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Question Time II – Movie Screeners

Last week I asked you all how you blogged, what your methods were and generally what your style of writing was, in a way to try and get to know the person behind the blog. Since it had such a great response, I thought I would do another (and maybe a series should this work as well) as I attempt to try and get to know you all a little better.

The response for last weeks Question Time was amazing, it attracted some people that haven’t commented before and it was nice to learn so much about people’s style and methods. If you haven’t had chance to read the answers, please go ahead and click the link below to learn how all your favourite bloggers prepare and do their thing (you may even find some new blogs to follow!).

Question Time I – How do you blog?

This week I want to touch on something a little different. Screeners. Without trying to be patronising, for anyone that doesn’t know or recognise the term, a movie screener is defined as:

A screener (SCR) is an advance screening of a film sent to critics, awards voters, video stores (for their manager and employees), and other film industry professionals, including producers and distributors. Screeners help critics and award voters see smaller movies that don’t have the marketing advantage or distribution of major studio releases. Positive mentions can result in awards consideration. A screener often has no post-processing.

I would love to hear about your experiences with them, and what your thoughts on them are in general.

  • Do you receive them?
  • Do you get a lot?
  • How do you get sent them?
  • Do you ask for them or do filmmakers just get in touch with you?
  • How honest are you in your assessment?
  • Do you ever feel bad/awkward giving back a negative review?
  • If you haven’t received them would you like to?

This isn’t an exam, and the bullet points are really just examples of questions that went through my mind when typing this out, please don’t feel you have to answer in this military style! I would just love to hear about your experiences with them.

I have been lucky enough to be in the position where filmmakers have sent me their movie to watch and review. Of course, Scorsese hasn’t contacted me yet, but the ones I have received have either been first time filmmakers, or people who have had a few films released on DVD. I honestly feel that whatever the quality of film and nature of it, I’m just stunned someone would take the time to ask me if I would give them my opinion on something they have crafted and poured their heart and soul into. I mean, who the hell am I in the grand scheme of things? Especially when some of these guys have won awards (real ones, not blog ones like I claim are the equivalent of Oscars when my family & friends ask how my ‘dumb film thing‘ is going!) and yet still value my opinion. It’s a nice feeling.

The ones I receive have either been through people messaging me on Twitter, or contacting me in private on my blog here. They then email me the link and code, and off I go to watch it. I have also been lucky that the ones I get, I also manage to get an interview with the director afterwards, so I can do it as a nice companion piece for my site. I’m hoping my first one will be up on here in a week or so, I do like to take my time as I want to appear as if I’m half-decent at what I do, not just some bumbling idiot asking stupid questions!

Obviously, being a horror-orientated site the films I get are geared towards the genre I love. There are exceptions, and I have actually turned a couple down, purely because the genre involved wasn’t something I’m comfortable with or knowledgeable in, and basically they didn’t interest me. That may sound awful, but if I don’t want to watch a soppy love story like New Years Eve which stars my film idol Robert De Niro, then I don’t want to watch one made by students starring students, in the nicest possible way. The majority though are thriller/horrors and whilst I do worry about how bad they could be, so far I haven’t been disappointed.

My biggest fear reviewing a screener is knowing that I have to give the film a rating out of ten. Well, I don’t have to, but for continuity purposes I rate every film I watch, and make my guest contributors give films scores, so why should a screener be any different? I know the director will read it, and then I get to chat with them in an interview about it. I mean, who am I to say something is terrible, and then try and explain why………I know this day may come, but I will always try and do it in the nicest possible way. So far I have had nothing to worry about, and whilst I haven’t seen anything which resembles Goodfellas in quality, I’m not going in with sky-high expectations and it’s the story and acting that’s the main thing when watching a low-budget film. I would never lie and give something a higher score than it deserves. I want to try and build credibility in this blogging niche, not ruin it by selling out and scoring any old piece of crap high just because I got sent a free film.

