In My Backyard: Year 7

Here’s a barely interesting anecdote for you about C-U Blogfidential, the only Weblog dedicated to filmmaking and movie viewing in downstate Illinois…

Our year is peppered with behind-the-scenes tasks you would never know about except for occasions like right now when I pipe up about them. One peculiar habit is my annual January screen-grab session. I pick a day on which the CUBlog home page sports a good editorial variety and then scroll down its length, capturing every pixel “as is” for posterity and potential future use. There is no reason why I do this just after the New Year except that an otherwise inexplicable gut feeling tells me so. Yet, two weeks ago I realized I was six weeks past due on my funny little ritual.

What is not particularly amusing about my anecdote is how truthfully it illustrates current life at the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters as being a bit off the pace. The posting of “In My Backyard” itself creeps closer to Spring Break each year; one would think “Backyard” is a smooth pour at this point but, glancing through its two prior iterations, I give pause since I feel like I would simply repeat myself to ill effect. The more accurate description of how things have progressed from last March to this March might be “running in place.” That means we’re going nowhere fast after several years invested in this beat.

I’m not the biggest fan of my own mindset right now, dearest readers. Let’s investigate.

An external occurrence – the closing of my employer after 35 years in business on the Friday of last spring’s Roger Ebert’s Film Festival – has shadowed nearly every subsequent day in Year 6. Even more damning is the immediate sequence leading to my discovery of what former co-workers and I gingerly termed “inevitable.” Having been light on hours prior to April 29, 2011, I played hooky that afternoon so I could rocket to far northwest Champaign and pick up the last-minute C-U Confidential print run, hurry downtown to make a drop at the Virginia Theatre, and then shoot back to far southwest Champaign for work. As I walked up to the front entrance, an editor walked out with her belongings in a box.

Basically, I lost my job at a company I’d known for nearly 20 years and gave my printer permission to bill me $3,000 within a 90-minute span. (Don’t worry. Advertising dollars covered two-thirds of that sum. Then again, worry. I should have caught and avoided the difference.) What does one think at such a moment?

The warming months which preceded this clusterfuck proved to be no walk in the park, either. Apart from writing, editing, and designing a slow-starting CUZine #5 on the high heels of my quarterly Bachelor Pad Magazine dalliance, I assembled a leaner and more successful New Art Film Festival than the prior bloated effort, thanks to timely pinch hitting from the Art Theater’s Sanford Hess, the Psychic Joker’s Lisa Cerezo, and Shatterglass StudiosLuke Boyce. Note all this, realizing I also had to keep up with CUBlog, social media, and other publicity throughout before embarking on the next BPM in May. And never mind the taxes, God save Mr. JaPan. Urgh.

I always presume my grunt work load will reasonably occupy me “after hours” when not slaving for a living. Instead, my 2011 on-the-clock minutes gradually eroded while compounding pop culture pursuits managed to exponentially glut “spare time” as they netted me nearly zero in the bank.

If you follow CUBlog faithfully, you know what happened next. I failed to attend a single “Ebertfest” screening, panel, or hobnob opportunity for the first time ever. (I don’t count seeing Ebertfest 2012 selection TINY FURNITURE at the Art a few hours after Ebertfest wrapped.) I had relative freedom to move about as well as press clearance to frequent the Virginia courtesy of the lovely Mary Susan Britt. What I didn’t have were the necessary spirit and attitude, knowing full well the C-U would be falling over itself to praise Ebertfest three short weeks after the initial NAFF stiffed. In silent moments I believed no one honestly cared, with “no one” equating to the general Champaign-Urbana, Illinois populace.

Sadly, that very thought has crossed my mind more than once, both before and since.

Exactly what happened, then, when the cinema smog lifted and sunny skies returned to shine through the windows of MFHQ? We managed to increase our posting frequency on CUBlog and earn new social media fans. We resumed preparations for our C-U Confidential ’99 historical print special yet shelved it for a second time. We represented at the IMC Film Festival, Freeky Creek Short Film Festival, and Route 66 International Film Festival without branching beyond central Illinois. We launched a monthly late-night movie show at Champaign’s SoDo Theatre with the aforementioned Psychic Joker, deliberating in the dead of night how to build clientele for such a beast. Today we’ve suddenly come full circle, or so it seems, embedded once again in the throes of CUZine/NAFF/Ebertfest/BPM planning while imagining prosperous outcomes and a brighter disposition.

In other words, it’s local show business (and unrelated, gainful employment since December) as usual for your humble editor and (extremely elusive) company. Maybe that’s the entire crux of this ennui-stricken essay, dearest readers. We’ve kept up appearances but forgotten how to forge ahead. Even worse, we may be afraid to strike out on our own again for the third time could be the charm … or the harm we may ultimately never recover from if all does not go according to the proverbial script.

My original commitment to MICRO-FILM was to unleash seven quality issues and then decide how to proceed. Nearly seven years have passed since MF 7 entered the world with a whimper despite rating as our “best issue ever.” After the subsequent launch of CUBlog, I joked to myself that I might be willing to allot this “local media ‘zine” concept a loose “five year plan” and see what became of it. I extended said “plan” to seven years when I heard it humming along happily but with less than one year left in the hourglass, I seriously have to wonder if CUBlog’s running time will finally expire with not nearly enough of the story arc told.

Urgh. It’s a self-publishing war, people.

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. Have a happy Ides of March!

C-U Blogfidential: Year 6
Posts: 136* ~ Comments: 40** ~ Interviews: 1*** ~ Articles: 8****
Columns: 4***** ~ Reviews: 0 ~ Links: -45****** ~ Publications: 1

C-U Blogfidential So Far
Posts: 628 ~ Comments: 101 ~ Interviews: 10 ~ Articles: 17
Columns: 9 ~ Reviews: 6 ~ Links: 324 ~ Publications: 7
Mailing List: 103 ~ Facebook: 324 ~ YouTube: 24*******

*Most ever!

**Most ever as well! Yet, that still averages out to a highly anemic one-third of a comment per post this past year. What’s up with that?

***Okay, it was an archival Mike Trippiedi interview.

****Okay, it was mostly the archival Ebertfest 2001 sequence posted last spring.

*****Tyler Tharpe surpassed his one-year anniversary as CUBlog columnist in January. Now that our good man from Indianapolis has shown everyone how it’s done, where have all you budding C-U ‘bloggers been hiding on us for the past six years?

******We finally started cleaning Blogroll house and hope to finish by summer.

*******Bending to global peer pressure, we divulge how many peeps theoretically peep at our activity via social media. We’re grateful for everyone who has expressed interest in what we do!

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