Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Process of Writing a Review - Scenes and Names

The process for how a critic writes a review varies from person to person.  I have spoken with other fellow critics and I am usually fascinated by their methods in writing.  Most of them take notepads to the movies so they can make notes about certain scenes, dialog, and other stuff that they don't want to forget when it comes time to writing their review later on.  I don't do this.  Several of these friends look at me with disbelief, as if this was am impossible feat.  I'm different from most critics in that I have Asperger's Syndrome, which presents a unique skill and a unique handicap.  The handicap is that I can't take notes and pay attention to something at the same time.  My brain will only allow me to focus on one thing at a time.  If I stopped to take a note I would have to hope that nothing too important happened during the next minute or else I would miss some vital information.  Not an ideal situation to be in when watching something like "Michael Clayton."

The unique skill this presents though is that since Asperger's is a mild form of Autism I have a much more detailed memory than most people.  That means if I make it a point to remember something I usually do.  If I forget something then as far as I'm concerned the detail probably wasn't worth remembering in the first place.  One thing that I do have trouble with though is names.  Boy oh boy do names throw me off.  It's not just movies either; I have a huge problem remembering names in real life and when someone usually says "hi Kevin" it's not uncommon for me to respond "oh...hi there" and true to avoid using the persons name until I can get a clue as to what it is.  For this I always have the IMDB movie page in the corner to reference when I need to look someones name up.

Does this mean I would have been lousy film critic before the Internet?  Not likely.  I think people use whatever tools they have at their disposal to do their job effectively regardless what time period they were born into.  If I was a film critic before the Internet I would be none-the-wiser of what I would be missing and just find other tools to use.  Besides, one thing that has been around since film criticism became a business are press releases, and those are still used today.  Chances are that's where I'd get my names.  Despite having a process that works I do wish I could take notes sometimes.  There have been a few times I have forgotten something important, wrote the review, and then have woken up later in the night realizing my mistake.  Well, no one ever claimed movie critics were movie God's when it came to information.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dealing with Writer's Block

Copyright © Bill Watterson

Film critics get writers block.  In that regard we are the same as every other writer, blogger, and Stephen King wannabe out there.  It surprises people who read my site that sometimes the reason for there being no new reviews for a month is simply because I can't think of anything to say.  I suppose I understand where they are coming from.  After all, it's not like I'm creating original works of fiction or anything; I'm watching movies and giving people an opinion on whether or not I feel the movie works.  Since everyone has an opinion on everything these days the fact that you might not know how to express it is a confounding idea indeed.  Yet it does happen and it did happen.  I write almost ten reviews a week on average (most of which never appear on the site because they are being saved for future books).  Once in awhile it gets a little...boring, to be doing this.

Summer time is especially hard because most of the movies I review are so interchangeable that each day seems to be blend into another.

  • Did I see "The Guardians of the Galaxies" two weeks ago or was it "X-Men: Days of Future Past?"  
  • I've just spent hours writing four three star reviews for average movies and they all seem to be reading the same except with different names.
  • Do I need to mention the 3D again or does it not matter this time?
  • Man, what I wouldn't give to be watching "The LEGO Movie" again as opposed to this.
These are some of the many things that can contribute to writers block for a film critic.  Sometimes one particular movie can cause a critic to stumble.  For me recently that movie was "Maleficent" (whose review I still have to publish), which seemed to talk a fine line between good and bad for so much of the film I had to see it a second time to see if I could figure out where I stood on it.  Sometimes this is a good thing as critics can re-experience things in a different light than they did the first time around and get a better idea of where they stand.  When you do that though and the movie ends up just baring working or not working after the second viewing it takes more out of you than any movie that is just outright horrible.

Getting around writers block can also be tough.  Reading other reviews from film critics you respect will either have an effect where you are inspired by their writing or deterred by their writing because you know you will most likely never be as good as them.  Sometimes all it takes is seeing a movie that inspires words of passion to break the cycle, but that can also take a long time.  Relaxing by watching movies doesn't help because your mind is almost always working (although TV can be a good substitute since that's another business you don't write for altogether).  Sometimes reading regular books can help a great deal.  To take in a story from a format you don't normally analyze to death helps a great deal.

If you're religious prayer can help.  Or you could simply write a blog post where you mull over your recent writers block.  What will this accomplish?  Not much other than the fact that it will get you to write again.  Sometimes the best medicine for writer's block is just to write about anything other than movies for a bit.  I find when I'm getting writers block I can distract myself by working on my book about growing up with Asperger's Syndrome.  I should probably also work on the last several chapters of my novel but I've had writers block on that for a couple years now.  Some of you may be reading this and wondering what the big deal is.  Seeing that most film critics are their own boss it shouldn't be too stressful to get writers block because you work with your own schedule.

This may be true but your readers will determine if you are keeping a schedule that is fitting to them.  I will still write and post my "Maleficent" review, but at this point it's not going to be much help to anyone who needed the review up during the opening weekend.  If you aren't keeping up to date with your reviews your visitors will read other peoples reviews, then they won't visit your site, and then you don't make any money because ad revenue you would normally get from those visitors isn't coming in.  While most people do this for fun to do it for a living means that you can't afford to have writers block for too long.  So if you want to be in this profession get ready to have some sort of plan in place where you can gain inspiration when you just can't find the words to share in your reviews.  Otherwise you'll never be financially stable when doing this.