I’m amazed at what people can do, and honoured to be asked to share my thoughts on their work. Now I would love to hear back from you guys and girls, and what your experiences with screeners are. I know this is aimed more at movie review blogs than my previous question, but if anyone outside of this niche has any thoughts I’d still love to hear them. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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39 Comments

  1. We Used To Watch The Screeners For Our Local Video Store. The Owner Would Get Them Sent To Him So He Could See If He Wanted To Carry Whatever Flick It Was In The Store. It Was Pretty Neato, Actually.
    I Remember Being A Kid And Watching “Hellraiser III” With My Dad, A Couple Weeks Before The Flick Was Released To The General Public.
    Good Times, Man, Goooood Times! hehehe
    -B.

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  2. I haven’t had one sent to me as of yet, but I can understand why it can be tough to review one of these.

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    • I have no idea how they stumble upon me and think I’m any use but I’m always grateful. Luck I guess. I know some people ask for them on twitter, in their profile bit, and apparently you can ask for them if you get 100,000 views per month on your site, where studios would send you them. I dont get that much traffic sadly, but if you do dude get in touch with the studios LOL. Crazy that sites can get that. Imagine being sent a screener from Tarantino or someone though. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment as always my friend.

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  3. Abbi

     /  October 30, 2012

    I haven’t been sent any screeners but I often got bands sending me singles and asking me to do gig reviews when I did more music stuff. I’ve always been brutally honest, which has pissed off a few people. If you look at some of the gig reviews on my blog there are some ranty people who have left angry comments. I think you kind of lose your integrity if you’re not honest though. I’d love to do some screeners… but I don’t think the directors would love me!

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  4. Haven’t gotten a screener yet. I can see the awkwardness a negative review might engender, though, especially when they specifically choose to send you the screener, and it’s not just a big mass-mail thing.

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    • For all I know the ones I get could be sent to loads of people. I try to go into it blind though so I can be as unbiased as possible.

      Thanks for the comment Morgan

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  5. Nope! No screeners for me as of yet. It would be pretty cool but I can tend to be overly critical sometimes (especially if something is below par). I was recently followed on twitter by a guy promoting a short movie. I should ask him for one. Gotta start somewhere.

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    • They probably saw your Memento review on here and I took credit for it which is why I get sent them 🙂

      Yeah you should ask him, or put it
      In your twitter bio like some do that you will review them.

      I know Misty gets some but some natural disaster is keeping her preoccupied!

      Cheers for the comment Mark.

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  6. I do reviews now for an online publication now and the screeners we get kind of come with particular attachments. Not implicit, but they are just unseen. My recent review for Least Among Saints wasn’t the kindest and the director passively commented on the review in which he posted like 12 other reviews (no actual links to them) about how others liked his movie. I just wanted to reply back with 20 negative reviews from other established critics in response to it. Fun stuff.

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    • Cool. That’s a director that doesn’t like criticism then! There are people that don’t like near perfect films (pulp fiction) so first time film makers should expect some not to like their work. As long as you don’t say nasty personal stuff about it (unless you did?!) then it’s an extreme measure to comment and say you’re wrong.

      Cheers for commenting dude.

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      • It was interesting to get a director to respond back in a passive way. My immediate reaction is to be snarky. Just the way I am, but I honestly reviewed the movie as objective as possible, but I derided the movie for using a cheap emotional tie to get the story resolution in place.

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        • Its great he replied, just a shame he didn’t like what he read. You can’t help the way you feel about a movie, and if you were honest and explained what didn’t work for you then he should just accept it.

          Nothing wrong with being snarky! Im very sarcastic but its hard to convey that in text sometimes and Im guilty of typing things that can be mis-read, although its never meant to be mean. Thats why I ring people and hate text messaging 🙂

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  7. jmount43

     /  October 30, 2012

    I have never been sent a screener. If I were sent one I would be honest in my assessment and would try not to feel bad about it if it were a negative one. They send the screeners for a reason and that is to get an honest opinion. If this were American Idol I would be Simon. I’m not going to say I loved something when it was the biggest piece of dogsh*t on the planet just so whoever can go home with sunshine radiating their anal cavity.

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    • Haha I want you to get an awful one now just so you can say comments like to them 🙂

      I feel as long as you can back up your thoughts with concise points then if you don’t like something then that’s just the way it is. Cheers for the comment JMount, you feel the same way I do, you just express it in a blunter better way 😉

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  8. I got a screener once on VHS, and this was in 2005! I absolutely had to watch it because I had to interview the director too!

