A Critical Reading of Critiques
You get back a certificate or even a prize
and the crits. On a sheet
or two of paper your labour of love is reduced to a few sentences. You'll
hate the comments, whatever they are.
Non-commercial film competitions in the English-speaking world
are unusual because the major ones all give written comments on every entry.
||judges can consider comments carefully.
||you can reflect on them at leisure.
||they can really rile.
Please accept that judges
see scores of films with just 3- 4 minutes between each to make notes.
write comments in their free time over the next week or two.
may misremember details.
never set out to be mean, cruel, vindictive or hurtful.
may be good film critics but poor writers.
may be ambiguous.
can miss the point.
may be out of tune with your work. (They are human!)
like you they are volunteers usually without formal training or qualifications.
are doing the best they can to help you.
Don't imagine each crit is a carefully honed work of poetic precision. It
is a simple note to you from someone who has watched your film only once,
but carefully. Work out what they really noticed. If they comment on a startling
red car, when it was bright green, don't just mutter about color blindness.
The important part is that a strong color distracted them at that moment.
If they miss the point, don't assume they are dumb. Maybe you should make
Imagine the crit being read to you by a gentle, loving voice, so that nothing
comes across as harsh or nasty.
Judges do their best to set aside their prejudices but if the comments seem
out of sympathy with your type of film making, try another competition and
other judges. (It is traditionally hard for older judges to accept the approach
of young film makers, but it works the other way round as well.)
Yes, it's all true. People give up their weekend, cross the country at their
own expense, watch mountains of movies then spend their evenings writing
for the next week just so they can be spiteful to you!
They never forget any critical remark you ever made about the organization,
establish networks of conspirators to ensure you never win awards!
They have secret codes, handshakes and demonic powers!
Telekinetically they wipe bits of your tape and scratch your DVDs!
Their pockets are filled with wool to pull over fellow judges' eyes!
Competition managers don't beg them to join judging panels, they force their
way in just to be pompous, condescending and vicious!
You know it's all true.
Unless you win.
- Dave Watterson
(The author is currently having therapy in a rest home for the incurably
dim-sighted, hard-of-hearing, weak-minded and arrogant. He should be judging