Writing About Film and the Notes of Mine

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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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  • http://ptsnob.com/ Dan Heaton

    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!

    • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

      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.

  • http://thevoid99.blogspot.com/ Steven Flores

    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.

    • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

      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.