So today, American Blogger was released.
I want to be completely candid about my thoughts on participating in this project and viewing the final result. When Chris Wiegand first emailed me about it, I had to mull it over for a little while but decided it would be a fun thing to be a part of.
I have always loved Chris’ wife, Casey. I think it really doesn’t take all that long to determine if someone in the blog world is genuine or not. Casey is one of the good ones. A kind and gentle voice in my weekly reader. I didn’t know Chris but I watched some of his previous work and saw his talent. When he pulled up in my driveway, I was nervous and excited.
I didn’t have a lot of details other than that it would be a film about bloggers across America and even after participating, I still didn’t have a clear picture on exactly how he would tell the story.
Chris was an exceptionally nice guy. Just as kind and genuine as Casey and it was fun to talk about my blogging experience and have him tag along for the day as we spent time together as a family.
Months passed and I didn’t think about the film all that much. I was excited to watch the trailer but I’ll admit that my reaction to it was tepid. The voice over made me cringe and the promises of the film “changing the world” made me more than a little nervous. Certainly nothing I had shared with Chris on film was world changing.
I only know about a third of the bloggers in the film, but the lack of diversity is undeniable. We are all women, most of us are white and appear to be middle class. There are two non-white bloggers and a handful of blogger children in the film of different ethnicities.
The title “American Blogger” got a lot of flack from the broader internet audience. It was blatantly obvious that, despite its name, this film is not an all encompassing look at American Bloggers. It was definitely a more focused feature on a set of niche lifestyle, fashion, and family bloggers in the US. I think had the title been more specific and the voice over been a little less presumptuous, they would have received far less negative feedback on the trailer. I do think that the lack of diversity was going to be an issue no matter what. I think there was a real missed opportunity there. Chris did add “American Blogger - The First Journey” to the final film after the trailer was released to clarify that this was only the first of many AB films he hoped to make.
I believe that Chris’ intentions were always good. He set out to make a film on a subject dear to his family and utilized the bloggers that Casey had established relationships with to do so. There was never any intent to exclude and I think it just comes down to the fact that Chris is young film maker and a bit naive. I’m not making excuses for him but I hope he learned a hard and valuable lesson on this project. I haven’t spoken with Chris or Casey, but I imagine both of their world views have been broadened significantly with this experience.
Chris sent out an early viewing to all of the bloggers involved last night. I was so nervous to watch it that I felt slightly nauseous. I couldn’t remember a damn word I had said to him in my interviews but was convinced I’d probably made a complete fool of myself.
The beginning of the film focused far more on Chris’ experience than I had anticipated. The story of American Blogger is much more about the intersection of Chris’ familial experience with capturing life through words and video & the experiences of other bloggers than just a film on the bloggers themselves. I think it would have been benificial to promote the two intersecting stories of the film as it helps to tie in the official documentary image and the trailer much better.
I was also really curious to see how Chris was going to tie in so many different bloggers from the same blog genre. There was definitely a lot of visible similarities between us all (lots of vintage couches and red lipstick and spinning around with children in our arms) but there were also some really personal, beautiful stories intermingled in the interviews. I definitely teared up at one point in the middle of the film.
There were a few parts that I thought were a poor reflection on bloggers- The “here is my room full of free shoes and handbags” segment made me want to fast forward and the excessively long section of the film dedicated to bloggers opinions on “people who leave mean comments on blogs” seemed unnecessary. Addressing trolls and haters is certainly a necessary part of discussing the blog writing experience - but the commentary was all one sided. I have definitely had my fair share of nasty comments on my blog but I also think it’s important to be challenged by my readers. To take constructive criticism when it is valid. I have had some of my own narrow views and opinions expanded through dialogue in the comments of my blog and I’m wary of the way the film made it seem as if many of the bloggers wished only to participate in a community where people agreed with them.
The cinematography is beautiful. Chris has a real talent for telling a story through images. The footage of some of my favorite bloggers just made my heart want to burst with love for them. I’ve known some of these women for years solely through their photos and blog words and to see them on film laughing and sharing a little of themselves was really fun for me. I was unfamiliar with many of the women in the film and I’m looking forward to exploring several of their blogs and finding some new inspiration for my blog reader.
I believe wholeheartedly everything I shared about my experience in the film. I could have toned down the red lips and done without that dang brown hat, but otherwise, I stand behind my contribution to American Blogger.
When the credits rolled, I felt relieved.The silly voice over man from the trailer had not shown up for the entire length of the film. It left me feeling like I could be real life friends with most of the women. I think within the small scope of the genre that was covered, Chris did us justice. A lot of the bloggers in the film do have a lot in common. We are but one small set of a much larger blogging community but each of us has a unique story to tell. I hope that Chris will take the lessons he learned on this project and apply them to his next American Blogger project. So much was shared in this film, but it’s really only the beginning of a much bigger story within the American blogging community.
P.S. It’s kind of KILLING me that I can’t get the comments to work on my blog right now but if you watch the film, I’d love to hear your perspective. Tweet me at @withoutmelissa or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.