Without further ado, here is part two of our interview with Writer & Director Ben Woodiwiss! In this section, we get down to business with Ben as he discusses the possibility of equal importance between citizen and critical opinion in the cinematic industry. He also lets us in on a few of his upcoming projects at Look/Think Films, and explains how he believes every opinion, whether professional or not, is valuable.
Here at Band Wagon, we aren’t biased or negatively panning critics, but merely raising awareness and support for the voice of the many often underrated audience members. Do you support the idea of having equal importance between the critics’ opinion and the opinion of the audience? Would this let films be more fairly judged, which what would seem by the majority, and not the minority? How would this equal stature of opinion between citizens and critics even be achieved?
I do think film would benefit from having the final say taken from the hands of a select few, but one thing I’d be wary of is how we move forward with that. There’s been around 100 years of film criticism now, and I have my doubts about the form. Film is a very broad medium, it includes aspects of a number of other art forms, but it feels like we’ve latched on to one of these far too strongly: the literary. When you read a film review they focus almost completely on plot, narrative, character, etc. As though you were reading a review of a novel, or play. As much as I’d like to see a more democratised world of film criticism in the future, I’d strongly encourage this existing model to be questioned. Yes, most films have stories, but they also include aspects of performance, colour, costume, movement, speed, rhythm, sound, music, composition, etc. They contain elements not only of literature, but also of theatre, sculpture, painting, music, architecture, dance, textiles, poetry, etc. If you were to read a review of an opera that focused solely on plot and character you’d think that was insane, and that’s how it feels like to me to keep this literary-focused model of film criticism. Films can really get under your skin, and stay with you, and I’d like to see criticism that reflects all of what a film is.
Regarding the equalising of stature, it’s never been easier to create a film review site, and to put yourself on the landscape. But, like I was saying earlier, we’re living in a world which puts an old model first. So you can create a site, and get reviewing films right now. And anyone in the world can access those reviews from anywhere. But they don’t. And that’s the problem. We still live with the idea that if you want film reviews you go to specific, established sources, so how that can be broadened to include a wider variety of voices is something I don’t know the answer to, but I’m looking forward to finding out. We’ve seen ordinary filmgoers become the established critic, that’s possible. We saw that happen with Harry Knowles a while back. But that just introduces the catch 22 situation of wanting new voices, but only going to established, authoritative figures; simultaneously looking for something new while at the same time needing everyone around us to accept a new figure before we can trust them.
What current projects are you working on at Look/Think Films? And do you consider yourself your own film critic? If given the option, would you choose to have your film(s) judged by all citizens of the world as the audience, or strictly all film critics as your audience?
At the moment I’m writing a sequel to our first feature film, Benny Loves Killing, and doing further work on developing two other completed feature scripts.
I’m absolutely my own critic, and am extremely harsh on myself. Much harsher than a critic ever could be. But every comment I hear from either an audience member, or a critic, is valid. And you don’t have to be a professional critic to have an insight that has value. I’ve experienced some reviews of my work from critics that seem to me to have not in any way penetrated the surface of a film. No real engagement at all. And I’ve also found myself standing in front of audience members at screenings and events who have clearly engaged with the film on a deeply visceral level, and have absolutely fascinating things to say. I guess what would be best is to have more of those conversations from people who have engaged with the film, fallen into the world of it, and are working through how it affected them. And those people can be ‘ordinary’ audience members, or critics, but that level of engagement marks them out as something different. For example: I attended a screening of our latest short film, Look at Me Now, a while ago and someone came up to me afterwards to talk about how the film exemplified something they were calling ‘catch and release.’ I had no idea what they meant, and listened patiently as they explained this in detail, and although none of their insights were in my mind while making the film, I can clearly see that they are all there in the finished piece. And that’s what I love. Insights like that.
Look out for our final chapter with Ben this Friday, the 7th of October!