    When you work as a reviewer, you’ll just get tons of screeners or be invited to go watched preview screenings, so it’s really up to you to decide how professional you want to be. I know how hard it is to make ANY movie, so I always try to see the good in movies… but if some filmmaker is doing it all wrong, you gotta point it out.

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    • Yeah I remember you saying you did this professionally. I’m nowhere near that level or trying to forge a career out of this, I’m just humbled to be asked.

      I like your way of putting it, and I do try and see the good in every film. Thanks for the comment Drew

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  9. I think it’s all down to just being honst – it’s fortunate that you always write a positive comment where you can in your reviews, because if nothing else, you’re saying what works right in contrast with what doesn’t.

    I once helped judge a very low-key film competition, so it’s not really the same as screeners, but we also asked that everyone submit a brief exegesis on the film – the only paramters were that the entries had to be less than 15 minutes long and contain no copyrighted material, so the genre was open.

    But nearly every single entrant said their film was “hard to put into any genre” and when we gave them feedback that said “no, this is definitely a comedy” or similar, many got really worked up.

    I think the problem is, especially for people who don’t operate as part of a film industry, but as a labour of love, they’re too devoted to the final project and too invested in what it says about them as a person. Of course, that’s sometimes the case for industry-insiders too, so maybe it’s just a personality flaw.

    But in essence – if they ask you to write about their film, the only obligation you have is to express your own opinion, whatever that may be, and however you might do it. In your specific case, you’re fair and balanced, so any issues they might have are really their own to deal with.

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    • Was that face to face your competition? That must be harder if they arent happy and stood right in front of you.

      I know we have spoke before on why I always try and find and write something positive. It can be very difficult (The Devil Inside I’m looking at you!) but especially with something like a screener, where as you say is often a labour of love, I do want to find something I like just in case. So far so good, as they have all had redeeming features.

      Thanks for the great comment Dave, appreciate it as always buddy.

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  10. I’ve never been sent a Screener. Would love to have the honour of reviewing someone’s work before it’s made public. At the same time though, I don’t think that would take away from my objectivity. Or lack thereof in some cases. I’m pretty innovative in expressions of distaste over something. :p

    Nice post… again.

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  11. A publisher over at Titan Books sent me a review copy of Olly Moss’s first book ‘Silhouettes from Popular Culture’ (releases today) and lucky for me I’m already a huge fan of his work so reviewing that book was very simple as it was filled with amazing art. I’d love to get my hands on a screener though; that would be a lot of fun. I think when a filmmaker reaches out to you to review his work and sends you a free copy I think you owe it to him to be honest. But at the same time don’t bash his work either because a lot of these guys are Indy filmmakers who just want their work seen and to get it out there to as many people as possible. That is how I would approach it at least.

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    • That’s great about the book Ryan!

      Your thoughts are pretty much the same as mine, as I will always try and be positive, even though there are things I necessarily don’t like I would rather try and point them out in a constructive way rather than just insult someone. Thanks for commenting buddy.

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  12. Nobody has seen fit to send me stuff yet, but I’d give anything a shot. If i was more serious about being consistent with my blogging schedule, maybe things would change.

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  13. I’ve gotten to read copies of stories prior to release, but never films. I hope to one day be sent a screener, though I might need to build a bigger “fan base” for anyone to find that necessary.

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    • Thats cool about the stories dude!

      I have found most of my screeners have come from Twitter. People check out my site then contact me on there. But since Im really a horror site its a bit more of a niche I guess, so thats what I get sent. Thanks for the comment Austin 🙂

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  14. I haven’t been sent a screener yet, but I want one now! That would be cool. I’d be honest in my review. I’m going to check out if there are any short films or movies following me… I know there were a few once upon a time!

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    • I’ll send you some screeners since you demanded it 😉 You know, I actually would if I was allowed…….Get following them on Twitter and pimp yourself out and get some screeners man! 🙂

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  1. Question Time III – Last Chance Movie | Head In A Vice
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  3. Question Time V – Who Are You? | Head In A Vice
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  5. Question Time VII (Part 1) – Worst Movie 2012 | Head In A Vice

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