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From the Wire: The Ethics of Critics-Turned-Filmmakers

From the Wire: The Ethics of Critics-Turned-Filmmakers

Movies.com’s review of South by Southwest Film Festival selection “Grow Up, Tony Phillips” concludes with a disclaimer from author Erik Davis:

Note: My friend and colleague Peter Hall was a coproducer on this film and is an editor at this website, though that did not in any way affect my opinions of it.”

So one employee of the website helped create the movie, while another employee of the same website reviewed it. The ethical complexities of such a situation are explored in a new piece for Slackerwood co-authored by Peter Hall with another Movies.com contributor, John Gholson, who appears in a small but important supporting role in another SXSW 2013 selection, “Zero Charisma.” In a three-part conversation, Hall and Gholson examine what it’s like to navigate the world as both a film journalist and a filmmaker. 

Though one might assume that a movie produced by or starring a critic would get preferential treatment from that writer’s colleagues, Hall thinks his press badge might actually put “Grow Up, Tony Phillips” at a disadvantage. Here, he discusses the reaction — or lack thereof — to his movie’s search for funding on Kickstarter:

“I assumed that all the bloggers I knew would be like, ‘Hey, let’s support Peter!’ and write about the film and that didn’t happen. The amount of people who covered the initial Kickstarter campaign was very, very tiny and, to my surprise, the first outlet that picked it up was someone I didn’t know. I thought that more people would pick it up and my sobering lesson was that people didn’t do that.”

I know both Hall and Gholson (and Davis, for that matter) from festivals like SXSW, and they’re all good guys. I’m not going to question any of their ethics — but I do think this sort of situation is fraught with potential conflicts of interest, and as more and more journalists become filmmakers, more and more of those potential conflicts arise. That’s why I’m glad to see these guys discussing them.

Read more of “SXSW 2013: Peter Hall and John Gholson, Critics Being Critiqued.”

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