When put in a position of having to comment on a friend’s film, how do you tell them it’s no so hot? I could offer constructive criticism, but really don’t want to seem nitpicky, especially without any earned privilege to do so..
Simply say nothing unless they ask, in which case say what you think.
“What did you think of the film?”
“It was interesting.”
I say nothing. If they ask, I tell the truth as formally as I can and also try to point out its virtues. I don’t believe in being merciless anyway, friend or not.
Great question, Ricky! I really appreciate it and feel it is an undervalued area in the filmmaking community.
First, I would start with the friend’s character. Ask: Do they really want to become better filmmakers or do they simply want validation? Are they strong enough for constructive feedback? Are they intelligent enough to assess feedback and learn from it?
If no, then don’t waste your time and get out of it with a generic comment. If yes, then this is my constructive feedback rule: Ask first what their purpose was, then give feedback accordingly. Keep subjectivity completely out of it. It’s about THEM, not you. What were their goals and simply help them see how you feel they did and did not meet them according to their own criteria. And hopefully you can back-up your replies with sound film knowledge/technique/history.
Finally, take it to the subjective level and share what you would do differently, acknowledging that it’s only your personal opinion.
And, of course, always end with genuine encouragement. You know, there is something good in any attempt, even if only the attempt itself.
I’ve been wondering the same thing about how to tell Auteurs members that their grammar isn’t so hot. Sorry.
Allison- Point for you, I’ve been cursing about that since I posted it. i wish i could edit that damn thread title…
FmF’s advice is probably the best I’ll get.
I dunno wat u r bof tawkin’ aboot.
so hot? harharhar. come on!
“It was interesting”- haha, yes! That’s the answer… but you could add constructive criticisms if you feel like it (I personally think that everyone is qualified to do so, and I don’t think it will make you sound nitpicky all, on the contrary, that means you take interest in your friend’s work!), tell your friend what you thought was good (surely there must be some good elements, however minim) and give suggestions about what to improve. But always remember, NEVER say “I don’t like it” straight up.
A good friend never sugarcoats. Even if they are initially annoyed or angry at you, in time, they’ll respect your opinions more going forward. Just be careful: There’s a thin line between honesty and condescension.
Yeah, maybe you’re right, but from my own experience in art class, I once told a friend a light criticism about a self-portrait she made (she had asked for my opinion) and she began to say that she didn’t like my work after that; I guess she was quite bitter over it. It really depends on your friend’s temperament.
Just ask your friend what (s)he is trying to achieve with the piece. Then ask if they think they’ve achieved that. You’re being neither deconstructive nor nitpicky and it’s amazing how easy you can dodge uncomfortable questions by getting the asker to talk about the piece they intended…
I believe in being brutally honest. It’s fair, and you’d want the same feedback.
A person can accept a criticism far better if you precede it with a number of compliments. So say how awesome this and that shot was, a few things that worked, the actor who played Secretary #2 was great, but the whole “Let’s have a naked fat guy in every shot” just wasn’t working.
Being brutally honest is not the way to go. They don’t need the criticism from you. They’ll get plenty of it from the people that matter, the ones your friend will try to sell the movie to. If you are a true friend, be supportive and try to compliment the parts you liked. Offering criticism especially if you don’t feel you are qualified to, is not something you should do. Encourage your friend to keep at it. He or she will find out soon enough if they are in the right business, and you won’t wreck your friendship by hurting their feelings. Let someone else do that.
^disagree. i think offering small amounts of criticism is very encouraging in and of itself.
Ricky lol, ok. Sorry for pointing that out. :)
ask yourself why it ain’t hot and how it could be and friends get the best advice from your genuine thoughts because when the vibrations from your voice are detected as good, honest and meaningful the best results are possible
One of the greatest chapters that I’ve read in a book was in Microsociology by Thomas Scheff: Learning Acquisition versus Formal Education: A Theory of Genius.
Mr. Scheff argues that most humans have genius capacity as evidenced by language acquisition. He beautifully reveals how children quickly develop such an otherwise impossible skill.
At the core of his case, Mr. Scheff points out the bountiful encouragement children receive as they begin to utter sounds, let alone words. They are congratulated, celebrated and loved at every utterance. And once words come out, then sentences, the encouragement increases.
This, in combination with the “professional linguists” surrounding them and gently giving them correction, results in a child acquiring an otherwise exasperating skill – language. (The proof of its difficulty lies in adults trying to learn a language!).
So, regarding the original question: encourage, encourage, encourage and gently advise in constructive and helpful ways….
You tell them all the things you wish were in there.
You tell them what you think it lacks. Not what you think it fails at.
Beeee constructive :) !!!
How do you tell a friend that their film isn’t so hot?
Offer to help them to work on the next one. ;)
Lies will make a man grow in his hump- the truth gets him on the ground so that when he stands up he can stand up straight.
If they asked for your opinion, they’re probably looking for a mixture of validation and constructive criticism. Knowing how sensitive people can be about their artworks, it’s probably ideal to offer both.
We judge a lot of things by the way others perceive them. So, if all my friends are telling me that I’ve made a great film, I’ll probably think it’s pretty good. If, however, it sucks, they’ve done me a disservice – because I’m going to keep on making crap, maybe submitting it to festivals, until one day, far too long down the track, some industry professional is going to tell me that my film-making is scheisse.
If you’re serious about being a film-maker, you want to constantly improve, and constructive criticism is a great way of aiding that. After all, even Bergman’s first few films were shithouse – I’m sure if everyone had been slapping him on the back about them, he probably would never have reached the greatness he achieved.
It’s always a delicate situation to be in – I think saying it was “interesting” is still the only safe route to take.
A friend of mine recently asked me to view a certain film, which she was enamored of. It was a comedy which she thought was just mind-blowingly hilarious.
Now, my friend is a bright woman, so I had every reason to believe her.
Then I watch this thing…….. and I am appalled at how dimwitted and sluggish it is. How its jokes revolved around cheap, stale, unfunny ethnic/regional stereotypes.
She DID, in fact, ask me what I thought of the film. “If you didn’t laugh your ass off,” she wrote me, “then something’s wrong with you.”
As tempted as I was to shred this film for her…. I resisted. If I were to lambaste it, it probably would’ve hurt my friend’s feelings and left her embarrassed.
I made a judgment call and simply decided it wasn’t worth it….
“It was sure interesting!” I sort of burbled.
I am far closer to committing vehicular homicide with an “Interesting” than I am a “It had its moments- the editing was flawed, the performances were quite terrible, the story was present but not strong- I like where you are aiming but you just didn’t hit the target.”
Interesting either means you didn’t get it, or you are too weak to be honest with someone who has presented you their work. The only thing worse than a terrible film is a critic who hides behind false words… Naturally, honesty- at times means you are deemed the asshole- and that is of course a desperate cry for maybe two or three compliments.
I start off with… Are you a person that can take constructive criticism. If they say yes…then I will let them know. This goes for friends who created a film to artists who let me hear their demo tracks.
I don’t sugar coat it either because if they submit it, they are going to have people being quite verbal about what they feel and if they want to work in an industry of cutthroats.
But I know at what level and how far I can go. I’m not going to break someone’s spirit for something they love.