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Your Underground Film Blog Doesn’t Have To Act Like A Blog

Since 2010 is the Year of the Underground Film Loop, I’ve been contemplating starting a series of articles that give practical tips on how to maintain an underground film website for underground film bloggers who are just starting out or are looking to strengthen their existing site. This article exists somewhere between practical advice and the theorizing I’ve been doing so far this year.

I mean, it’s not like the Underground Film Journal is a major success in the big picture of it all. But, for what it is, I think it’s doing pretty well. Actually, the traffic the site gets isn’t a big secret. You can check out the demographics of my readership on Quantcast. (I signed up with them back in Dec.) So, maybe I can offer some help to anyone who wants it.

The Underground Film Journal began way back in 1998 when it was just a hosted page within AOL. It wasn’t until 2000 when it finally got its own domain. Plus, this was before blogs were really popular, so I maintained the site just as a series of static HTML pages. It was really different looking back then.

I didn’t start using blogging software until 2005 when I switched to a self-hosted WordPress platform, which I’ve been using since then.

In 2005, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing so I pretty much treated the site like a blog — basically short posts about what was going on with me, plus random reviews of whatever I was watching or reading.

But, in 2006, I had a mini-epiphany: Just because I was using blog software didn’t mean I had to treat the site like a blog. More importantly, I didn’t have to THINK of the site as a blog. And, you know what, I don’t. I don’t think of the Underground Film Journal as a blog. I think of it as a news and review site with editorial content, such as this article.

See, I didn’t call this a “blog post.” What I’m writing right now is, to me, an “article,” like something you’d find on any magazine or newspaper website. Granted, it took me until 2010 to figure out how to make my homepage to look NOT like a blog, but I hadn’t thought of the site as a blog for the past four years.

You might be thinking: “So what? Why is that important?” Well, for me, when I was starting out using WordPress one of the hardest things to do was just to keep coming up with subjects to write about. When I thought of the Underground Film Journal as a blog for about a year, I had to think of things to write about that were important to me and, very quickly, blogging fatigue set in. Almost immediately, for every blog post I wanted to write, I would then immediately think, “Who cares what I think about that?”

However, when I stopped thinking in “blog” terms and ultimately decided to focus my writing on underground film, it forced me to start looking for stuff that was outside myself to write about. Pretty soon, it didn’t matter what I personally thought about anything, as long as I was collecting and regurgitating information I had plenty of stuff to write about.

Ok, that’s not quite true. The better thing to say is that I became more engaged with my writing. Finding topics to write about was still a struggle for awhile in the beginning — mainly because not much info on underground film existed back then — but coming up with a non-personal angle to exploit kept me constantly thinking of how to keep exploiting that angle.

Now, I have way, way too many things to write about and I’m always dreaming up new series and ideas to keep expanding the site. The struggle now is how to get everything done with the limited time I have to work on the site. The answer: Most things I want to do don’t get done. But, that’s a better problem to have than giving up before even trying like I had been doing.

Here are some examples of other sites that I think break out of the “just a blog” mentality:

  1. On Making Light of It, Jacob W. has started a very nice resource section where he posts profiles of some of the classic underground filmmakers. You can see the ones he’s created on his sidebar.
  2. Landscape Suicide is laid out like any other Blogger blog, but for each post Matthew Flanagan posts great images from films and related quotes. The site’s more like flipping through a cool book of film stills than reading a blog.
  3. j.j. murphy has written a book on indie film screenplay structure, Me and You and Memento and Fargo, and has continued that theme with his indie film review website, which is like reading a book of reviews, except the timing of when you can read the chapters are spaced out sporadically.
  4. Be warned before you click on the link for Phantom of Pulp — it’s not for the squeamish and I’m not kidding about that. On the one hand, this is a very personal blog by underground filmmaker Mark Savage, but on the other hand, it’s a tour of everything extreme in world cinema and more.

The thing about those blogs — and I think with the Underground Film Journal, too — is that they’re very personal websites even though, with the exception of Savage, they don’t write about themselves that much. I don’t know much about Jacob, Flanagan and murphy except for what they’re really passionate about in the film world.

The question is: What are you passionate about?

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