As a filmmaker you run into many people that for one, don’t make films in the first place, and don’t have completed bodies of work in the second place who for some reason, love to give criticisms on other people’s films; other people’s completed bodies of work. I find that people that are overly critical don’t make good films themselves (I’ve seen this first-hand), or have never made films period. They haven’t done anything in the film industry but critique other people’s films, and if I was a materialistic person I would also mention, they probably have never won any awards either.
I submitted my film Last Words to Short of the Week, and the very next day they sent me an email saying that the film was basically not of quality. When you first send your film in they say, “We only take films of quality”. So by the condescending and inaccurate email they sent me along with the fact that they “do not take films that are not of quality”, I feel it is accurate to say that they did not feel my film was what they consider, “of quality”. Basically, in the email they said the film had shakiness (camera movement), inadequate lighting and that it was repetitive (the images I’m guessing?). They said the concept was fun but the way it was carried out was “lacking”.
When I read this I first felt offended of course. The email to me felt holier than thou and I do not get down like that. Now I try to be better about my sensitivities; I try to not let things get to me or make me upset. Obviously filmmakers and artists are very sensitive about their work and find it difficult to take criticism. But I have taken criticism that actually makes sense; criticism that is well-thought out and constructive. I admit my first two films A Sister’s Bond and What’s the Problem with Bill Winer? are not up to par technically. I can objectively see and state that with no problem; I don’t watch those films for that very reason. But that was 4-5 films ago. I’ve gotten much better as a filmmaker. In fact, I’m not the same filmmaker from 2 years ago and I’m not the same person; at all. I cannot take criticism that is sparked from impatience and closed-mindedness; from an inability to even attempt to understand a story and the place it came from. If you critics don’t even attempt to understand why camera movement is the way it is, or why the lighting is the way it is, I feel they’re dismissing the filmmaker and the story and that person’s experience that led to the filming of that story. I feel they’re wasting their own experience by not trying to even understand or experience the film at all.
Here’s a run-down of their criticisms.
They said the camera was shaky. I wanted that camera shakiness. The shakiness for me describes the inner chaos of the character and it describes the mood and tone of that atmosphere. Of course there’s shakiness. I wanted it that way. I love hand-held and will continue to use that in future films with similar tones and stories.
The lighting critique was confusing and made no sense to me whatsoever. I wanted it dark and was happy with the lighting. It fit the mood of the piece.
The repetitiveness: I guess they were referring to the general story. If that is the case, if you’re going to call a film “repetitive” because it is telling a story and going back to that story, then they must think that all films are repetitive. In fact, most films are repetitive. Last Words is about a box and the feelings and thoughts the character writes on that box. Yes, I’m going to film just that: the box and the feelings and thoughts she writes on that box. That is the story. I’m not going to add a random shot of a dog peeing outside because the film isn’t about a random dog peeing outside; it’s about a box.
Last, they said the concept was fun but the story was lacking. This statement doesn’t make sense. I don’t think we have a right to tell others that our vision was wrong. The story is exactly how I picture it in my head, and it makes sense to me. That is my vision. For a critic to tell you as a filmmaker that your vision is wrong is, um, wrong. Art is subjective. Film is subjective, and vision is subjective. Just because Short of the Week wouldn’t have shot a film about box therapy with THIS vision in mind doesn’t mean that the vision is wrong. If I shot the film in their vision, in what they deem is “the right way to carry out the concept”, it wouldn’t be Raeshelle Cooke’s film, and it wouldn’t be Last Words – it would have been a completely different film with a completely different story line and vision. It would be Story of the Week’s film. Luckily it’s not. It’s my film. I made that. You can’t have it.
There isn’t a right or a wrong way to shoot a concept especially if that filmmaker is the one that came up with the concept. You as a critic may not have understood the concept or appreciated it for what it is, but that doesn’t mean the vision is wrong. It means you don’t like that vision. I’m not afraid to share the fact that critics piss me off sometimes. I’m not afraid to share the fact that as a filmmaker, I sometimes feel doubtful of my style because of people like Short of the Week that think their vision would be the best vision for a concept that they didn’t even create. I’m not afraid to post criticisms I receive and I’m not afraid to challenge it and take the subject on.
If you’re a filmmaker, keep at your visions and your filmmaking. You like hand-held? Oh, so do I. keep at it with the shakiness. You like low lighting? You wanna mix in warm colors here, cold colors there in editing? You like the lighting? It fit the mood you wanted to create? Good. Keep at that lighting. You wanna tell your story? Tell the story. If a critic thinks it’s repetitive then they aren’t trying to experience the story. Short of the Week did not attempt to experience Last Words, the words on the box or even try to get into the conversation that was playing throughout. It is an interactive experience with something to say. Did they pause the film to read the words on the box? Did they rewind? Did they think? Did they listen? Did they feel? They didn’t try to. I knew they didn’t try to just by the “repetitive” comment alone. It’s insulting and disappointing because it’s a dismissal and a waste of an experience on their part. Luckily, there are many people out there that will read, that will pause, that will rewind, that will listen and that will feel. Making films is all about you and what you personally like. If a person understands, gets or appreciates it then it’s all the better, but filmmaking should be for yourself. Not festivals, and not critics like Short of the Week. It’s about YOU.
So before you critique just remember: opinions are like assholes, we all have one. Just let your asshole be a presentable one or don’t show it at all.
To view Last Words, click the link below. Thanks for reading!