SCAD film students and entertainment reporters mingled over coffee and conversation at Marshall House on the morning of Nov. 1 to discuss the state of film journalism.
Seated on comfy chairs in the first-floor parlor, panelists Jen Yamato (movies.com), Todd Gilchrist (Moviefone/Cinematical) and SCAD alumnus Renn Brown (chud.com) answered questions by moderator professor Michael Chaney.
The discussion skirted the larger discourse of long-form cinematic history and trend watching toward online critical review; the direction of the film journalism industry as newspapers continue to trim printed pages and consumer-focused writing. Though brief and informal, the talk offered some key takeaways:
Why Roger Ebert still rules.
Ebert focuses on why a good movie is good, said Gilchrist. “He takes you through the human and emotional experience of watching the film.”
The qualities of strong film journalism.
“Engage the film on the level it wants to be engaged,” said Brown, who listed acting, story, character development, technique, text and subtext as come criteria to measure.
“Articulate how [the film] is effective,” he said.
Gilchrist encouraged students to know cinema history to be able to contextualize films for the reading public.
Chaney added: “But first, you have to be a good writer.”
On not becoming jaded.
While the panelists agreed that being a reviewer changes the film-going experience, they haven’t lost their love of movies.
“Most people who watch movies just want to be entertained,” said Gilchrist, “I’m 35 and I never get tired of watching movies. Once you accept that there aren’t many original ideas left you can focus on the execution [of those ideas].”
Walking the fine line between hack and critic.
Acknowledging the tenuous relationship between promotion and critical assessment, the panelists agreed that establishing a relationship with studio publicists was critical but that they had to approach critical review “honestly and unmercifully.”
“It’s up to the writer to maintain balance and trust,” said Yamato.
“Reviews are separate from the journalistic process,” said Gilchrist. “Look at an interview as [the filmmaker's] opportunity to describe and defend their film.”
Write for yourself.
We write articles we want our readers to become involved in,” said Gilchrist, but ultimately he writes about the films he wants to see. “It’s impossible to step away from [personal bias], but it makes you more enthusiastic and more critical.”Contact Amy Condon.