John wrote a post titled 20 Tips For Starting Your Own Movie Blog which is really a great primer on starting up your own website (although he left out the fact that one actually needs some sort of writing skill). Now having run a movie site for almost 5 years, I didn't really need the tips mentioned in the article, however the last couple of bullet points in his post jarred something loose in my head:
19) IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND FILM IS SUBJECTIVE, DON’T WRITE A SINGLE WORD UNTIL YOU DO
20) DON’T BE SPINELESS! HAVE AN OPINION AND EXPRESS IT REGARDLESS IF IT’S POPULAR OR NOT
I've found that it's a hell of a lot different running a movie site that gets 50 visitors a day than one that gets 10,000. Of course when I started up this little enterprise I had no plan for it to grow at all or imagined anyone other than a few friends would read it. So what's the difference? When you don't have many readers, it's easy to put your opinion out there since you won't get much negative feedback - but as your site gets "out there" and more popular suddenly opinionated posts and reviews start getting a LOT more "blowback."
As Screen Rant has grown and has garnered more readership, honestly I've started to think about what I write a lot more before I write it - perhaps too much. Over at Film School Rejects, one commentor ripped into that site calling them in effect sell-outs and pawns of the studios for their coverage of certain films. That got me thinking about how one's perspective changes as a site grows from a "hole in the wall" to a moderate-sized movie news site.
There's a sense of responsibility that creeps in when you cross a certain threshold and I believe that has been influencing my general writing and reviews lately. In the past I've never checked to see what the consensus was on a particular movie before writing a review, but lately I've been second-guessing myself, wondering how my opinion jives with other reviewers'. So when I review a movie that I think is awful like The Happening or You Don't Mess with the Zohan, I find myself asking "was it REALLY that bad or am I being too hard on it?" On the flip side, when I review movies like Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk I ask "am I being too easy on this movie because I'm a fan of superhero movies?"
Believe me, it's not easy putting your opinion out there where thousands of people can read it and a certain percentage of those will come into your house and rip you a new one with no regard for civility. Just check out the comments on my Aliens vs Predator: Requiem review to see what I mean.