In My Backyard: Year 5

Just like last year at this time, I’m weathering the remainder of a pervasive cold as March makes its debut, although I’m sitting not in the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters as I write but at Caffe Paradiso in Urbana amongst the undergraduates who pretty much ignore my presence. It’s definitely not too quiet, although their din and some early Johnny Cash rising overhead is allowing me to zone out and zero in on this annual public contemplation of C-U Blogfidential, the only Web site dedicated to filmmaking and movie viewing in downstate Illinois. It’s not taking me long to figure out what it is I have to say. In fact, it’s almost as if we’ve heard it all before.

In a virtual repeat of Year 3, about which I tersely commented 12 months and two days ago, Year 4 motored along as we covered the movies, the makers, and the mayhem you’d want us to, yet once again we did not step it up with our output. No full-length interviews or articles save the final installment of Anthony Zoubek’s “Ebertfest” 2008 series, no reviews except for a semi-hidden critique of THE INFORMANT!, no detailed lowdown on the numerous local-film DVD releases of 2009 except for cursory mentions. Our biggest swing-and-a-miss came at the expense of dear old MICRO-FILM, which passed its 10th anniversary on October 29 with barely a joyous noise. Is staying the course victory enough?

Of positive note is that we finally took our act to the streets by producing the first C-U Confidential Local Movie Show last April in conjunction with the Boneyard Arts Festival of Champaign County. Around 75 folks stopped by the aforementioned Caffe Paradiso to take in a portion of the 24 shorts and trailers solicited by your humble editor and configured by the fine fellows at Shatterglass Studios for their viewing pleasure. The following week, issue 3 of the event’s namesake began its tour of duty at Ebertfest 2009 and marched forth to Normal’s BNFilmFest two weeks after that. Our scrappy news/zine, The CineMicroGraph, returned a year ago with issue 2 but has been on hold since. Along with several set visits during the summer, this three-in-one hat trick kept the CUBlog family in the field – a sustained if not substantial achievement.

CUBlog also turned two other significant corners. Chicago photographer and cinematographer Michelle Kaffko became our first columnist back in August with the debut of “A Knife in a Gun Fight,” a sporadic (for now) look at the neighboring world (give or take 140 miles) of Chicago indie filmmaking. Only three entries into its run, “Knife” has already shown Michelle’s knack for efficiently setting a tone with inviting dialogue and universal stories of determination and achievement. Also, citizen journalist Joel Gillespie of C-U’s on-line magazine wrote the first external article concentrating on CUBlog itself, a fair portrait describing the current state of things at MFHQ. Bully to both for expanding a little bit on what often seems to be a sheltered venture running on fumes.

So now, we breach the crossroads. Despite a slowly building catalogue of ideas and good intentions that could bear great fruit for the movies of Champaign, Urbana, and the cities beyond, we’ll continue taking two steps forward, one step back and forever feeling a twinge of underachievement unless you, dearest readers, play catalyst. What will it take to enlist the writers, the promoters, the designers, the artists, the archivists, the moguls who will help build up this unique cultural legacy instead of letting the foundation rest continuously on the shoulders of your humble editor? We need to find out, and soon.

Instead of offering an idealistic, bullet-point outlook as in prior editions, we’re simply going to pledge extra attentiveness to a handful of improvements on top of the CUBlog norm. First, the oft-mentioned Design Improvements will likely take place this summer after we finish with CUZine 4, CUZineShow II, Ebertfest 2010, and BNFilmFest 2010, which will involve recreating graphics and retooling Pages to work cohesively with the new look. Then, we’ll roll up our sleeves and push C-U Confidential ’99 and MICRO-FILM 2000 – whether presented conjoined or as a twin bill – towards a late summer/fall release. We’ll also improve viral awareness of our doings and try to sample the zeitgeist at festivals, premieres, conventions, and other pertinent public stages. Finally, we double-dare ourselves to take that first baby step into video-enhanced content. We’re not sure yet as to when, where, or how, but once we know the story you’ll hopefully be watching right along with us.

Thanks for sticking with C-U Blogfidential and remember to be vital out there.

~ Jason Pankoke

C-U Blogfidential: Year 4
Posts: 101  ~  Comments: 1* ~  Interviews: 2** ~  Articles: 1
Reviews: 1  ~  Links: +43  ~  Publications: 2

C-U Blogfidential So Far
Posts: 398  ~  Comments: 23  ~  Interviews: 9  ~  Articles: 6
Reviews: 5*** ~  Links: 368**** ~  Publications: 5

*This is not a typo, but it’s also not what it seems. Look for an update shortly about restoring Comments for you, dearest readers!

**We’re going to include the sorely neglected HOOPESTON interview piece with filmmakers Thomas Bender and Jake Bakkila because it should have gone live right after last year’s “In My Backyard.” Consider it posted “in spirit” and come back to C-U Blogfidential this weekend to behold the real deal.

***We’ll also adjust this number to account for the double-review from Year 1. It was early in our history. What did we know?

****Next year, this number will be more accurate. Part of the CUBlog revisions will include weeding out dead links from the blog roll and adding a bunch that we’ve happened upon in recent months.

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