Julien Neaves – Editor
Wow. It seems like it was just yesterday we were celebrating Redmangoreviews’ 400th post. Well actually it was back in April ,but thanks to our very prolific senior writer/horror head writer Sommerleigh Pollonais and new featured writer Alice Oscura we hit another 100 posts lickety-split. They really are the butt kicking Angels to my mysterious Charlie.
And I find it fittingly appropriate and appropriately fitting to have a special blog post commemorating each of these centennial milestones, so here we are. Now full disclosure this was supposed to be the 500th post but I was editing Alice’s One Night in Bangkok (you should check that out, it’s a great review) and accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save.” Whoopsie. But 501 is similar to 101 and this will be a moderately educational article, so it all worked out in the end. After editing 500 articles and writing the majority of them I have picked up some lessons on those whole film blogging thing. And I am going to be sharing five of those lessons with you right now. And I will be using a film title as a heading for each lesson, because I have not been normal all my life so it’s really too late to start now. Enough talk. Let’s get crack-a-lacking!
Lesson 1 – Identity
This first lesson took me a LONG time to learn. When I started RMR four years ago I was like a reviewing maniac. I was reviewing everything! All films, all genres, TV episodes, movie trailers, even TV trailers. If it came on a screen I was going to review it. And that wild, scattershot approach just did not work. So I pulled back and looked at which of my articles were doing better than others, and what were the types of films and TV shows I personally enjoyed reviewing and making lists about. And eventually it crystallised into Caribbean films and genre films (Sci Fi, Horror and Comic Book). So the tagline for the site became “Journey from Caribbean Scenes to Genre Screams.”
There is a horde of film reviewers out there so you have to establish your specific niche to stand out. Otherwise you are going to get virtually trampled. I met one reviewer who only does 80s films and another who focuses on films by women. What types of movies/tv shows do you like reviewing more than others? Maybe that’s your niche right there. So if you are an aspiring film blogger, or you’ve been doing it for years like me, my advice would be to have a specific focus for your blog and let that be the hook for your readers. Now you don’t have to be a slave to your hook (if you notice we at RMR review do pretty much everything here) but you need that focus for your blog, your brand, to have a clearly established identity.
And another quick point about identity is you should really let yours shine through in your articles. Be natural. Be yourself. Don’t copy another person. If the reader wanted a review with someone else’s style they would go read them instead of you. If they are reading your article they want to hear your voice. And also be truthful and don’t worry about being the lone voice in the wilderness when it comes to your film opinion. Us is overrated people. OVERRATED!
Lesson 2 – 8mm
This second lesson is on the presentation side and extends to blogging in general. In my day job I am a journalist, and as a journo I know the most important photo in the newspaper is your cover photo. That photo can determine whether your paper is bought or left to decorate the news stand. For your articles your featured image is your cover photo. If it is just some boring, uninteresting photo then it is less likely that you are going to get that click. And as a film/tv blogger you also want an image that captures the essence of whatever you are writing about. An image tells a thousand words, and you want at least two of the words coming out of the mouth of your featured image to be “click me.”
And images are also very important for the body of your article as well. As with a newspaper article nobody wants to just see a big blob of text with no images. It is both intimidating and boring to look at. So use images to break it up. At RMR I add some funny captions as well. These images give the reader a visual break and adds some entertainment value. And they are critically important for some of your longer articles. The longer the article, the more images you need. So while you’re writing a 1,000 page post excoriating The New Mutants remember to have some images of said Mutants in there as well.
Lesson 3 – The Post
For this next lesson I am going to referring to some journalism-related stuff again. What? It’s both helpful and relevant. As Ryan from Pitch Meeting would say, I need you to get all the way off my back about it. You see what I just did there? That’s called attribution. I attributed the quote to its source. So as we break this lesson into three sub-points let’s start off with attribution:
A. Attribution – None of us are omniscient trivia gods. So if you get information from a source then you need to attribute it. It’s honest and it’s ethical. For my Freddy vs Jason vs Michael vs Leatherface: Ultimate Slasher Showdown article I got some stats from cbr.com and I acknowledged that. So yeah, give the people their props.
B. Quality writing – After you have finished writing your article what do you do? Hit publish? No! Wrong! Go to the back of the class! Just kidding. You can stay where you are. The correct answer is “read it over.” And why are you reading it over? Well you want to ensure that it reads and flows well, and also to fix any grammatical errors or errors of fact (we’ll get into that more in the next sub-point). Because you know the quickest way to get people NOT to read your blog? Have your articles poorly written with a host of grammatical errors. So read it over and fix it before you post it. And if you notice a mistake after the fact or someone points it out, then go back and fix it. People are giving you their precious time to read your work and they deserve to have your best work.
