year mark on this blog. So 2017 will be the farewell tour. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s even sane to blog about screenwriting (and filmmaking) for 10 years, but there’s a reason these kinds of things are called passion projects.
But I do have one bit of unfinished business that I have to accomplish before I move on, and that’s completing at least one book based on the greatest hits from this blog. I actually have finished writing the book and am in the editing process. It’s sitting now at around 220 pages and 70,000 words and I’d like to pare it down a little. (I’m looking at self-publishing an ebook at this time —perhaps through CreateSpace, but welcome any other publishing suggestions; firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Winning the regional Emmy for this blog in 2008 was a nice surprise (and motivation to continue), and the shout-out I got from Diablo Cody via Twitter, plus the mention by TomCruise.com early on was added encouragement. But mostly it was the readership in general that grew and kept me going.
It’s interesting that Jason Kottke wrote his article The blog is dead, long live the blog in 2013 because that’s when my readership after five years reached its plateau. Readership declining on this blog also coincided with me moving back to Florida in 2013. Not sure what the connection is, but as early as 2013 I started to think about how to land this plane.
DIABLO CODY = ANOMALY
“I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself, but whatever class he’s in, it doesn’t take long to do the roll call.”
Former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden talking about a star player
During the pro football season on any given week there are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. (And less than half of those would be considered great. But let’s stick with 32.) That’s 32 men who are the best in world that week at a highly skilled and important position.
This blog took an outlier position from the start and held up a Chicago-raised, University of Iowa graduate, and blogger from Minnesota turned screenwriter named Diablo Cody as a new breed of screenwriter. When she won the Oscar in 2008 for her Juno script I though it was a great sign.
As far as writers plucked outside of Los Angeles on the strength of a spec script finding success inside the Hollywood, Cody is not alone–but whatever class she’s in, it doesn’t take long to call roll. I know I’d have trouble coming up with 32 names over the last nine years.
There are scrappy screenwriters everywhere working on independent films, but that continues to be a tough road to haul career wise. Screenwriting and movies are at an interesting crossroad at the moment. There are plenty credited screenwriters who don’t do superhero movies, who lament the loss of what’s called the middle-class of movies, who are at a crossroad. And Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places is also at a crossroad and as much as it would make sense to change the blog to Screenwriting from (or for) China that’s not going to happen.
I would like to explore in some posts over the next 12 months is screenwriting outside of the U.S.A. (I welcome any links to interviews that explain the world of screenwriting around the world.)
My hope is that this blog has inspired many over the years. And who knows, maybe some ten-year-old today will stumble upon this blog in the future and find something that helps them create something great.
THE PRESENT & THE FUTURE
For the past two years I’ve worked as multimedia producer at a college doing mostly studio work and editing for instructional videos. (Which unlike a lot of production work, thanks to online learning, is in growth mode.) But this month I not only added a week long freelance shoot that briefly took me out of the country, but I started taking two classes as part of the Digital Journalism & Design Master’s program at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.
I’ll give 2016 Oscar-winning best picture Spot Light an assist on that idea. And I can see doing a string of posts on great journalism-based movies. (The Insider, His Girl Friday, Almost Famous and Broadcast News quickly come to mind.)
My early roots were not only in journalism, but I finally realize that the nine years of writing this blog are a part of digital journalism. I’m not sure if that will point me in the direction of working on more short form storytelling, working on long form documentaries, or teaching, or something different altogether.
Maybe I’ll get a better understanding of a business model for running a digital platform. Something that would bring a return on the time invested. But even though my dance card is full for the remainder of 2017, I intend on sprinting to the 10 year mark by returning to daily blogging. To accomplish that there will be a healthy amount of cribbing from the 2,000+ posts I’ve written in the last 9 years.
I love movies. Went to see The Founder Friday night and it’s the kind of movie I’m thrilled still gets made. Everyone keeps saying we’re in the modern golden era of television, which is providing opportunities to not only new writers, but a place for feature writers to find work. And the rise of Netflix, Amazon and the like keeps finding new ways of producing and distributing material. Podcasting is also not only opening up new ways of communicating, but in some cases proving also good revenue streams.
There’s much to be encouraged by.
I’m intrigued that Casey Neistat made a film that went to Sundance and then carved his own path as a You Tuber. Video essays like Every Frame a Painting are substantive and engaging to millions of viewers. What one person, or a small team can do these days is rather amazing.
But features continues to be tricky water. Here’s a thought to ponder from a comedy great who conquered both stand-up and TV, but learned a key lesson working on Bee Movie ten years ago:
“If you’re watching a bad movie, it’s two hours of your life. If you’re in a bad movie, it’s two years.”
And, lastly—spoiler alert— if you remember when E.T.’s light was fading, that wasn’t the end of the story. I don’t know if I’ll just do a mic drop on January 22, 2018 and walk away from blogging, or if I’ll l discover some new uncharted digital territory to head, but I’m pretty sure there’s there’s going to be some kind of resurrection.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.