Dear friend,

writing on a pre-defined theme has never been my cup of tea. Even at school, writing an essay meant facing an hour of total lack of inspiration, and coming up with something - in readable handwriting - in the half hour or so left.
This is what the IndieWeb Carnival external link reminds me of. I have waited for the good part of June to even begin to write, and I have five days left before the deadline (though Andrei external link - the host for this month - has kindly extended the deadline by a couple of days).

On the other hand, writing without an obligation, about whatever I feel like writing, used to come quite easily. So much so that, of the possible forms of expression I can make a foray into, writing is the one in which I have the highest chance of succeeding (I know, it might not be apparent from this blog… but you haven’t seen my drawings, or heard me touch a piano).

So, my contribution for this month’s theme - DIY — Something from (Almost) Nothing external link - is linked to writing: a website.
No, not this one - though I must admit that submitting for the Carnival a post having itself as a subject was a very tempting thought.

Well, the website I would have liked to talk about - The Director’s Cup - no longer exists, and its domain has been ‘squatted’ by crypto-and-gambling recommendations, so I won’t link to it. But it was my creature, my treasure: a blog dedicated - you guessed it - to cinema news, that I used to write every morning right after waking up and while drinking my morning coffee (hence the pun merging a ‘director’s cut’ and a coffee cup).

It was 2005, a different time: the web was still brimming with blogs; MySpace, Facebook and YouTube had just appeared in the US, but very few people had even heard of them in Europe; Twitter didn’t exist; GMail was not even one year old; most major websites didn’t have an RSS feed.
And, in Italy, very few movie-themed blogs existed. Even fewer were the ones where the author was motivated enough to wake up at 6 am CET, read what happened in cinema news in the US during the night, and write a ‘Daily-like’ post in Italian, to be published by 8 am - in time for people to read it before they left home to go to work (kids, mobile Internet back then was not something people could really afford).

Six days a week, I devoted 90-120 minutes to this activity, of which the most enjoyable part was writing: re-packaging the news, finding the hidden connections and the shortest path to ‘segue’, as we would say today, from one piece of information into the next.
With time, a small but loyal audience arrived; contacts with press agencies and distribution companies started, bringing invites to press screenings; since I didn’t live in Rome or Milan, I couldn’t attend them myself, but I was lucky enough to find a bunch of exceptional correspondents who volunteered to go and review the films, each with their own personal style and no need for editing. One reader offered to design graphic assets for the blog header.
All for free: it was a shared passion project.
Of course, when Google Ads arrived, I tried to ‘monetize it’. The first year after applying to the program, I got almost a dollar per day (bringing, after taxes, just enough to fund a year of hosting), but that ‘golden age’ ended soon.
I didn’t care too much for Search Engine Optimisation: I found it boring to chase Google’s PageRank algorithm, and I thought that would take away the blog’s personality.

Five years in, fatigue ensued, and the feeling of giving free publicity to major corporations without getting anything in return. Everybody’s life priorities were changing. The Internet was changing and required much more effort than a couple of free hours every day for a small website to get noticed.
So I closed the blog in 2010: ashes to ashes, coffee dust to coffee dust. From almost nothing (me, my time, and a pc), and back to nothing.
But not before getting recognition from the ‘adults in the room’: The Director’s Cup was the subject (together with two other blogs) of an article on Ciak, Italy’s most popular printed movie magazine, describing the new forms of online film journalism. It may not, objectively, mean much, but, for me, it was definitely something.

P.S. A few years later I did it again, this time joining forces with a friend I had met during that first experience. Though I have stopped writing for MadMass.it 🇮🇹 - another play on words, this time George Miller-based - , that site is still alive and going strong, with six-digit monthly viewership.