C. Research – Another way to get people to abandon your site is to have errors of fact. Sure you can just watch a film and go write a review, but nobody wants to read an article with the wrong names of cast and crew or mistakes about a franchise. Did you just write that Jason Vorhees was the killer in the original Friday the 13th? It’s VOORHEES! AND THE KILLER WAS HIS MOTHER! THIS IS THE WORST BLOG EVER! To avoid that response (or at least help to avoid it, this is the internet after all) you need to do some level of research to ensure what you are putting out is accurate. And as with sub-point B if you realise a mistake after the fact then GO BACK AND FIX IT. After I wrote my Top Star Trek Themes article it was pointed out that I had missed Star Trek: The Animated Series and a couple of other facts. So I had to go back and fix it, and I even referenced the
mitsake mistake in said blog. You will not have a successful blog if you are too lazy to fix your mistakes.
D. No clickbait – As a journalist few things annoy me more than a clickbait headline. The headline is all juicy and sexy and then when you read it you realise it was purposely blown out of proportion or just downright wrong. You feel cheated and your confidence in said media entity is diminished. So yeah I can write that Matt Smith will be taking over from Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor in Doctor Who, and I may stir up some initial views but in the long run I will have lost the trust of readers. So don’t do clickbait headlines guys. It’s now worth it. Instead come up with an interesting, engaging and snappy headline that actually reflects what you have written.
Lesson 4 – Get Rich or Die Tryin’?
Many years ago I decided to go into a small food business. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. Mind you I had little to no cooking skills and zero restaurant management skills. But worst of all I had no passion for this type of business. So when the dollars were not rolling in as I hoped there was no passion to sustain it and everything collapsed. Now what does this anecdote have to do with film blogging? Patience, my young padawans.
I became a film blogger because I love films and I love talking about films. I am passionate about them. So while it is work writing and editing articles it is work I enjoy. Now if anyone believes they can start a blog tomorrow and start making bucket loads of cash by Saturday then that is not a pipe dream, that is a whole WASA pipeline network (the Trinis will like that one). Making money from your film blog is possible but it is difficult and it will take time to build up your readership. So yeah, don’t quit your day job to start a blog. But do be a film blogger because you enjoy it. The thousands of views and dollars may come with diligence and consistency, but they are not guaranteed. And before they do there will be that time of toiling in the proverbial vineyard. If you are not having fun in the toiling then you are going to burn yourself out pretty quick.
Lesson 5 – Community
Final point. Wow. This is a LONG article. Good thing I broke it up with these photos. Wink wink nudge nudge hint hint. And yes I know there is no Community movie yet but I will not stop waiting until we get one. Six seasons AND a movie people! Anywho on to the final point, which is actually two points related to theme of community. Firstly you need to get your niche content to your niche audience. Now how does one do that? Well you gotta find them. For me that meant going into Facebook groups for Caribbean and genre content. And if you think you can just join up and spam these groups with your content like an overactive bot then you need to hit Ctrl Alt Delete. You not only have to join these communities but you have to become an interactive member of the community, which should not be a problem seeing that they are talking about things you are interested in any way. The golden rule is to give to these groups more than you take. And I spread out my blog posts by a week to avoid spamming. If you are on a group posting every single day they are going to get tired of you very quickly and vote your backside off the island.
And continuing on the theme of community, one of the most rewarding and fulfilling parts of these years of blogging has been my collaborations with other film reviewers in Trinidad (that’s where I’m from btw. Full country name Trinidad and Tobago). I have been on podcasts and vlogs and I have hosted guest writers on this site. And through these interactions I learn from them and they learn from me. The rising tide raises all ships. I have established my own mini-community with Sommer and Alice at RMR and this has made the experience infinitely better. So my last slice of wisdom for film bloggers is to find your own film blogging community. It will make a world of difference.
So that’s it from me. Hope this was helpful in some way. And now it is time to deftly solicit those additional clicks. For my 100th post celebration and the Top 10 Life Lessons From 10 Fantastic Films you can click here. And for actual film reviews and lists you can follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
PS – And I am a firm believer in saying thanks so at this point I would like to say thanks to Sommer, who was the first to join me after carrying this blog alone for so long. Really the wind beneath my blogging winds and so forth. Also thank you to Alice. You recently came on board but have really gone above and beyond in contributing. I would also like to thank: Darcel Choy from Music is My Life who inspired me all those years ago to start this blog; British film critic Jason Solomons who shared his years of wisdom with me and a few others some years ago at the UWI Film Programme; all the guest writers over the years namely Matthew Bailey, Wayne Rock, Ronan Anakin Maharaj, Sharazz Ali and Michael Yuka Toshi Richards; and all our readers from across the world. You guys are beautiful and it is pleasure to share our content with you. Blessings flow.