By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall April 28, 2011 at 3:47AM
I've been blogging here since 2004. The Back Row Manifesto is coming up on its seventh (!!!) birthday and I have been facing a real crisis with it. On the one hand, I love and am honored to have a voice and a place to write my thoughts. On the other hand, as social media has grown in my life, I am finding it much easier to say things quickly and in real-time without the idea of blogging crossing my mind. My iPhone has become so much more important to me than my laptop for interacting with the online world; the idea of sitting down and taking the time to write and think has come to seem...cumbersome. Which is, y'know, crazy. Especially since, in private, all I seem to desire is a return to a slower, more thoughtful life in every way; reading, writing, film viewing, interacting with people in the real world. If someone would have told me in 2004 that in seven years I would be looking back fondly on the slow, patient times when blogging was starting, I probably would have laughed. Then, it seemed to be the cutting edge of immediacy. Today? Slooowwww.
Things change; everyone now instantly Tweets their thoughts on films and my desire to read online film criticism has been all but eliminated by the dissonance between the immediacy my scrolling feed and the (generally speaking) lack of thoughtful writing and criticism about the quality and content of movies. With the door opened by the movement of film trades to a competitive online space, there is a ton of thinking and passion around the "state" and "business" of films and filmmaking, but the qualities of the films themselves seems to be further brushed to the fringes of the conversation. Do I miss writing about movies? Sure, but I also miss the quality of the conversation about them. Not that I am any great shakes as a film thinker, but as the conversation seems to have shifted, my interest in participating has dwindled significantly.
Also, as my life as a programmer (and father) has changed, I feel less and less "safe" writing here. The independent film world is a small community filled with wonderful people, but I am finding myself growing more and more disgruntled with the state of the union, with the festival world and online film journalism and film criticism and the ebb and flow of snark and competitiveness... As much as I would love to write a cri de coeur about my feelings, I also still love so much about the films themselves that I am afraid to express the specifics of my personal disillusionment for fear of alienating folks and creating problems for myself as someone who sees his entire future spent thinking about and curating movies. So, if you're wondering why the blog has been such slow going these past few months, the answer is that I've been busy with the Sarasota Film Festival and have not been in a position to write about films, but also, given the state of the world, I just feel like I am not sure what to say anymore.
So, to quote Arthur Russell, I am going to start calling out of context; screw the conversation, popularity be damned, I guess I just need to stick to my own vision and do what makes me happy. So, this is me committing to doing that for a while to see where it leads me.
My plans for the spring include drooling over Cannes with my annual sense of covetous envy, attending BAM CinemaFEST in support of so many films that I truly love that will be playing there, an appreciation of the amazing work being done over at Factory25, and soon, playing catch-up on some trailers that I want the world to love as much as I do. I want to get back in the swing and to use this space as a vehicle for thinking again, on my own terms. That plan is now under way... I hope you'll endure the navel gazing and stick with me.