Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Things..." episode 012.

012: Critics are your friends.

Some filmmakers have an antagonistic relationship with the critical community. I don't get that. Critics write about movies. They might write positively or negatively about a particular film, but they're still writing about movies.

Before people can watch a movie, they have to know that movie exists. You can advertise a movie, but that's expensive. The only thing a review costs is a DVD screener and some postage. And maybe a little pride, in the case of a negative review. But if you're making indie movies, you have more pride to spare than cash.

Critics don't just write about which movies are "good" and which movies are "bad." They write movie news stories and interviews, too. So there's always the possibility that a positive or even mixed review can turn into an interview, or at least a notice when the movie is screened in theaters, released to DVD, or shown on television. Or maybe a separate story for each of those events.

I've stayed in touch with several of the critics who praised Hide and Creep. I've met a few of them in person, even drank a few beers with one of them. I just received an email from a critic who wants to help me find a new distributor for Hide and Creep. Good critics are like good filmmakers -- they love movies and want as many people as possible to see good flicks.

There's a lot of talk these days about how inexpensive technology has made it possible for just about anyone to shoot a movie. More movies means the independent movie scene is more competitive. It is less often mentioned that inexpensive technology has also made it easier for people to write about movies, creating more opportunities for people to read about any given movie. Make life a little easier for all those critics -- send 'em a screener of your movie. They might respond by making life a little easier for you.

*I'm not talking about random hecklers, but actual critics who write actual reviews with complete sentences and everything.


Mike O'Risal said...

I've had some experience with those antagonistic film makers. The argument that's sometimes used by them that really pisses me off is the one that goes, "You've never made a film, so you have no right to say anything about the film I've made." Are only directors allowed to express opinions about movies in these people's tiny little world?

This especially happened to me with Jeff Thomas, the guy who made 13 Seconds. I saw it at a horror film festival and thought it one of the worst flicks I'd ever seen. I wrote a bad review of it on IMdB and this guy hit the ceiling. He started dreaming up some conspiracy in which I was the same person as the director of another film from the festival (Filthy) because I'd given that one a good review. Then I turned into about 50 different people — basically anyone who panned his flick, which was most anyone who sat through the thing — and was out to get him personally. Long story short, to this day Thomas follows me around on IMdB, finds positive reviews I've written and then writes bad reviews of the movies I like under a number of different throwaway accounts from Yahoo and such. The funny thing is, he usually winds up spending as much time going after me as he does talking about the flick he's reviewing if he ever gets around to reviewing it at all, which is how I know it's him in the first place. Talk about antagonistic! This has been going on for four years now.

It's true that I've never made a movie and almost certainly never will. Still, anyone who puts their work out there has to expect that some proportion of their target audience isn't going to like it. Making it personal when that happens just says to me that such an antagonistic filmmaker wasn't all that secure about their work to begin with, so I wind up feeling even more justified in the bad review. After all, if I thought it sucked and the person who made the flick under review suspected that it might suck... it probably sucked.

Chance Shirley said...

Thanks for sharing that story, Mike. I agree that the "you've never made a film" defense is lame. Being a part-time filmmaker doesn't make me any more forgiving of bad cinema. Though I might be a little more appreciative of really good movies...