How to Make your Blog like a Robert Altman Film

The other night I saw the documentary, “Altman” and loved it.

The 90-minute film, produced by Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann, was both biography and love letter to the iconic movie director, and demonstrated why Robert Altman (1925-2006) was so important to the evolution of American film.

Altman was a naturalist and realist, and wanted to show the human condition the way it is experienced, which is to say, unscripted and improvised. This is precisely the style that got him in trouble with Hollywood studios. Yet he prevailed and modern movies are better because of him.

The "Last Supper" scene from MASH,
The “Last Supper” scene from MASH

I love Robert Altman movies and appreciate what he stands for in the history of cinema. After seeing this film about him I realized that the message of Altman, was apropos to blogging.

Altman is punctuated with short interviews with stars who appeared in his ensemble-style films, among them, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Elliot Gould and, gasp, Robin Williams.

To define the meaning of the term used to describe Altman’s style, they were all asked: What is Altmanesque?

The Wiki-Dictionary definition of Altmanesque is, “Displaying traits typical of a film made by Robert Altman.”

The traits I heard that night rumbled around in my head and in the morning it occurred to me that their definitions of Altmanesque are totally applicable to blogging.

As bloggers, we find ourselves writing in the same proven posting style coached by a thousand thought leaders who advise on how to get more traffic, more shares, more retweets to our posts.

The sameness we see in blogging today is not unlike the Hollywood sameness that Altman rebelled against 50 years ago before breaking out with his mold-breaking hit, MASH.

So what does Robert Altman have to offer us as bloggers? What movie star-defined, Altmanesque traits can you apply to your blog posts? How do you blog Altmanesque?

Blog like Robert Altman

According to the people he worked with, “Altmanesque” means:

Storytelling – “Masterful” storytelling with natural dialogue and realistic scenes. Show things how they really are and avoid the tried-and-true narratives people have come to expect.

Making your own Rules – We are all our own publishers. Establish a voice unbridled by the influence of larger powers.

Creating a Family – Bloggers and geeks are indeed a family, and they should and do include each other whenever possible. That’s what Altman did.

Fearless – Being bold is scary, but worthwhile. Your opinion is more memorable than your infotainment.

Never Giving Up – Keep blogging and improving your writing. And when you finally achieve the success you desire, be glad you didn’t quit when you were down.

Inspiration – How did I get the idea for this post? From a movie! From popular culture. Take what you can from everything around you to distill into a message that is your own.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Truth – The Web has given us the freedom to say what we want to the world. Use that freedom to speak what you believe to be truth.

Kicking Hollywood’s Ass – In this case, kicking Silicon Valley’s ass. Big Tech is as much “the man” as movie studios were to Altman, and should always be questioned and rebelled against. That’s how evolution occurs.

Expect the Unexpected – Just as you don’t know where your last brilliant idea came from, know that you’ll be touched by that muse again. When you are, create something nobody sees coming.

Watch his Movies

If you still don’t understand what it is to blog Altmanesque, try consuming some Robert Altman movies, starting with my favourites below. Your blogs will be better for it.

altman filmsNashville
Gosford Park
Pret a Porter (Ready to Wear)
Short Cuts
The Player
Prairie Home Companion
Kansas City

What are your favourite Robert Altman movies?

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