Guidelines for Reviews
There is a fine art to writing reviews for films that gives correct feedback and helps to guide a director.
Here at Brickfilms, there exist a few special circumstances that are not often found in other situations.
- A very broad audience, from all over the world. Hence not everyone speaks the same language to the same degree. Cross-cultural misunderstandings can easily occur.
- A predominantly young group of members, most of whom are still learning the nuances of behaviour in society. Burdened with the additional responsibility of operating in a near-anonymous environment of a website.
- The use of a filming style that is outside the normal scope of amateur filmmaking. Specifically stop-motion animation.
- The use of a medium that some might consider juvenile, namely LEGO bricks and similar products.
All these factors combine to create an environment where it is easy to act in a way that can be harmful to other members. So it is in this spirit that the following guidelines are presented to help you write useful, meaningful and constructive reviews for films in the Post and Review (http://www.brickfilms.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=3) (P&R) Forum here at Brickfilms.
Watch the film
Although this may seem blatantly obvious, it can be very tempting to see several bad reviews already posted and simply echo what was previously said. If you do not even take the time to download and watch a film for someone else, you cannot expect others to extend the same courtesy to you.
There can easily be circumstances where you are unable or unwilling to download a film. If the film is very large, or you have a very slow connection it can make downloading a film frustrating. If that is the case, and you just have a burning desire to make a post then state that you have not watched the film and request a smaller version be posted.
Understand what you are seeing
Not every work posted n the P&R Forum is a complete and polished film. There are also many tests and unfinished films. It may be a short clip from one scene in an unfinished film. It is important to read the first post to see if there is any additional information the director may have provided.
In addition, more information may have been made available in posts further down the thread, so it is important to read the posts prior to yours before making a reply. This is especially important when you arrive at a thread that is already more than one page long.
If a film is stated as being a test by the director, evaluate it according to what the director was testing. If it is a test of mouth animation, then don’t comment on how the film is out of focus or the lighting was bad.
Appreciate the effort made
There are many different directors of various ages and various skill levels. Some have more experience than others. So what comes easily to one may not be easy for another. One director may have an entire room dedicated to brickfilming and nothing else. Another may have to sneak spare time in the living room and work around other family members. Yet another may be using it as an escape from an abusive home life. Everyone is different.
You need to compare a work with the directors probable circumstances. How do you find out what they are? Look in the profile. Read some comments they have made in other threads in the forums. The more you understand the director, the more you will appreciate the effort they have made.
When you review a film, take into consideration their earlier work. Has the director improved? What can they do to help them improve? What can you do to help them be better? This is one of the fundamental reasons for the P&R to exist. For the director to find out what is lacking and how to make it better.
Do you know what you are commenting on
In the Ancient Olympics, only other competitors and trainers attended. There was no general public admitted. So everyone who watched an event knew the rules, knew what was expected to happen and understood the sacrifices made for the athletes to be able to compete.
Likewise, before you start to make comments on other directors films, grab some toys (not neccessarily plastic bricks), borrow a camera, turn on the computer and give it a go. Young or old, try it first. See just what is involved in bringing an inanimate object to life.
It is so easy to look at a brickfilm and think “that is really bad.” But do you think it’s bad because you are comparing one person’s work to that which is made by a professional company with hundreds of employees? Or because you are comparing it to another brickfilmer with years of experience and access to powerful software? Or are you thinking “I can do better.”
Ideally, you should be thinking the last one. But the next thought should be “How can I help this director become better?”
You can tell the director the film was great. You can tell him it was terrible. But say why you felt that way. Simply writing “That was great!” or “That was terrible!” does not help the director. The first makes him feel good but without telling him what parts of the film were well done. The second makes him feel bad without telling him where he messed up. Either way he is left with a feeling but no benefit to make the next film better.
If the previous three posts pointed out that the focus is out in the scene with the monkey, then it’s a good bet that the director knows. And if he didn’t then he does now. If everyone else has said how terrible it is, try and find something good to say. And if you can’t say something nice because you don’t get on with the director because of their personality, don’t say anything at all.
Use Spoiler Warnings
If you care to comment on elements of the film which might give away plot elements or might reveal visual “surprises” then you should place your comments within “spoiler” tags. This will hide your comments and substitute a “show” button which the readers can click when they are ready to view your comments (usually after they have watched the film).
The format for spoiler tags is:
- [spoiler]The butler did it![/spoiler]
It is extremely important to use spoiler tags on the first page or two of reviews in the forum. After the second page, it is generally acceptable to assume that readers have viewed the film (although no harm is done to use the tags anyway).
Be honest. If you don’t like it, say so. But say why. If you saw some technical issues and you know how to fix them, let them know. But always have this thought in your head – “How will my comments help the director?”