The press can either be a filmmaker’s best friend or worst enemy. Film critics and writers Sasha Stone, Renn Brown, Todd Gilchrist and Jeffrey Wells joined students at the Marshall House on Oct. 31 for good coffee and conversation.
When asked about her job and the hard work it entails, Sasha Stone, creator of Awards Daily, explained, “Blogging is a 24/7 job. Everything you do is work.” Her best advice is to, “Live your life. As an artist, you have to have something to say. Have a lot of hideous love affairs, get fired from jobs … live.”
Although it took 12 to 13 years to build her site up, it is now successful, to which Stone credits to her philosophy that, “Information wants to be free and content is king.” She went on to address the influence of money in how successful you are. “You couldn’t make a good film without money back then [when she was in college] but now you can.” She stressed, “money shouldn’t be your driving force.”
Students were eager to learn what writers look for in a good film.
Todd Gilchrist, a freelance writer, said, “I connect most strongly with the emotional commentary in the movie. If I don’t feel an emotional connection, I seldomly connect to the film as a whole. If you can create an emotional relationship with your audience, you’ve done 75 percent of your job.”
Students asked if the filmmaker doesn’t do his job and the film isn’t good, how do you go about writing the review?
Stone responded, “It’s like in the movie ‘Almost Famous’ when the band tells the journalist ‘Make us look cool,’ well that’s not my job.” Gilchrist chimed in saying a journalist’s job is to, like Lester Bangs said in the movie, “Be honest and unmerciful.”
Students also wanted to know what to do if you are friends with the people involved in a film, but you find yourself writing a negative review.
Gilchrist said that “if someone doesn’t like it [the review], they normally don’t take it personally because that’s just one person’s opinion.” Jeffrey Wells, creator of Hollywood elsewhere, has a slightly different opinion. “Convey to them that you’re not keen on the film and if you don’t like it overall, at least compliment the 30 to 40 percent that is good.” Renn Brown, SCAD alumnus and contributing editor for CHUD.com, also added his thoughts: “I’m so green it hasn’t been an issue yet, but in this business credibility is all you have so you can’t let it stop you.”
One of the things that might stop them, though, is the Cinema changing and quality movies disappearing from theaters. Wells noted, “The big screen experience is already evaporating.” Stone added, “A lot of filmmakers want to make people think, and people don’t want to pay $15 to do that.”
Starting off in the industry while it has this kind of momentum can be difficult. Brown shared how SCAD helped him develop his successful career: “I’m the greenest person in the room. I’m only 23 and writing about films. My advantage from going to SCAD is that I’ve spent time working on films and have a different perspective. In an interview, I talked about technical things like sound design and they were gratified that I picked up on something so detailed.”
Gilchrist admitted that he even felt out of his own element when interviewing with Brown because he mentions so many specific details. Where he does feel in his realm, however, is writing reviews, particularly for events like the Savannah Film Festival.
“[I love] getting a chance to see films that you wouldn’t ordinary watch and totally get knocked out by it … If a person says that’s an interesting view while reading my review, it makes me feel like I’ve done my job.”
On an ending note, the writers suggested a couple of movies to keep your eye out for:
- “Rampart” directed by Oren Moverman
- “Tyrannosaur” directed by Paddy Considine
- “Attack the Block” directed by Joe Cornish
- “Kill List” directed by Ben Wheatley
- “Love Exposure” directed by Shion Sono