Download the Interview with Indie Film Blogger Ruth Hill
We are lucky to have the opportunity to interview indie film supporter and blogger Ruth Hill. She is a single mother of a 13-year-old girl and lives in Yelm, WA, the Seattle/Tacoma area. She's a substitute teacher, singer, film and television show reviewer, blogger, writer and interviewer. She runs the blog MyDevotionalThougts.net which started back in 2009. You can reach her on twitter @RuthHill74.
Watch the Interview with Indie Film Blogger Ruth Hill
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If you’re an independent film maker, actor, producer or writer, Ruth Hill is a person you want to get to know. She’s wonderfully charming and intelligent. She cares so much about the work she’s doing to promote independent film and does it all selflessly. Ruth gets to know the people she interviews and that’s why we wanted to get to know Ruth. An important takeaway is that this business takes passion and hard work. If you’re looking for fame and money, independent films are not the place to “get rich quick”.
Ruth’s story is inspiring. Our favorite part of the interview is where she tells us about the person that inspired her childhood creativity from playing piano and writing songs of her own.
How did you get started with your blog MyDevotionalThoughts.net?
It was almost by accident. I had been following a lot of blogs. I had recently moved back toWashington State and had some extra time on my hands because I was now a substitute teacher rather than being a regular classroom teacher and I'd always had a love for writing and I started following all these blogs and I remember one day just finally saying to myself, well, I could do it just as well as these people and probably even better. So i just sat down and started blogging and had no idea what I was doing. So I jumped in, learned how to build a website, asked a lot of questions.
It really has only been in the past couple years that I started to review movies and TV shows. Then in January this year I started interviewing actors. I had made a lot of connections through reviewing movies and TV shows.
What's you're interviewing process like? Phone calls, Skype or written questionnaires?
All of the above! Okay, seriously I try to make it as easy as possible. At first it was all going to be phone interviews when I first started. That was what I thought you always did and as I started talking with actors they’d say, "Well my schedule's really crazy" or "I live in England and I'm 8 hours ahead of you" and so it's the time difference that can be an issue as well. And they said is there any way I could just email it to you and I thought yeah sure, that's great.
And then I’ll never forget the time that one of the actors, actually an older actor. I want to say he's close to 60 and so it shocked me when he said, "Well why can't we go ahead and Skype?” And I'm thinking almost 60 and you want to skype? I remember being very, very nervous the first time skypingwith an actor because you hear all the horror stories online. Well, what if this person is not really who they say they are? What if they're a serial killer out to get me or something? I mean I know its crazy but being someone who doesn't really know anything about the process it was a little intimidating at first. But then once I got going with it it was perfectly fine
I try my very best when I reach out to actors, I usually reach out on Twitter most of the time. I'll ask for an interview and I kind of try to work it however is easiest for them. I want them the most comfortable and about half the people do say emails the easiest just because their schedules are so crazy.
That's cool. So here's a fun question.
Who was your first interview?
Oh I remember my first interview. That was back in January and it happened to be one of my favorite actors. I happened to do a lot with the Hallmark network. That's kind of how I started. I was working with a lot of those actors from their shows and movies. The first actor was an actor named Brennan Elliot who is best known outside of hallmark for being in the Lifetime show Unreal. He plays a small part in that and he was also in one of the Chucky films back many years ago. He had been one of my favorite actors and I asked him and seriously within like 10 minutes he responded and said yes!
Then I found out that night that I was interviewing him in 2 days. It was not so much that I was intimidated talking with him. It was that I wanted to do a good job because he's a really great actor and he's been so supportive of my reviews. I've reviewed a lot of his works and he's always very supportive. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to make sure that whatever I did that I was asking the right questions and everything came off really well.
What was really funny was I didn’t know that my phone was not set up to accept private callers. I didn't know that my phone company automatically blocked private callers. So I get this message from him saying I tried to call and it won't let me through. So we're trying for about 45 minutes. He's really patient trying to get thisworked out because I live in the country. I don't get cell phone reception out here. So I told him, ok we'll do it on my cellphone but I'm gonna have to wait about 15 minutes. I'll let you know.
I decided to drive to where I could get service. So my first interview was in front of a nearby gas station, in the parking lot.
That's great. You gotta roll with the punches and do what you can do.
Oh yeah and it really was great. It was, honestly. He was great about it and he was actually cool about it. He was excited, as excited to talk to me as I was to him because he was interested to know who I was because I had been such a supporter of his career.
