Today marks Silents, Please!’s first birthday. A year to the day after my initial post, I’ve published a total of 59 posts, featured hundreds of images, and written over 80K (!) words, enough for a novel. Wow! It seems like a good time, then, to look back on my year of blogging and take stock of things.
A thank-you to readers. I knew from the beginning that Silents Please would be a pretty niche blog. Silent film history isn’t a hot topic even among film enthusiasts, and within silent cinema, I’ve mostly taken the road less travelled. So I’d like to take the opportunity to thank those who have visited or been reading along! A special thank-you to those who write comments or ‘like’ posts. It’s really nice to see that other people are interested. And as my biggest supporter, my partner deserves special recognition – 谢谢!
Some stats. Let’s have a look at how things stacked up, numbers-wise.
- My longest article: It was, by far, my 4478-word monument to two mid-teens Italian circus films, Il jockey della morte (1915) and Il circo della morte (1916). Runner-up was a book review post, and bronze medal went to my lost films article with the slightly clickbait-esque title 10 lost silent films that I’d love to see.
- My most read article: my interview with nitrate specialist Bin Li. To be honest I had never looked at my hit counts or WordPress stats before today, but I’m really happy about this being #1 – Bin is awesome and I think it was an interesting interview! On Tumblr, this post got quite a bit of attention.
- My most commented article: My post on Mosjoukine’s Le brasier ardent (FR 1923), with my recent article on early space films right behind it (and the latter will possibly catch up soon, since it was part of a just-finished blogathon). Thanks again to those who have commented, it’s lovely to receive them.
- The country most covered: Italy, by far. I didn’t really set out to cover so many Italian films, but it’s fine that it worked out that way!
- The year most covered: 1915—to be expected, given the recurring ‘100 years ago’ thread of this blog.
- Most used other tags: diva films and, of course, the essential dangerous female sexuality. What can I say, there was a lot of that going around.
- Visitors: According to WordPress’s stats, most of you came from the United States, not surprisingly. United Kingdom is the next in line, and after that the most hits came from Italy (Ciao! Grazie); then there’s a spread of different, mostly European countries. This fits with the kind of films I’ve covered on this blog, but I’m happy that people have come here even when I’m writing not in their native tongue. (Also, to the person [people?] who arrived here via the search term ‘Bertini hat’, please email me! We have much to talk about).
Themes and content. A year in, several themes have emerged here at Silents Please. Overall, I covered the teens rather than the twenties, Europe rather than the US, and had a strong focus on women on the screen. This follows my own interests more than a particular plan—despite my original schema of what I was going to cover, I frequently ended up being tugged into different things that caught my fancy or attention. Here follows a few thoughts:
- Ladies first. Women on the silent screen has been a big focus for me. Although I haven’t written overarching articles on the topic, through my coverage of different films, what I hope to have done is build up some kind of picture of the ways in which women were portrayed on the screen and how they embodied these characters. This is most evident in my series on diva films, but probably crops up in my other writing. It’s a fascinating topic for me; not just for analysis within the story-worlds of the silent cinema, but for what it can tell a modern-day audience about how women lived and were perceived 80 or 90 years ago. On the screen, novel archetypes like the New Woman, the vamp, the diva, the flapper, etc, oppose or blend with older models of womanhood; behind the screen, a greater proportion of women were involved in the film industry than at perhaps any time since.
- A teenager in love. The teens too are a fascinating time of movie-making to me: the cinematic storytelling techniques we take for granted nowadays were in place, but with forms and structures still being crystalized. There may be rough edges, but those are themselves interesting to me, and there’s a kind of energy that I really appreciate. A lot of highly accomplished films were made, too: the work of Asta Nielsen, Yevgeni Bauer, the divas, Pickford, Protazanov and the other Russians, Lubitsch & Negri, comedy work, etc. I feel that many more people write about the high-silent era of the 1920s, so I hope I can contribute something about an era which I feel strongly about.
- Europa endlos. I really like American cinema and I assumed that I would cover more American films than happened! I had to think about why it worked out this way, and it’s probably because teens-wise, I’m more interested in the European film output. A major reason, though, is that a lot of US cinema is well-covered already, and I didn’t feel like I needed to reinvent the wheel. Which brings me to …
- The underappreciated. I particularly wanted to write about films that are outside the canon, especially those that don’t have much information about them currently online. To that end, I tackled some of my own big interests as well as seeking out unfamiliar things. Some of the posts I most enjoyed writing were those that involved research of now-forgotten actresses and films: a wonderful actress called Ellen Jensen-Eck, Margarita Xirgu in Alma Torturada, scandalous dance star and free spirit Tórtola Valencia, the pure fun of Filibus, some background on the origins of После Смерти | After Death, investigating Italian circus blockbusters that were big in my town. In a small way, I think I made those actresses and films more visible, and if people come looking, they’ll hopefully find something informative and fun to look at in my posts.
On writing. It’s not easy! One side-goal was to improve my writing skills via this blog project—and while I don’t know if I can be the best judge of that, I feel like I have tuned up my writing abilities a bit through the simple act of writing regularly. The new goal is to become faster.
Animated GIFs. They’re fun! Somehow, I’d been a PhotoShop user for well over a decade before I realized I could use it to make them. I’ve used a whole heap of them on this blog: I find them really useful in conveying the sense of a scene or film and cutting down on the need for descriptive paragraphs. Hopefully readers enjoy them too, or at least don’t find them actively annoying. The animated GIF’s days are probably numbered, as there finally seems to be some traction on HTML5 video and initiatives like GFY/.gifv, but it seems like a good tool for the moment.
A continuing project. I originally started this blog as a one-year project. I diagrammed the things I was interested in covering, and committed to a simple but ambitious aim: to post weekly on silent film for fifty two weeks, at which point I’d put the blog on mothballs. Now I’ve achieved that, but I’m not quite ready to hang up my hat just yet! Firstly, there are too many things I’m still interested in writing about, but didn’t get to; and secondly, I’ve really enjoyed this blogging endeavour and I’m keen to keep on with it. However, I will step back a bit as I need to put more time into other projects, on top of having a busy day-job. I’ll still be writing, just not quite as often! I would like to write more long-form/thematic articles (as opposed to writing about single films) than I have been doing, and I have some topics in mind, so look out for those. I am also hoping to unveil an ambitious new project later this year.
All in all, it’s been a lot of fun writing this blog and a really good way to focus my thoughts on silent film! Thanks to all those who read along … and stay tuned. :)