THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO REACTING TO FILM CRITICS & THEIR CRITIQUES

By someone who's family still doubts the validity of his job description.

To be honest, they just can't keep up with all the different answered I give each time I'm asked.

Coffee and stout does strange things to the mind, and fingers, that being said take my advice/take on this issue the same way you'd take your medication, with a chaser. 

My sister hates my first completed short film.

Established my credentials yet? Okay then, I believe we can now proceed.

There is an unhealthy atmosphere around Nollywood where practitioners cannot critique works by their peers objectively while also not allowing reviewers go free with what they consider unfavorable reviews of films made by them or their peers. Not because the critics are merely vacuous naysayers(some are), not because they themselves do not have their own gripes with the works(they usually do), but simply because it is the culture.

Hence you find film makers, in small enclaves silently discussing the demerits of films they'd praised on social media or television.

In recent times, much in the same way we approach political discourse, we have reduced film criticism to something binary even when that is not the intention of the writer (except of course for those who don't know a single editing shortcut but swear their eyes are capable of providing them with metadata enough to identify what lenses and capture format a film was shot on). A film is now good or bad, not good enough to watch, or bad enough that it subverts its intended genre to become comedy and hence deserving of a watch. Just plain old good or bad. Long ago, I asserted that there are no irredeemably bad films. To prove my point see what became of the one time 'most horrible film ever made' THE ROOM.

Given our flawed understanding and practice of film criticism what exactly can be done to make the space one of mutual respect, where opinions are courted, both among the inner circle of filmmakers and the film critiquing community at large(Film critics, not effusive writers of fluff PR pieces masquerading as reviews)?

On the one hand, filmmakers need to learn to do the following:

Pay Greater Attention to Criticism from Career Producers:

Career Producers have been in the business long enough to know what works and what doesn't. The market is driven by money as much as it's driven by art that connects, in fact, when you look at it, art that connects is art that transcends various demographics, like a wide net cast over an expanse of sea, you're sure to reel in more fish, get people emotionally invested enough to put their money where their smiles(or tears or fright or whatever prevailing emotion except maybe repulsion) are. Sounds capitalist eh? These are people who have been in it long enough to know what stories are gold mines. More often than not your artistic inclinations might tend to disagree with theirs, but more often than not, your artistic inclinations are myopic in their overall objective.

I had the opportunity of having a seasoned producer/director look at something I recently put together and send me feedback after he and a few of his colleagues went through the material. I was afforded a perspective that showing same material to my peers and other individuals had not yielded, while I couldn't go back to the edit to implement those changes as instructed, I'd learnt an indelible lesson going forward. These people have spent years interacting with audiences to varying degrees of success and can tell what works better than others, from story structure to editing and camera work. If there's a hierarchy, I would place producers and active financiers first over anyone else. Remember, working off of criticism from the *cough* suits and money bags in the industry does not equate to taking creative direction from inception from them, don't come give us another Nigerian slapstick comedy routine because a suit said the figures showed him that the average Nigerian audience is primed for that alone, thanks.

Mirroring your film after a Style Made Dominant by some popular dude you read about in Film School or nofilmschool.com and expecting everyone else to get it the way you did is usually a recipe for Disastrous Outcomes.

As a filmmaker, ever looked up from your mate's work to them and back again and silently question what they mean by their work leaning heavily towards Orson Welles or HitchCocks's style? More often than not, we expect everyone to 'get it' with our films and the references they make,  expect them to have an interpretation of a film that is the same as ours. Film lends itself to many interpretations and even when we choose to borrow a dominant style or feature from a certain period or filmmaker, execution and interpretation will lend varying subjective meanings to our work. Passing off a film as an A meets B type of film is a good way to Garner first interest - or lure potential investors - but also a sure fire way to earn mixed reviews based on the initial assumption that viewers have been fed. The only thing we want to get with your film is the story. Tie us in with that and be going abeg.

Finally, treat both positive and negative reviews with the same attitude and overall reaction...

Because Rudyard Kipling and all that...

My go to reaction is "Your Daddy there!"

Depending on context, it is both a compliment and an insult.

Now go and make a film dammit..

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