Official Artist
Daniel Chan
Director , Producer , Screenwriter
298,570 views| 113  Posts

Criticism... Can you handle it???

I wanted to write about what Iessons I learned in the year 2009, if I had to boil it down to one thing, if I learned anything this year that I can bring with me to face 2010 is how to handle criticisms...

If you are a writer, director, producer, DOP... when you committ to a project, people are going to make judgements on it and it's very likely that your name would come up in a review somewhere, whether it's on Roger Ebert's site or moviepoopshoot.com...

These days on the internet, everything is a film critic, and everyone has an opinion. I look at it this way, if you devote your life to writing and making films, you will most likely give up on more projects than you would get to make. This is a certainty like death and taxes. So when you look at the projects you do end up making, there will be ones that people like, there will be ones that people don't. It's a free country, not everyone is supposed to like the film you spent 5 years making, it's as simple as that.

We forget sometimes that your ability to make another movie rests on the ability of your last movie to make it's money back. These days, most investors are happy just to breakeven, and if you can't even do that, your future at that particular film company will be very bleak. In the end, it's about money, look at all the Michael Bay haters online, then look at how much money Transformers 2 made...

There will be directors whom you wish would make more films, Todd Fields is one of those for me, he directed "In the bedroom" which is one of my favorites, truth be told, there will always be more Michael Bay haters than there are Todd Fields fans...

So this is what I learned in 2009, this is the lesson. There is a Chinese saying that is very fitting, "If you want to eat salty, then you should be able to withstand being thirsty..." No one is putting a gun to your head, telling you to do something you don't want to, if you believe enough in something to put your name on it, then you should be responsible for it, whether it turns out to be good or not. Does that mean that you don't have to care what the critics say? NO, that's not what I mean at all.

I met a producer this year and we have been working closely on a script I wrote, after reading my script, he told me on more than a few occassions that, "Listen Daniel, this group of people is your target audience, never forget that, if you want to make this film, then these are the people you must first statisfy, if you can do that, then you have done your job as a director..." I am paraphrasing here, but that is the point, if it's a horror film you want to make, then make sure you scare the shit out of your audience, cos if you fail the horror fans, how will you be able to convince action fans to take a chance in your movie.

The point here is that, if you tell people how scary your movie is, they expect to be scared, and if your movie doesn't deliver that promise, then people are gonna trash you on their blog, it's as simple as that...

I remember the story about when Vincent Gallo's "Brown Bunny" came out in Cannes, there was a 10 minute standing "BOO" after the film ended, half the audience had walked out. Roger Ebert saw the Cannes cut and wrote his review, giving it one star... Vincent Gallo saw this review and retaliated by saying he wishes Cancer on Ebert's colon... If that happened to me before 2009, I would have done the same thing, I would start an Anti-Ebert group on Facebook and trash him back. But if you look closer at the information behind the story, you would realize that Brown Bunny was financed by a Japanese company, Vincent Gallo is huge in Japan, half of his followers are fans of his film Buffallo 66, the other half are fans of his music... As a die hard Vincent Gallo fan myself, I loved Brown Bunny and so did his Japanese fans, cos the DVD sold very well over there. If I was Vincent Gallo, I would be happy about that. Because I have done my duty as a director to please my target audience. So what if Ebert didn't like my film, I didn't make this film for him, but if my career takes a turn and I start working on a film that fits into Ebert's viewership, then that's a different story...

Criticism is a funny thing, people can give it, but can't seem to take it. Why is that? What egoistic self centered assholes are we to think that the movie you make will please everyone out there. Is what we do as filmmakers really that important in the grand scheme of things?

I read some forum posts recently about the Hong Kong Yahoo Movies page deleting negative reviews on movies that advertise on their site. There is a conspiracy saying that they even build fake accounts to write positive reviews to boost the movie's ratings... Who is this benefitting I ask, the filmmakers or the film-goers? Are we filmmakers so thin skinned that a bad review is going to make us give it up all together? If you can't handle criticism, then don't put your name on it, release it as a film by Humpty Dumpty... no one will know it was you. But then I ask, if you don't want people to know, why make the movie in the first place, unless it's porn...

If you are lucky, you get what is known as constructive criticism, it helps you see things from another angle, perspective... how do you know it's constructive? you don't unless you take in all the non-constructive ones, it is after that you will start to see the difference.

I have had so called "Readers" from film companies tell me that "there are scripts you write in life that will help your career if you burn it, and this is one of them Daniel..." Whoever said this, you know who you are... You see most readers are wannabe filmmakers who start at the bottom when entering a film company, they usually want two things, 1) to get their own script made at that company. 2) To help get their friend's script made so they can represent them in the future if they become famous.

I am not saying all readers are like that, I have had the fortune to deal with a few that gave me constructive criticism and helped me with my writing and choice of writing materials... I am in their debt... But I have also dealt with ones that told me the reason for their rejection of my script is because I was born in 1981, which is not a bad thing, but according to the book of "Tung Sing" working with someone born on the year of the Rooster may be detrimental to the project if the owner of the company was born in the year of the Cow, because the "third eye" of people born on the year of Roosters don't open until they are in their 30's... which then would be beneficial to people who were born in the year of Cow, Rat and Pig...

The easiest thing for a writer or director to say when faced with criticism is that these people just don't get my stuff and most times, it's true, but it's not the reader's fault that they don't get your stuff, it's your fault for sending it to them in the first place. If you want the producer of American Pie to invest in your remake version of The Piano, then it's your own damn fault.

The next time you have the urge to write a review about a film, even if it turns out to be one of mine... as Phillip Seymore Hoffman said in "Almost Famous", "Be Merciless" say what you think and if the filmmakers get offended then so be it. Cos it is supposed to be our jobs as filmmakers to satisfy our target audience, if you can't do that, you might have just made the wrong movie. so fire away I say, those of us who can't handle it will either kill ourselves or change profession, those of us who can endure your uttmost honest opinions will learn from them and make better films... Am I saying I can endure it? Not completely, but I am saying, I would like to hear what you have to say... Does that mean I won't get offended, of course not, but would I kill myself over it? May be not... wait a minute, why am I talking like I am Robert Evans???

over 14 years ago 0 likes  4 comments  0 shares
Hussainabdullah 78 img 1018d klein
Good read, thanks!
over 14 years ago
Photo 31454
that was very informative bro and is truly accurate to the business thank you and good luck bro ;D
over 14 years ago


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Languages Spoken
english, cantonese, mandarin
Location (City, Country)
Hong Kong
Member Since
September 21, 2007