Earlier this week, The Kid in The Front Row (whose writing has inspired me for a good long while now) dropped me a note wondering if I wanted to open up about blogging and this blog in particular. In addition, he likewise suggested that I post the conversation here. I hesitated for a brief moment, since talking about myself isn’t my first choice of activity. However, I soon realized that the answers to his questions might be of interest to some who read this space…perhaps those new to the site who might not know how things got to this point.
So while I take a breath and bear down for the first film festival of the year, allow me a moment to shed some light on The Matinee and I arrived at this point.
The Kid: When did you start blogging and why did you start?
Ryan McNeil: I wrote a LiveJournal from 2004 to 2007, and while it was fun to record my ideas in that manner and make new friends, it had low appeal. Few people want to read the day-to-day of an average office drone. However, my wife Lindsay suggested I find a way to reach a broader audience through it. I noticed that some of my most popular posts were the ones where I talked about the movies I’d watched, so it dawned on me that by focusing the writing, I’d have a chance to reach others interested in what I was writing about…even if they’d never met the writer himself.
K: You have a very modern design — it’s more like a website, like a collection of stuff, than a typical blog. What made you move away from your previous site, ‘The Dark of the Matinee‘?
Ryan McNeil: The seed to up the ante came about a year ago. A podcaster and blogger that I’d been following for a long time moved to town and told me “I like what you do, but I think you can do it better”. I’m not the greatest at taking criticism, but something within these notes he was giving me struck a chord. I had been covering film festivals as accredited press, interviewed Oscar winners, and was starting to feel somewhat “legit”. However, the makeup of the old site wasn’t reflecting the work that was going into it. So I decided to up my game.
In mapping out the design of the new site, I wanted to move to something radically different from the previous space – and if possible, something that stood out from most of the other sites I frequented. The funny thing is, that critique my friend gave me has stuck with me ever since. I’m always looking for a way to “do it better”.
K: I love it when you discuss old movies with other bloggers, like on your ‘Falling For The First Time’ section. What do you get out of doing that? Why do you find it appealing?
R: The motto of this site is “Passion and Perspective”, and the latter of those is something I think a lot of people overlook. When it comes to pop culture films that occupy a high pedestal, I realized a while ago that they often have their flaws overlooked because their biggest fans saw them at an impressionable age. My theory was that if someone saw these films for the first time now, that I’d gain a perspective most readers weren’t privy to.
The appeal is to vicariously relive that first experience, and see something I’m deeply familiar with through fresh eyes.
K: Do you pay attention to readership numbers and stats?
R: I try not to since I’m very much a small fry. Most of my interest in stats is in gauging where people are finding out about the site.
K: Is blogging always enjoyable, or now that you’ve been doing it a lot time do you feel a pressure to produce content?
R: If blogging wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve had an immense amount of support from my wife, family, and friends…enough that I’ve been able to make blogging a part of my daily routine and a big part of my identity. However the fact is that everything you see on this site takes effort, and if I didn’t get a large measure of satisfaction from the effort I was putting in, I’d find something else to do with my time.
The only pressures I feel are self-inflicted.
For starters, there’s the fact that for over two years now, I’ve been on a streak of posting every day. I’m rather proud of that in a wickedly-low-rent Cal Ripken sort of way, so I’d like to keep the streak alive if I can.
Along with that, there’s the trouble of coming up with topics to write about. After almost five years, I’ve covered a lot of the usual points (“What’s with remakes?”, “My desert island top five”, etc). So there have been a few nights of staring at a blinking cursor at 12:30 and thinking “I think the streak ends tomorrow”…but beyond that I haven’t felt much stress or pressure from my writing.
K: Have you seen the film ‘One Week’, that was shot a few years ago and set in Canada? Intrigued by your thoughts on it.
R: I have! It was discussed on an archived episode of The Matineecast with Simon Columb since I believe it to be one of the best Canadian films of the last ten years. It could actually serve as a tourism ad for my country. I’ve actually not paid Canadian film much attention until the last two or three years, so discovering gems like ONE WEEK has been a great experience.
K: Do you work in film, or do you do something entirely different?
R: I work for a photography supplier, so no – I don’t work in film. Now that yo mention it, that might be a good thing since I recall reading a recent post by someone who said nothing would ruin one’s passion for film faster than working in the film industry. Since you brought it up though, my work does play a part in my writing habits. The Matinee is something I do with my free time, and only with my free time. I keep hard and fast to a pair of rules: I don’t write about work, and I don’t write at work. I might respond to a comment now and then on a coffee break, but no more than that.
K: Do your friends and family read your blog?
R: I think I have a reputation for guilt-tripping my friends and family into reading my blog.
Jokes aside, many of them do – even my mom, who isn’t all that interested in film. Funny thing about friends reading this space though, writing this space has actually introduced me to a whole host of new friends. A few years ago, some other local movie bloggers decided to host a night at the bar for any interested movie bloggers (or just movie lovers) in the city. That gathering went so well we all decided to do it monthly, and it;s been running for three and a half years. Many of these people I’ve met are people I’ve become quite close with.
What’s amazing about that is that I don’t think many people out there make a whole lot of new friends, once they get into their 30’s. Maybe if you move to a new neighbourhood, or change jobs…but even then, how many new people will you find yourself getting together with? One or two, tops?
So yes, my friends and family do read this space, and I’m happy that they do. They’ve all been so encouraging about it, that I likely would have shut it down and quit several times were it not for their support.