Writing About Film, Part 2: Process
And now: nuts and bolts. Or, some aspects of the blog post life-cycle from watching a film to hitting “publish”.
For years, I’ve been hooked on the Paris Review Writers At Work series. These extensive and intimate interviews are without parallel in the world of literature, and their appearance on the web is cause for celebration. I’ve always found the process-related minutiae of a writer’s life and habits fascinating.
Today I thought I’d apply that idea to the blogger’s life and habits. In that spirit, I thought I'd share a few personal process details, hoping you’d like to perhaps do the same. So, here we go with some quotidiana:
First off, the single biggest influence on my writing over the last year has been...tendonitis. It’s forced me to write more concisely because, frankly, being long-winded hurts. Buying my first iBook three months ago was, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, life-changing. Because my fingers are shot, and will probably stay that away, I can’t use a regular keyboard at all, and the iBook low-impact keyboard is a godsend. Using bullet points rather than writing long-form essays hurts less too.
Little yellow pads: I can’t live without them, and they’re scattered all over the house. I outline a lot (probably a holdover from the dissertation days), and almost never just sit down and bang out a post extemporaneously on the keyboard. I know it probably contravenes the spontaneous spirit of blogging, but there it is.
I never take notes in the theater during a movie if I’m seeing it for the first time. I know lots of people who successfully do, but it interrupts and wrenches me out of the flow of the moment. It’s different on DVD; I can pause the movie, jot down thoughts, and back up the movie a bit before resuming. If I lived in a large metropolis, I'd see many more films on the big screen, but right now, film festivals excepted, I watch most films on DVD, sprawled in bed with bad posture, big golden retriever curled up at my feet moaning in vain for exercise.
It’s odd. When I’m at a film festival for a week, watching three or four films a day, I don't take copious notes. The movies don’t all blend together like you'd think they might, and even weeks later I still have a reasonable memory of them. Not so when I’m home. I saw The Ice Harvest over the weekend, and if I hadn’t scribbled a few notes about it afterwards, it would seem a bit distant right now. Maybe it has to do with a certain fantasy-world vividness that seems to exist in the vortex of the film festival experience: every last daily worldly care evaporates, leaving only the movies in bright view.
Sometimes the films you love best are the hardest to write about. I still haven't mustered the courage to blog about my single favorite filmmaker, Robert Bresson; perhaps this year I will. Also, it’s impossible to predict in advance whether a movie will be easy or hard to write about. It all comes down to the “angle of attack”. If one doesn’t present itself, even the best-loved movies sit on the blog shelf of your mind, gathering dust.
Gone are the days when I ploughed through several films a week. Now, if I watch two a week, I'm happy; three is prolific. And I find it difficult to see a film and then turn around and immediately write about it. It helps to let it incubate for a few days (occasionally even a few weeks). At some point it feels ready to hatch, and tumble into the blog.
Your watching and writing habits? Share if you like.