This has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while now - like an itch I couldn't quite scratch, but today it finally bubbled to the front of my brain. Something seems to have changed for me regarding Screen Rant, but it creeped up on me slowly so I didn't really notice what was happening. I think I may have to thank my pal John from The Movie Blog for providing the trigger along with a post I read over at Dosh Dosh regarding shifting from being a writer to an editor in chief of a website.
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.