That's awesome. That's kind of the whole point of any interview. That you're excited to talk to the person. When Sal told me that we were setting this up with you and I'd seen you on your twitter feed everything, I was excited when this was all a setup just to talk to you too! So it's always a fun thing.
What drew you to independent films in particular?
Well I knew nothing whatsoever about independent films until I happened to interview, and as it was again, an interview really almost by mistake. I don't even have any clue why I contacted this guy, except that he was following me and somehow I was following him and my friends knew about him. Kyle Hester, which I think you guys are familiar with from Zombie with a Shotgun. I reached out to interview him and we set something up and I had no idea, I could not have told you. I didn't even know what indie film meant. I would never be able to even tell you what that was. I just didn't know but we had a really great conversation and he explained everything about independent films. All the funding. I had no idea about any of this.
This was a whole new world to me and he just kind of opened it up for me and I thought this is really cool. This is great that they're able to do these projects that the studio's aren't doing. Studios put some great stuff, that's true. But it's great to be able to have these stories that maybe nobody else would get to tell. And these people are going out and they're raising funds for it. They're involving people in the whole process and so he got me so excited that I started supporting independent film projects and reading up on them. And so that led me to continue to checkout more independent films.
But the thing is every single one of those films I got to watch, people went in and did so much work behind the scenes. They had a vision, in fact I remember I had somebody tell me this. Somebody that I interviewed for independent films:
“Maybe it wasn't the way you would have done it but they did something. They actually got up one day and decided, I'm going to do this. I've got this passion.” Some of them have to work for years to raise the money. To get all the crew and to get the actors and I'm honestly in awe of what independent filmmakers do when I realized all the work that goes into what they do. It's amazing!
How many interviews and reviews do you think you've conducted at this point?
Interviews I think I figured out it's been around a 125 interviews that I've done.
Yeah, some of them were not featured on my site because when I first started interviewing I actually did work with an online magazine. They were actually the ones that I kind of originally started interviewing people for. It just became that they had a different vision than I did as far as interviews went. I tend to be one that goes very much in depth and also I'm very conversational. I'm not one that tends to just talk about their project.
Sometimes I've read interviews where they take the film or the show and they just dissect it in great detail and the person's character and they start asking things that for me I'm not really that interested in. Sometimes I get bored reading interviews. I'll be honest that sometimes and it's not so much the interviewers fault even. It's just that they're sometimes asking things that I'm not that interested in because what I really want to do is I want to find out who the person is.
I had the opportunity a few months ago to interview Marshall Teague. I don't know if you guys know him he's most known for being in the movie Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze. He plays Jimmy, I think that's his character’s name. If remember right he's like the bouncer and there's like a big fight scene and all that. Marshall Teague, I actually got to know him through Rick Ravanello because they made a movie together a few years ago.
So, again I didn't know much about Marshall when I first interviewed him and so I had the opportunity and it was really something to get to talk to him because he has these fantastic stories. He's been in the business for many many years. We end up talking nearly 2 hours.
I actually had to break it into two parts because there was so much. And what's really cool about Marshall also is he also is very big on independent films. In fact tonight, one of his, one of the independent films that he was in is actually at the Long Beach film festival in California.
What if you could interview anybody through history alive or dead?
I was actually thinking about this last night. I was thinking through that question I was thinking, who would I interview that could be anyone. Honestly I think the person that I would interview and it does happen to be somebody who was connected with television but someone who I think was influential in my life was actually Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
It's kinda funny but when I was growing up I was even quieter or even shyer than I am now. And there were a lot of family issues. There were a lot of things going on and I was usually by myself a lot and I didn't have a lot of confidence in who I was and I can remember turning on his program and I was even older when I really got into it. I wasn't like a little tiny kid. I was in elementary school and just somehow I hadn't even realized the show and I started turning it on and since he was a musician I connected that way because since I knew he played piano and I play the piano.
He'd write songs and I remember even that kind of got me going oh, I can write songs. I remember actually kind of playing around with that idea, writing songs and so I think that although I never knew him, although before he passed away, the coolest thing that happened is I was able to send him an email and I did get a response back and that was really cool. Because I wanted to let him know how influential he'd been in my young life and I think that it would be really cool if I could interview anyone I think I would choose him.
Do you make a living with your blog MyDevotionalThoughts.net?
