Sheila Borda, programming director for the Savannah Film Festival, opened the panel by saying that today it is “hard to avoid the spoiler effect of trailers and film reviews.” She questioned whether it was better to walk into a film “cold” or to have researched the work before watching it.
Borda believes that “the purest experience is not knowing anything about the film.” However, she acknowledged that this will be different for each viewer and for each movie. “It is important that we manage our own expectations,” Borda advised. Audiences “have to know what kind of experience they want to have” with the film they are about to see.
Jim Reed, an executive member of the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah, commented that “most trailers today are misleading” and include pandering or condensed scenes of the entire film so that the viewer has essentially seen the movie by watching the trailer.
Borda recounted her experience watching the trailer for “Drive” after she watched the movie on the big screen.
“By knowing the director, I had an idea about what was going to happen in the movie,” but she realized that the trailer “showed way too much.”
Reed commented that trailers today rarely “lure” the viewer to see films because he or she really wants to see what will happen.
Erin Rice, a graduate student, noted that older trailers used to “evoke the mood of the film,” as well as the way it was paced, edited, shot, stylized and acted, rather than spelling out the plot for the audience.
Reed argued that today’s filmmakers are giving too much information (or misinformation) about their films in their trailers because of “the age of the Internet.”
He claimed “people desperately want to know something someone else doesn’t. It makes them feel empowered.” To combat online pirating, filmmakers today are “trying to make the average person feel like they are in on something,” Reed explained.
Several of the panelists agreed that another source of misinformation is the “democratization” of online reviews. Before the accessibility provided by the Internet, critics had to “achieve a certain level of expertise” before their reviews could be published for the public’s consumption.
Now, people do not have to have any experience or knowledge in film in order for the world to see their opinions. “That’s great,” said Reed, “but there is a glut of horrible movies and a glut of unintelligible, horrible criticism. It’s really hard to find the right stuff.”
Rick Brown, a film and television alumnus, explained that reviews are essentially “consumer reports,” and it is important in the professional critic community to crosscheck information so that the consumer will be able to make an informed decision about the movies he or she will potentially pay to see. However, the average person with Internet access does not have to adhere to the same standards of accuracy or experience.
None of the panelists denounced sites like Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, they promoted their usefulness to consumers.
Alex Beeman, a cinema studies graduate student, explained that those kind of sites can help the viewer find a critic that he or she can trust when making the decision whether to spend 10 dollars at the movie theater or to rent it when it becomes available to do so.
Brown advised to “read more than one review” or one critic so the reader can “pick up on different things” in the film and “get a well-rounded perspective of the movie.”
Beeman concluded the panel by reiterating that whether a viewer is an actor or photographer, or anything in between, analyzing film can “help in your major and career track.”Contact Kayla Adams.