I was invited to appear on a panel on the act of film criticism at the Derby Film Festival this weekend.
It was my first such panel. While I’ve introduced plenty of films before now, and have lectured on the subject for several years I’ve never engaged in any kind of formal debate in that type of setting before. I was apprehensive going in, but I enjoyed it a lot, and found the round table set up to be a really inspiring platform for debate. The whole thing ran to almost two hours, with the discourse rich and interesting enough to maintain my own attention, if no one else’s (though there were no walkouts, and some very positive feedback afterwards).
The debate itself was on the place of film criticism in 2014, in light of the great shifts in the profession that the digital age has enabled, with the emphasis really being on how one might begin to look towards working as a film critic or journalist. My role was as a representative of the digital age, and internet-based writing, while Tony Earnshaw, the film critic for the Yorkshire Post stood for the regional press, and Scott Jordan Harris (the Daily Telegraph) was present as a figure who works for a national newspaper. As was made quite clear early on though, the three of us, and the three different “mediums” are essentially one and the same, in the sense that the core principals remain the same across the board, and in the literal reality that all three are in some form digital anyway. Somewhat ironically, my own audience pales next to the online one for the Telegraph, and while the regional press in general are doing your friendly neighbourhood film critic few favours (many franchise out their entertainment work to London-based writers), the Yorkshire Post is a record of note for the region and isn’t going anywhere (and too has a web presence).
Ultimately, like the epilogue to Mark Kermode’s Hatchet Job, his recent critical evaluation of the state of film criticism in the UK, there was a great sense of hope in the air as things came to a close. Rather than ringing in the death march, all three of us were optimistic enough about the direction film criticism was heading, within reason. It offered up a stark reminder that the industry has long faced the kind of concerns that are expressed now, and while the changes that have taken place in recent years are undeniably unprecedented, we were in agreement that the industry will adapt to it.
Adam Batty – Editor