Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On Critics, in general

I constantly read about people involved in creative endeavors who say they never read what the critics say.  My response is always:  Who do you think you're fooling?

I seek out all reviews of everything I have ever written.  Not only the professional reviews, but all of the user comments and consumer reviews as well.  In other words, if you wrote something about me, good, bad or indifferent, I have probably read it.

In my last blog, I criticized the so-called "Haters" -- people who claim to be Christians who seek to destroy faith-based films, books and art that are not 100% in agreement with them theologically.  To me, that's not real criticism.  That's destructive small-mindedness.  However, I have no problem with genuine criticism.  Why?   I'll let you in on a little secret.  None of my films are perfect.  They are all flawed.  Every single one of them.  As a result, I can't complain when reviewers notice some of the problems.  Sometimes I even applaud them for doing so.

People tend to have a naive belief that the screenwriter wrote everything you see and hear on the screen.  Not so.  Not by a long shot.  Between the moment we type "Fade Out.  The End." lots of other people get a whack at the script:  The producers.  The director.  The actors.  The investors.  The investors' wives and/or mistresses.  You name it.   Sometimes a screenwriter becomes aware of the changes ahead of the shoot and will argue against them.   Usually he will not succeed.  Rare is the professional screenwriter who doesn't cringe his way through the first viewing of one of his films.   At times like that, nothing makes you happier than when an astute critic points the same problems you begged your fellow filmmakers to avoid.

Sometimes the critics also tear down the things you liked, too.  And that's okay.  Why?  I'll let you in on another secret:  For the independent filmmaker, all reviews are good.  Even the ones that say you made the worst film in history.

All independent films share a lack of sufficient promotional money.   You generally can't afford banner internet ads let alone television commercials.  The cheapest and most effective form of advertising at your disposal is reviews.  Plus, the reviewers willing to review your film tend to be predisposed to your chosen genre.  In additional, their readers read them because they are also interested in the same genre.  Therefore, theoretically, you automatically have two biases working in your favor.

I was very actively involved in the promotion of my first film "21 Eyes."  Every time the film was reviewed, whether the reviewer liked it or not, I noticed a boost on sales in Amazon and in the number of hits to our webpage.  That has been generally true of every other film I worked on.  Think about it.  How many times have a bad review gotten you intrigued by the film nonetheless?  I frequently seek out films that I discovered through bad reviews.

Your job as an independent filmmaker is to get your film in front of as many film reviewers as you possibly can, whether they work for newspapers, magazines, websites or blogs.  Then let the chips fall where they may.  Who knows?  Maybe one of the critics will give you an insight into how to better your craft.  Stranger things have happened.

A few months ago I found a terrible review of one of my films and immediately shared it on my twitter account.  The critic noticed that I had shared it.  He emailed me and asked if I was indeed the screenwriter.  When I said yes, he became apologetic about the review.  I told him not to worry.  He had done the most important thing:  He had spelled my name right.

Don't be afraid of critics.

Embrace them.

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