With a little bit of help from the very useful internet film directory IMDb.com there is an article that I have stumbled across that I think serves as a very helpful list of ethical guidelines for film critics from all walks of life. The article was written by Chicago’s most famous newspaper writer, film historian and critic: Roger Ebert. He is one of the few film critics that I refer to as a model writer when I am painted into a corner due to my own stupidity when I attempt to write about a film that I had just viewed. Quite a bit of the material that he has written serves as an excellent example of how a person could master the task of translating the art and technique of film production into the written word. After reading a few of his articles, included some that were published in his books, I had been introduced to a variety of classic films that I might not have ever seen if it was not for him.
In order to avoid writing an overwhelmingly lengthy introduction about the author, I thought I should mention why I even bothered typing up a post about the article that he had written. It is called Roger’s Little Rule Book, and it was originally posted on the author’s blog site for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. The article contains 21 helpful rules that I consider to be Roger’s personal suggestion for professionally ethical guidelines for anyone who is already an established film critic, or desires to begin a new career in the field.
I cannot remember the time when I first fell in love with watching movies, since it has been a part of my life for so long. As an adult I realize that I am allowed to continue watching as many films as my budget of time and money will allow me to do so.
It is not very often that I stumble across an online article that I am willing to read from start to finish, but this one held my attention. I will have to review the list of guidelines every so often, because they will serve as a personal reminder of how my writing could influence my readers. For every person who reads any of the essays or articles that I write there is the possibility that I could either persuade them to watch a film that I enjoyed watching or I could incidentally insult their intelligence by offending them with pathetic argument.
Ebert’s list of guidelines appear to be written as his own personal reminder about the art of film criticism when he was professionally attacked for writing a review for a film for which he had only seen the first eight minutes. The list not only serves as a personal memorandum for an established professional, but as a tidy little rule book that will remind every critical reviewer about their career. Personally, I do not earn a single penny for writing about films, but I have created my film review blog as a hobby. Whether a film review is paid or not, a professional writer or a hobbyist, it is a necessity to keep the reader in mind. When I type up my reviews I try to imagine that I am speaking to a friend or a co-worker about the film that I am reviewing. This helps guide me as to how I should direct the purpose of the review. This method keeps me focused on a casual and friendly approach without losing a touch for personality.
If you are a fellow film reviewer, or even a casual movie watcher, I would recommend that you read Ebert’s article. It might be an enlightening read. The article can be read here.