I’m strange. I started writing about movies here (and other places) as just a thing I enjoy. I already loved movies and the internet was just a part of my life already, so why not merge these two obviously important things about my life and make it into a thing — I mean a hobby. Normal people have hobbies, why can’t this be mine.

As I was almost one of a kind within my initial peripheral vision I never really had anyone to guide me into how to make this into a career and be professional about it. I kept my only hard and fast rule, which was to be honest and to just keep trying. What I never really did was take notes. This was a blessing and a curse as I wouldn’t waste my time staring down at a pad while watching a film and miss something ‘important’ and at the same time it was bad because it meant that if I didn’t write/talk about a film completely within a week or so most tiny details would escape me (in most scenarios). These pros and cons didn’t really matter as such because as I said, I never really tried to make IMG_20140803_235529this into a ‘professional’ dealing.

Then TIFF happened — seriously will I ever really stop talking about it? — and I had to reevaluate my stance on note taking. I still feel the more distance I have from the time I saw a film to when I actually sit down to write affects my ability to truly reflect upon the film, but notes are helpful. During my time at TIFF in 2012 (when I was covering it for Film School Rejects) I found myself writing in excess of 25 reviews in the ten day festival. I was at times a mess. I remember even getting character/actor names wrong in finalized posts and getting schooled in comments by readers, which is not a good thing I imagine. With all this though, I still haven’t begun writing notes while watching movies in the theatre, something about it seems strange to me.

As the introverted type of guy I am I spend too much time worrying about how I’m affecting another person’s experience with the film we’re all watching way more than I am with how I myself am taking it in, which is why poor cinema etiquette angers me as much as it does. I would worry that my elbows hitting into the sides of neighbouring patrons as I try to jot down a simple description of a shot in Trance or that moment when I realized that a character was a true asshole but couldn’t prove it yet would be too disruptive to them to warrant the added value of my note taking. I did start trying to take notes more and more though with the films I watch at home. What helped me a lot was with my stint writing episodic TV recaps/reviews of things like The Newsroom and Mad Men at ScreenInvasion. There was many a night of charting graphs and such of character arcs to keep it all together and making sure I covered all that happened each week in that world.

But did it add value? As I said I still can’t make heads nor tails if too much time passes by; but more and more I would say yes. Because as I read through notes it starts to feel more like an outline of what I want to talk about in a review of a film. I wonder if I’ll ever reach the stage of actually being okay with note taking in the dark of the cinema? Will I want to?


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Author: Andrew Robinson

This is my blog. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My blog is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my blog is useless. Without my blog, I am useless. I must fire my blog true. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my blog and myself are defenders of my mind, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

  • I’ve been trying to take notes at home when I watch films, and sometimes it helps out. Other times, I barely look at them. In the dark theater, I think it would distract me from the movie and be a challenge. However, it can be tough if I’m not writing about the movie really quickly. So much is forgotten!

    • if you look at my shots above (which are of my actual notes I take of films I watch at home), The bottom one (The Shining) was something that I was just jotting down without barely looking; the other two (Kingdom of Heaven & The Fisher King) I intentionally look down and pause sometimes, making sure that my notes are somewhat legible and at times organized for better reading later.

      Both things I doubt I could do in a packed theatre.

  • I don’t write notes when it comes to reviewing films as I try to base it on memory of what I just saw and my own feelings about it. Sometimes, if I’m seeing 2 films, I would bring my laptop to write down what I just saw before the next feature starts and then go back to it and make it a proper review.

    • I did that for a while. I would carry my note pad to the theatre and spend the time between screenings jotting down notes. Sometimes I’d do it in a note taking app on my phone as well. Would even spend some down time between films at TIFF writing full reviews in the note app. It helped a lot.