I do not at this point. On occasion I have been able to do a sponsored post or something like that and I will get some money off of that. I was at a point where i was starting down that road but when I changed over to doing the reviews and interviews I think that that changed a few things and it's kinda like I had to in some ways start building things again.
I had a social media following which I'm grateful for. I've worked extremely hard to build the social following that I have. I concentrate on that sometimes more than I do building the following on my blog. So at this point it's not been for money. I'm making money on the site necessarily but I think that it's getting closer to that point. I guess I'd say I hope to one day and I hope to sometime in the near future to have it at least making a part time income. That would be nice.
What recommendations would you have for somebody starting an independent film blog?
You have to figure out why you're wanting to do this. I have followed enough blogs. I follow the blog community and I've seen blogs that make it and blogs that fail. A lot of times the blog's that fail, they're doing it for the wrong reasons. They are going into it thinking that they're going to be rich. They heard the success stories of these big-time bloggers that make a $100k dollars a year blogging or something like that and I'm not making that up. There are bloggers of course that are able to get that kind of money. So if some people go into it with the whole mindset of I'm going to make lots of money. I'm gonna get free products that I can review.
I've even had people that will look at what I'm doing. Oh you're getting to interview all these great people and I think sometimes these people think that quite literally I sit around all day and interview famous people and that it’s not a lot of work. People are not willing to put the work into it and the time that's necessary especially when you get started. You're not going to make anything and probably you're gonna have to put out some money initially to get yourself started.
You have to realize, why I am doing this. Am I doing this because I really have a passion? I’m passionate about writing. I'm passionate about reviewing these things. Whatever your focus is you need to figure that out first. So if you're doing it for the right reasons then you next need to do some more research to figure out what blogging platform you're going to start on and all that. But I think the main thing is get your focus right because the results are not going to become rich and famous.
That's the same kind of thing as acting. I'm always asking actors what's your advice for people who want to become actors and want to be a part of the entertainment business. Well course it's not to be rich and famous because there's a good chance that's not gonna happen.
What's next for you? Where are you going with your site? Maybe you'll be doing a podcast soon?
Interestingly enough I think it was a few months back because I was having to make a decision. Do I stick with the online magazine? Do I come back to my blog? I was going back and forth with that decision and it was actually Sebastian Spence and Rick Ravanello. I go to both of them regularly, they're both really great at giving advice. I think it was actually Rick that made it clear. I need to definitely go back to my blog. That's where I’m happiest. He was actually kind of my deciding voice on that. He has a way of a way of talking that in no uncertain terms this is what you need to do and that was what I needed to hear.
Then Sebastian and I have talked about topics back and forth messaging back and forth. He has even offered that maybe he could help with this. We've talked about maybe eventually having some live interviews. If it's possible we might get to that stage. We're not there yet but it's something that would be maybe off in the future. I've only been interviewing since January. So yeah I mean that would be something, but I know that no matter what, even if I do start doing live interviews like that, that I would still always go back to the writing.
What I've really been focusing on with the interviews even more so as I go along, because of course I go back and I read the interviews that I did back in January-February and I just think, what was I thinking? I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It's very clear now. I can see it. I can look back and think those are really not very good compared to what I do now because I've learned so much more.
I'm looking more towards just continuing to refine my interviewing style. To refine the questions that I ask. I'm trying to not always ask the same questions. I'm trying to make it very interesting and really trying to bring the level of my writing skills up and always trying to strive to be better. I guess it's a real treat when the person I've interviewed, and this happens very regularly, especially now. They come back and they just are blown away by what I say in the interview. Because a lot of interviewers and this is kind of I think something that separates me a little bit from a lot of interviewers. It's really easy I think, anyone who wants to interview anybody can just put a transcript of an interview up and that's extremely easy.
The difference is that I take the end of each interview and try to synthesize everything together and get an idea, present a perspective on that person. Again going back to the thing of I want you to be able to see the person as I see them and I can't tell you how many people, the messages that I've gotten back from these actors and directors whom I have interviewed. They read that ending, that concluding paragraph about what I've said about them and they're just blown away. They say if they're having a bad day they're going to come back and read that.
I'm very sincere in what I do and they know that I'm putting positivity out there which is something I'm very passionate about. I want everything that I do on my blog to be very positive. So immediately probably not live interviews, probably not a podcast but eventually I'm definitely open to that.